I have been truly blessed to speak to yet another actor Eric Carroll from the new web based series Buffering. For those of you whom have not yet seen it, I truly recommend watching it. The cast are adorable and very funny, the writing and ideas within the show are true genius. I apologise in advance to you all as it appears that Eric and I were rather chatty which has produced a long interview. Actually, I am not sorry, scratch that, it was fun!
Hi Eric, please tell me a little about yourself.
I am from Garland, Texas originally. I started acting in high school theatre in an advanced class. I went to the University of North Texas for college, I studied film and communications. After 2 years I became a little disillusioned with film study and wanted to go back to acting. I auditioned for a musical called ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ and was cast. I’ve never looked back from that point. I did theatre in and around the Dallas Metroplex for years after.
What was it about film studies that disillusioned you?
The idea of directing film was intriguing to me at first but I found out that I’m more of an actor and needed to be in front of the camera.
It was in college that I met Mike Tobias (writer of Buffering) and Stephanie Stuart (Cindy) we all became good friends there. I made a crazy road trip out to Los Angeles during Spring Break of my senior year of college; one of those trips that would make a great movie someday. Anyway, while standing on the side of Mulholland Drive looking out at the city, I told myself that this is where I wanted to be and where I would live my life.
A couple of years later (and numerous trips back and forth) I moved out to Los Angeles.
Care to elaborate on your crazy road trip?
Let’s just say it was a crazed college road trip with everything you can imagine tied in at some point.
How did you get started in the T-shirt Company?
Mike and I started developing an interest in tennis during college, we started playing and became pretty decent. Mike had an avid interest in cool clothing and we both dabble in design. The idea came from the score 40-Love. In tennis the player at 40 needs only one more point to win. The player at Love has to win the next point to keep the game going.
We thought this was an intriguing concept for anyone who has ever had their back against the wall and refused to give up.
We made that idea the foundation of 40-Love Apparel. Today our shirts are each inspired and designed with that foundation in mind.
I love that concept!
In a sense, our lives have been that of 40-Love, we were told by so many that a move to Los Angeles was unwise and we were just dreamers. Our group has been the definition of not giving up and taking the little that we have and trying to make the best of it. Not trying to toot our horn, just stating that I am surrounded by friends and family that have been through so much and stayed positive and kept going after their dreams.
Specifically with the cast of Buffering, I feel like we are one of those rare groups of people where everyone is willing to work hard and work for each other to make the best art we can.
Keep going; don’t let anyone tell you differently.
That is exactly what this site is about, building a dream and going for it against all odds.
That is definitely not a concept I have ever thought of when hearing the phrase 40 Love, the discussion that must have ensued quite intrigues me. You are all obviously very focussed and determined people!
Would you feel comfortable telling me about some of the more difficult times in your life that you have had to overcome?
I’ve tried explaining to some of our fans how hard it was just for Mike, Steph and I to make it out to LA. Money and moving across the country, all of those were huge obstacles for us and how much of a blessing it is now to live here in LA (which I love) and to have a shot at going after our dreams.
The economy and state of things have been really hard for a lot of us in America for several years. After I graduated college I had a job in the insurance industry. I wasn’t able to act but I had a steady pay check.
I hated it!
I wasn’t able to pursue my art, my dream, I felt utterly depressed. I quit shortly after and took on a waiting job to support myself and to give myself the chance to be able to act in plays. Waiters do not make a lot of money and basically the lack of income and state of the economy has made it even harder just to live.
So what did you do?
Basically I did shows when I could and saved whenever possible. We all had to work really hard just to gather enough money to move here to LA. It has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, so I had to make it here. Luckily we have great parents and a few people that were willing to help us get here. It remains a struggle in LA. But that is the life of so many people and actors, working and living on what they can in order to pursue the dream.
I know it’s an old story, but it’s my story now!
So how has LA treated you?
I love LA. The culture, the weather, the area, all of it.
I went to the desert and hiked, climbed up a small mountain on the way back, then went to the beach that night. There are not a lot of places in the world where that is possible in such a short time.
And obviously the film and television industry is here.
That actually sounds unimaginable!
In a sense, Buffering has a lot of elements of our lives here, the actors that we have met, their struggles and their egos.
How did Buffering come about?
