…And a Passion: Q&A with Andrew Sensenig

“All you need for theater is two planks and a passion”—one version of a saying attributed to Spanish playwright Lope de Vega (who actually said something a little less pithy). Planks can be gotten anywhere. For passion, you need actors.

Given the cooperation of the Fates, this will be an occasional feature, exploring the life and work of actors by means of a standard set of questions. Earlier entries in the series can be found here. (Responses have been lightly edited.)

Andrew Sensenig came to my attention in the Shane Carruth film Upstream Color (2013), in which he played a character known only as the Sampler. Neither the character nor the film can be briefly described without sounding bizarre; consider Richard Brody’s account, which tells us that, along with capturing sound samples, Sensenig’s character “performs procedures to relieve mind-controlled worm-victims of their predatory infestation.” To put it lightly, the film, and his role in it, are actually both trippy and mysteriously moving. I was impressed that Sensenig was doing major film work while based in my former hometown in north central Texas. Incidentally, he submitted his answers before the release of a film called We Are Still Here, which is now on iTunes and elsewhere. You can find Andrew on Twitter.

Andrew Sensenig headshot (web)Where were you born?
I was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and moved to Decatur, in central Illinois, when I was very young. Until I headed off to college, Decatur was my stomping grounds. Yea, MacArthur High School!

Where do you live now?
I’m currently based in Dallas, but I spend the majority of my time traveling to the two coasts for film and television projects. My wife and I have been here for 30 years, and it’s a great central location for a full-time actor. I can hop on a plane and be in any market within three hours, and you can’t beat the low cost of living here. We’ll probably head to L.A. or N.Y.C. in the very near term, but for now, Texas is home.

What’s your current role?
My current job is that of a full-time actor, and I’m filling in any down time with producing, directing, composing, and doing public events.

With regard to current projects, this year has been incredibly exciting, to say the least. Season 1 of Powers just wrapped up on the Sony PlayStation Network, where I portray the superhero Triphammer. The response has been overwhelming, and we will begin shooting Season 2 soon. In the meantime, I’ll be shooting a few indie films with some very moving and powerful stories. One of my recent films, We Are Still Here, is starting a small theatrical run and landing on VOD on June 5.  Some of my other favorites, such as Upstream Color and Paradise Recovered, are available on Netflix, while one of the most amazing short films I’ve ever witnessed, “Anomaly,” is available on Vimeo.

What sparked your interest in acting?
I first acted in my second-grade Thanksgiving play, where I played a character named Tommy, who was haunted by the meal he had just overeaten. Needless to say, I was hooked.

What actors, past or present, do you most admire?
Honestly, I admire any guy or girl that is willing to devote their life to entertaining and moving others and can actually make a living. Of course, there are the “name” actors whose newest film or TV show I will always check out; but again, it’s more about the actors in the heart of the industry that are willing to bare their souls to help share a message.

Whose work have you seen recently that you admired?
I’m not so much wowed by the big-budget studio pictures, because everyone will look great in those. Personally, I am a huge fan of the talents who have honed their craft by staying true to the story: Shane Carruth, David Lowery, Amy Seimetz, Travis Stevens, Brian Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Remi Aubuchon, William Holden, Khalid Mohtaseb, and more.

Where did you train?
I was always working and training when I was in school. The opportunity to work at Circle in the Square on Broadway between my junior and senior year of high school was incredible. And then, being accepted into the very small freshmen class (32 total) at the North Carolina School of the Arts was absolutely a miracle. I remember going to the League [of Professional Theatre Training Programs] auditions in Chicago, doing my monologues for Cal Arts, Boston, NYU, Goodman Theatre, and so on. Walking down the hall, there was an open door, and a very kind-spirited man sitting behind a desk. I asked, “Do you mind if I ask where you’re from?” He was Malcolm Morrison, dean of UNCSA, and he said, in his British accent, “I am from North Carolina. Do you have a monologue?” The rest is history.

Who has most influenced your work?
That’s a very good question. I would have to believe it is my mother and father. My dad died at the age of 39, and it left us all in a very lonely wilderness. If not for my mother, who is the most amazing woman I have ever known, ever, there is no way I would be doing what I am today.

Have you made any memorable mistakes?
Of course not. 🙂

Andrew Sensenig as the Sampler in Upstream Color.

Andrew Sensenig as the Sampler in Upstream Color.

How do you maintain your instrument?
Work, work, work. So many are focused on all the classes, methods, studies… I just work. There is nothing that can ever replace the experience when you are working on set.

Do you ever use a coach?
My coaches at Circle in the Square and North Carolina School of the Arts were about as good as you can get.

Is acting your only work?
Acting is my full-time gig, thank God. As I mentioned earlier, when there is a break between projects, I also produce, direct, compose, and sleep. 🙂

What are you good at?
Listening.

What do you wish you could do?
Everything.

What role or roles would you most like to play?
When I’m given the opportunity to help a writer and director bring his/her script to life, I am truly honored, more than you can know. We, as creatives, have an obligation and a blessing to tell stories that can touch, move, change, and bring to discussion, audiences around the globe. I’ve only been doing this full-time for eight years, but dang, can you ask for anything more?

If you weren’t an actor, what might you be doing instead?
I would continue to focus on composing. I wrote a show with a dear friend, called The Water Coolers, that played off-Broadway back in 2002 and continues to tour the world, for which I am so grateful. If not acting, composing.

Do you have a favorite book, play, film, or TV show about actors?
Not really. I just watched a documentary on Netflix, Showrunners, which was very enlightening about the industry. Other than that, I watch the shows that my friends are doing and hope that the ratings are good enough for another season.

Do you have any good actor jokes?
Two actors walked into a bar…

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