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Actor of the Month

Damian Joseph Quinn

Interviewed by: Chrissy Fiorilli-Ellington, CSA

1)    Has there been a Casting Director that has encouraged and/or supported you in your career?

Without intending to be a pageant queen — I wouldn’t have a career had it not been for so many of the incredible casting folks I know. I remember belly laughs with Chrissy Fiorilli-Ellington & Amanda Doyle until we cried. I remember an hour-long session with Jenn Presser & Caitlin Well, where, after an indie film audition, I did stand-up, sang a jazz song, & then we had heart-to-hearts on the casting couch like we knew each other as girlfriends for years. I wouldn’t be in the union had it not been for the Leah Daniels- Butler office, for them seeing something in me I forgot that I had. & David Rubin’s office, for constantly sticking their neck out for me, & throwing every role in the script my way, until they fit me in to their stories just perfectly.

I would’ve quit this hustle a long time ago, had it not been for so many casting directors telling me that I’m right there — just about to pop! — to truly never give up & hold that faith.

2) What work are you most proud of?

I’m proudest of my performance of ROY COHN in the Oscar-nominated US v. Billie Holiday. It was one of those casting experiences where I went in as CONGRESSMAN #2 after a few other auditions that day. I had no idea what the movie was or what to expect. After reading, CD Kevin Scott asked if I could play Roy Cohn. I said yes (of course I said yes!????) & pulled Al Pacino’s Roy Cohn from Angels in America from memory I wanted to be cold in the heart & famished in the eyes. I knew the voice & the haunting, self-loathing, starved-for-approval energy. I booked the role the next day (Lee said he fell in love with me right away) & had to join SAG-AFTRA within 24 hours! To this date, US v. Billie Holiday stands as the solid gold reminder that my dream of making prestigious, history-changing films stories is possible. That Hollywood still makes movies dedicated to art & intention. And that people like me — out of the closet & proudly non-binary — have just as much opportunity to become & transform on-camera.

3) What or who inspired you to pursue acting as a career?

I was bullied a lot as a kid (closeted, in leadership positions, & always in theater....easy

target!) & TV/film was my saving grace. I’d go home & imagine myself into better worlds where anything was possible. I remember Susan Egan’s voice performance as Megara in Hercules. I found it oddly empowering to me: she was lithe, sexy, & unattached. I always took joy in seeing those femme fatale characters who had their own sense of autonomy.

And in the span of TV/film, it’ll always be Jim Carrey for me. I get compared to his elasticity often, & I look up to his spiritual awareness, as well as his range in both bombastic comedy & intimate drama.

& now, my acting crush / inspiration is Andrew Scott. If you haven’t seen his work, please check out the Hot Priest on Fleabag, or see if you can get your hands on his performance as Hamlet. & give him my number!!! He’s Irish & openly gay and still plays the full gambit of human expression. & is super cute so please, again, give him my number!!!!

4) What was your first IMDBPro credit and how did you feel when you saw it?

Oh my goddess... I’d like to pass on this question!! Just teasing — my first IMDBPro credit was The Shy Nudist... yeah. It was a film for a 48-hour competition at NYU Tisch & we snagged best actor for this quip about a nudist who was incredibly shy when chatting with women. I remember running along the Hudson river at 5am in February, with two friends running beside me off-camera with thermal blankets, in nothing but nude tights!!

I’m incredibly proud to be on IMDb at all. And my family, entirely not in the industry, is always so stoked to show me off by sharing my link with their “normy” friends and co- workers

5) How has IMDBPro helped you market yourself to filmmakers?

It’s hard to market myself right off the bat because I’m an actor known for transformation & range. In Hollywood, it’s easier to cast someone who just is the part they’re currently casting. But I’m a gender queer woman / person / man who loves to play gritty, cis dudes in the world of HBO or glitzy animated fairies for Cartoon Network. I think saying “I have range” usually gets an eye-roll, until someone checks out the work I’ve done — from soldiers to slimy politicians to gym idiots. And Queer folk still battle a lot of homophobia and transphobia in the industry — with folks thinking that, because of who I am in real life, it would be hard to believe me as a straight person on-camera. I’m committing to proving that not to be true, and that there are a plethora of talented, transformative Queer actors who can play the full range of humanity. IMDb legitimizes my work, & helps me showcase my full palette of rainbow colors to future collaborators.

6) Any funny casting room stories?

I have hundreds. Here’s one —

When you first start off in this industry, you’d do/take any audition. I’ve been on my

hands & knees squealing in gnarled anguish as a zombie, crying hysterically in a tiny fluorescent-lit office space about my comrade dying in front of me, taking off my shirt & sharing some sexy eye-gazing with an innocent casting intern...

But the one that takes the cake is an audition for a USC short-film called Puddles. I went in to the room high with the expectations that after graduating top of my class at NYU Tisch, my stardom was imminent in Hollywood.

Heart beating, palms sweating, I sheepishly walk in with my stapled headshot (remember those??) and stutter over my name and height in the slate.

Casting then had me look at an imaginary puddle. Then, improvise about the puddle. Talk about the puddle. Cry about the puddle. Scream about the puddle. Then — Look up. Look down. Walk around the puddle (don’t step in it)!! And then reveal a life-changing decision through my facial expression and walk out of frame. I should’ve figured this piece named Puddles would have something to do with... you know... puddles... but dang!!

Long story short, I didn’t book it.

7) Tell us a fun fact about you outside of acting:

Here’s a wild story — during the pandemic, I forced my clingy ego-fingers to release from the false sense of control I thought I had over my career. I packed up my life, put my stuff in storage, & left LA for a year. I got myself a one-way ticket to the Big Island of Hawaii, with a bag, a yoga mat, and no place to stay.

A few weeks in, with no coin (the broke actor trope is still very real), a woman noticed me in my dress & asked me for tea. I ended up living in the yoga studio of her house for free for a month across from the nude beach, where I’d swim with dolphins every sunrise & co-created ritual theater with the native folks that lived there. It was a time of deep release and sweet healing.

Since meeting my network in Hawaii, I’ve been connected to The Dream Academy. They are flying me to Greece, Kenya, Uganda & South Africa to resource, play, improvise, do yoga & shoot a documentary with Queer refugees that are part of the program.

The Dream Academy has filled up my life with so much meaning & has plugged me into the Queer crisis that exists all over the world. I feel like my imagination, story-telling & expansive heart has truly been put to miraculous, immediate work: international service. I’ve made a global Queer family & have connected so much deeper to the raw elements of humanity & to the planet.

The free falls in life are absolutely horrifying. But when you shake up the routine, release the scarcity mind & cancel out the fear, all that’s left is the Magic of the Universe. Life open up doors you’d never expect. The free fall, the unknown, the gray area is the true life of the artist.

Om Shanti.

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