The Jobs Crisis: Voices From Hollywood’s Trenches

Actress Christine Lakin ‘Hustles to Make a Living’ During Slowdown

Last Updated: October 19, 2014 @ 8:23 PM

Third in a series on how the economic crisis is affecting the Industry.

Though she’s only in her early 30s, Christine Lakin has already spent two decades as an actor, from a run as a series regular on “Step by Step” while in her early teens to more than two dozen other series and 17 movies, including “You Again” and the upcoming “New Year’s Day.” (She’s seen in the image below, on the far left, in the shortlived CW series “Valentine.”)

But a life of constant auditions, callbacks, readings and offers has changed dramatically over the past few years, Lakin told TheWrap — to the point where her current career path has nothing to do with waiting for the next plum role and everything to do with doing anything she can.

Which means writing a web series for herself, doing voiceovers, becoming a choreographer.

Other Voices From the Job Trenches:

Post-Production Vendor: ‘All Our Business Models Went Out the Window

Production Manager: ‘I Used to Wander Through Musso & Frank’s to Get Work. Not Today’

Screenwriter: ‘I Just Don’t Want to Answer Phones at Some Place I Used to Pitch’

“If I just waited by the phone for the kind of offers I used to get to come in, I’d never work,” said Lakin, who also serves as a member of the Hollywood Screen Actors Guild board. “What I’m doing now isn’t what I ever imagined myself doing, but you have to use the skill set you have if you want to work.”

While she said that part of the slowdown may be due to outside factors, including a fickle Hollywood that finds “a new hot age” for actresses every year, she has no doubt that much of it is due to the slowdown in film and television production — and the effect that has all the way up and down the Hollywood food chain.

“The economy is the most significant factor in what I’ve seen,” she said. “In the past five or six years, studios are not doing as many films. And that means that you have more movie stars going into television — not just to star in series, but also to do three-or-four-episode guest roles.

“And that trickles down to people like me, and pushes a lot of us into the category where we’re just trying to make a living.”

This year’s pilot season, she said, was the slowest she’s ever seen in her career. “It’s shocking how few pilots were being made,” she said.

During her biggest pilot seasons, “I would have three or four appointments a day for the better part of two or three months. That meant changing in the car, and running from one side of town to another for auditions and callbacks every day.”

The pace began slowing down about five years ago, she added — but even then, “I’d average four or five pilots a week, either for auditions or callbacks.”

But 2011 was dramatically different.

“This year, I might have gone on four auditions, total,” she said. “Number one, studios just weren’t making as many. And number two, they know that if they’re going to spend money on a show, they need to do whatever they can to make sure that viewers will notice that show right away. If you get a movie star in the show, that makes it that much easier to sell.”

For actors who once worked steadily but are now finding themselves squeezed by the new economic realities, Lakin said the solution is simple: swallow your pride and do whatever you can in whatever medium is open to you.

Because she had a dance background, Lakin has worked as a choreographer on a prospective Broadway show for Peter Schneider, episodes of “True Blood” and “Love Bites,” and a Bette Midler movie called “Parental Guidance.”

She has also gotten into voiceover work, and has begun producing shows in small theaters.

And because she was determined to find “a role that only I could play,” she wrote a created a web series called “Lovin’ Lakin,” in which she plays a onetime television actress who is expecting to make a comeback even though “she has no idea what things are like these days.”

The series, she said, was repped by William Morris and is currently closing a deal with Hulu.

“A lot of people are delving into different worlds now,” she said. “You may not want to do a web series or take a below-the-line job — but the last few years have been so unpredictable and so slow that most of the actors I know just aren’t making the kind of living they were five years ago.”

She laughed. “It’s a hustle. I’m being honest here — if you want to make a living, it’s definitely a hustle.”

Next: Whatever Happened to the Poor People on TV?