I met Candice in 2012 when she was as hired as a temp, by the company I was working for. Candice is one of the best temps I have ever worked with, and a talented actor as well. I am happy to introduce to you, DC native, Candice Gordon!
When did you move to NYC and why?
I came to NYC directly after college in May 2000. I knew I needed to be in one of two places to pursue acting, New York or LA. I wanted to go to NYU for college, but out of all the schools I applied to including University of Miami, University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Temple, and Syracuse, NYU was the only school that I didn’t get into. Instead I went to Temple University in Philadelphia, mainly because of its proximity to New York, the urban setting, and my best friend’s sister was a student so I already knew someone on campus. Temple’s School of Communications and Theater also had a strong reputation.
I had a wonderful experience at Temple. I studied abroad in Japan and London, forged friendships that are still intact, and I got a solid education. About a week after graduation I packed my bags and headed to New York. A friend had a place in the Bronx and offered me the pull out couch in her basement apartment. It wasn’t an ideal situation; the commute was far and the apartment needed some tender loving care, but I was with my best friend and we had a great time.
What borough and neighborhood do you call home?
I currently reside in lower Washington Heights, right on the border of West Harlem. I love my neighborhood. It’s not perfect, but the gentrification process is underway (that comes with pros and cons) and I am one block away from Riverside Drive which is very nice.
As much as I love New York, I’m not sure I could live in midtown or any of the more bustling neighborhoods; where I am now is plenty crowded, but it quiets down at night. There are lots of green spaces, it’s clean, and my neighbors are friendly. It feels like a real community.
What is one piece of advice to anyone thinking about moving here?
Know what they’re getting into. It’s not easy living in this city. Ideally the person should visit for several weeks first to see if they really want to commit themselves to a major urban lifestyle – public transportation, regularly hauling groceries and laundry, the inflated costs of goods and services, the pushing and shoving, the lack of space; this city can be very intense and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Also, they should have realistic expectations for the business. What kind of performer are they? Where do they fit in the market? Most actors don’t do it all. How much training do they have? Do they have any contacts? Can they hit the ground running or will they need to spend time building up to a point where they are truly competitive. This city is filled with talented and driven people, so that is an automatic requirement for most successful performers. What is the person willing to sacrifice? How will they make money and still be flexible for auditions and bookings? Actors have to juggle many competing things – staying focused, surviving, investing in themselves and their craft, networking, etc. IT’S NOT EASY.
Those stories of people landing their first big gig right off the bus aren’t fables, but they are the exception. The rule is that it will take hard work, resolve, a ton of self-confidence, and the patience of Job. They should do an honest evaluation of themselves, their goals, and how moving to NYC will help facilitate those goals. They need a strong plan with clear direction.
You have experience in theater, dance, film, television, print, cruise ships, and commercials. Which of these mediums do you like the best? Which medium do you like the least?
I am tied between theater and dance as the mediums I like most, probably because they are both generally done live and encompass an entire performance that includes the beginning, middle, and end. Stage work is the most rigorous in that there aren’t any breaks. There’s no cutting and doing it again so when mistakes happen, and they happen often enough, the performer has to be adept at improvising and not giving away the mistake. It takes a certain discipline that I respect and I think it’s more difficult to fake your way through a theater production. You either have the chops and stamina to do it or you don’t, and that will be evident.
In TV and film I think the performer can take shortcuts and sometimes be downright lazy because a good editor can work around a bad performance. There are other things that can enhance the overall production. Theater feels a bit more organic; I get to experience the full arc of a character and feed off the energy of the room. The stakes are higher because there is no reset button.
The same is true for dance. Again, the discipline and stamina it takes to convey the story through movement is incredible. Just like it’s important for me to have a strong speaking voice with good projection and clear diction, among other things, so I can communicate the story to the audience in a play, it’s just as important for me to train and work for strong physical technique in dance while also developing a unique style of movement that enriches my storytelling ability. In these two mediums I am often able to reach performance heights that I don’t always achieve in other mediums.
Commercials are my least favorite. They can be fun to shoot and, of course, lucrative but the work itself just isn’t that gratifying artistically. It’s just a job.
You had a brief stint in LA. Do you prefer NYC over LA?
I often dream of NY and LA having a baby, because I’d definitely live there. They each are so different and my preference is often connected to my mood or lifestyle requirements.
Of course, the weather in LA is very attractive. I detest cold weather, though I am conflicted because I do like the experience of seasons and I live for fall and winter fashions. Having access to a car, and trunk, to haul things is very convenient, but sitting in traffic for hours on end can be a real downer. I am healthier in NY, ironically. In LA I had to work to stay fit by going to the gym, and I still wasn’t in as good of shape.
LA offers bigger apartments, often with access to lush outdoor spaces, but the units can feel cheaply made and are usually outfitted with wall-to-wall carpeting. Unless I was willing to spend at or close to NYC prices, my options were generic and underwhelming. In NYC the spaces are more expensive, but I’ve been able to find apartments in pre-war buildings which feel luxurious in how sturdy they are made. The ceilings are generally higher and the standard is hardwood flooring, my preference and certainly the more sanitary of the two options.
Aside from acting, do you have a survival job?
Yes. I’m not yet at that place where I am surviving 100% from acting jobs. I am fortunate in that I have many talents. I used to think this was a curse and that being good at other things would prevent me from working hard at acting. Someone once told me if I had something to fall back on, then I didn’t have acting. I wouldn’t be hungry enough. That simply isn’t true. You live and learn.
I have survived by temping at various companies and also working as a bartender, cater waiter, personal organizer, personal assistant, promotional model, and by doing background work. The last can be difficult to stomach, but if you stay focused and remember why you’re doing it in the first place (to get the rent paid) it’s easy enough, you can learn a lot (if you’re smart and poke around), and it’s also possible to be upgraded to principal work. You get to see established talent in action up close and I have found this observation invaluable. First, you learn how talent communicates with the crew, specifically the director. Also, you often times see they aren’t doing anything all that special. They may be anywhere from moderately to extremely talented, but the media has built up most talent (celebrities in particular) to a level beyond reality. In many cases, the machine behind them is the only difference between the undiscovered talent and the discovered talent. Seeing them (celebrities) in the flesh helps to remind you they are human and therefore fallible and imperfect, just like yourself. I know that I’m competitive and I can do the job; it’s just a matter of time before I get my chance, and that is reassuring despite the fact that you’re often treated like cattle as background talent.
What is your favorite thing about living in the city?
I love having access to culture and diversity. I can’t live in a homogeneous environment; I need to see the rainbow. I need to experience all kinds of people. It’s exciting and enriching, and it truly feels like the real America, a land of immigrants. Our history established that and NYC epitomizes it, from food to art to everything in between; it’s all here.
I also love getting accidental exercise, i.e. exercise I’m not really conscious of. When I was living in LA, I was less fit. It’s funny because everyone associates LA with beach bodies and diets. But if you don’t work hard at it, LA can lead to a fairly sedentary lifestyle. People drive everywhere. You’re often sitting in traffic for hours. You stay home more; I did.
In NY I’m out with my dog running along the Hudson. I’m climbing the subway stairs, hauling my groceries (things I generally hate while actually doing them), but in the end my body is moving and I’m exercising without knowing it. My abs are stronger. Walking in LA is nearly illegal. People gawk and seem perplexed that you’d make such a choice. Here I’m constantly using my body and I love that.
What is your least favorite thing about living in the city?
I hate how dirty NYC is. I wish there was less debris on the ground and more trees on the sidewalks. I visited Tokyo for a summer and it’s even more densely populated, but somehow it’s far cleaner. It comes down to culture and tradition and I think most Americans feel entitled; the idea is that someone else will clean up as opposed to this is my community and I am responsible for keeping it clean. It’s frustrating to have to navigate human and canine excrement when I’m walking down the street or entering the subway. It’s sickening to watch people throw trash just beyond the receptacle and not inside it.
I also wish the living spaces where more livable for the average person. I get that we pay to live in this exciting culturally diverse mecca, but that doesn’t make us any less entitled to respectable housing conditions with proper kitchens and modern-day infrastructure. We pay a lot of money in this city for substandard housing and it should be illegal.
What is your next theatrical/artistic endeavor?
You’re guess is as good as mine! I was recently approached to take on a substantial role in a play after the director saw me in a showcase this past spring. The script was wonderful and I would have been honored to participate, but the rehearsal schedule conflicted with my current schedule and goals so I had to turn down the role.
Every day I submit to breakdowns and look for theatrical representation. I try to do everything I can to get my name and work out there. It’s a constant gamble and always uncertain. I am blessed to still be in the game and I’m happy with how much I’ve grown and what the future may present.
What is the craziest/best/worst thing that has happened to you since you moved to NYC?
After moving back from LA in the summer of 2008, I landed what felt like the last job available before the economy tanked. In September I found a new apartment in central Harlem on W 138th Street between Lenox Avenue and 5th Avenue. I’d just moved in and was excited to get some color on the walls. I left work, an international law firm, and I headed to the Home Depot on the east side to pick up paint and other supplies. I was in a great mood, even though Lehman Brothers had collapsed that day and a number of people were in distress.
I was walking up Park Avenue in midtown, when I noticed a man not far ahead wearing an electric blue sweat suit. He was hard to miss and I wondered who would be so bold as to wear such an outfit, but I didn’t give it much thought after that.
Eager to get to the Home Depot (I am obsessed with home improvement), I quickened my step and soon found myself right beside this person. I could feel energy passing between us and I decided to look him in the eye and confront him. I turned my head, we made eye contact, and we both burst into laughter. It was Spike Lee. Oddly, it felt like we were old friends. I commented on his bold presence, he laughed and asked where I was coming from. Work, I replied. He joked…I hope you don’t work at Lehman Brothers. We shared another laugh.
He asked what I did and I told him I was working as an assistant but revealed that I was a dancer. I thought about telling him I was also an actress, but I figured everyone tells him that and this might be an opportunity to get to know him without asking for a favor; everyone he meets is asking for a favor, right? By the end of the block he’d given me the email address to the famous choreographer Lori Ann Gibson and told me to contact her and mention his name. Miracle at St. Anna was coming out the following week and I promised to see it, which I did. It was a great moment. Something that I think would be far less likely to happen in LA, because no one is walking to start.
I realized at that moment that everyone was accessible to a point. There was hope. And that hope is still alive in me.
For more info on Candice, click HERE.