Situations and the self-doubt from auditions, etc. Mike created it; however we maintain a democracy basis over the storyline and characters. We as a cast have all chipped in and are basically co-creators. I remember the first night Mike showed me the first draft of episode 1; “Mikey, we’ve got something.”
So is the character of Ben based on Mike?
Loosely. I would say the character relationship to Mike is similar to that of a Stephen King novel: the writer. Most of King’s stories revolve around a writer, and Ben is a writer too.
But Ben is nothing like Mike in most other regards.
Are you like your character at all?
Not at all, I based Alex on a mixture of characters. I love characters that are flawed and are basically “innocent bad guys.” They don’t mean to be mean or jerks, they just are because they are naive.
Alex is also inspired by some of the pretentious actors we have come across that have egos too big for their body. I think Alex truly wants to be a supportive and loving best friend, he just doesn’t know how exactly. Mike and the crew have done a fantastic job putting the actors in a position to give the best performance possible. Specifically in the second episode we wanted to make it leaps and bounds above the first. I think we took the characters and the story to another level.
The second episode was amazing! It was definitely taken to a new level.
In my interview with Chase, we discussed Buffering and SAG and how many episodes you were all aiming for etc, I assume that the later episodes are all mapped out roughly with how Ben will continue his writing journey.
Yes of course! We have been discussing how far we want to take Ben’s journey in the first season. Does he actually get an episode filmed? Is he going to gather a cast?
I’m so beyond grateful for any and all the feedback we receive on the show. Most of the feedback is so positive and genuine that it overwhelms our cast and crew. That feedback and support drives us to make a better and more entertaining show for our fans.
Twitter does tend to have a mini explosion after each episode has aired.
Yes that was amazing both times, a big surprise for us too. Twitter has been such a useful tool for us to really engage with people and build a fan base.
I think it is amazing to be able to put something out there, and have people from all over the world connect with us and discuss. I can’t say enough about how supportive our group of fans are.
The love for Buffering has been obvious from the start! Why do you think that is? What made it so popular?
I think people can really connect with the characters. Ben is truly an underdog, and I identify with that theme. The theme of the show is something a lot of people can identify with; a good person that works hard that just simply cannot catch a break.
As a cast I think people can see we are approachable and without egos. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a group that is made up of people that are genuine and caring and will sacrifice to make a great show.
I personally think it has helped the show’s success for the fans to see that you are all so approachable on Twitter and talk to your fans so freely, as you say, it is obvious how caring you all are.
Do you think it would have been as instantaneously popular without an established TV star?
No it would not have been. I think it helped having Curt aboard but I look at it as if we had a head start. However if we had put out a show that no one liked we would not have continued to grow, obviously it helped having Curt involved (he already had a fan base).
There are so many web series and shows that put out a first episode and then never move beyond that.
I think that even without Curt, the series has the potential to do great due to its originality and great cast. It just may have taken longer to establish.
I completely agree with that statement. We had a head start but that’s all. I truly believe we were all meant to be here and to be a part of this group. Each person has stepped in and been an integral part of the show.
You all seem to mesh really well
We do, it helps that we are all friends outside of Buffering as well.
I loved the live stream you all did; I think that showed the fans what you are all truly about.
Yes that was a blast. We hope to do more of them soon, I love meeting people from all over the world and sharing stories and ideas. I’ve travelled all over the USA but unfortunately have not been able to go to Europe. I’m a huge soccer fan and most of my favourite films and bands come out of England. So a trip there has to happen soon.
So how do you manage juggling 40-love, the photography business, Buffering and I assume other auditions at the same time?
Juggling multiple jobs….The juggling, it has not been mastered.
Certain elements of other jobs and gigs have to be put aside and the focus has been primarily on Buffering. I wish we had more time and money to do all the things we want to do but that is life. You have to do the best with the time you have and make the best of the situation. It has been a goal of ours to refine our delivery and approach to all of our jobs and to cut out flack and time wasting.
Which came first, the photography or 40-love and which takes more time?
40-Love, my photography actually developed because of 40-Love. We had no money to hire photographers to do promo shots so it was up to us. I had taken some photography courses and took the task and ran with it. It developed from there and now I love it and am doing various freelance jobs.
Is it going well? It appears to be.
Very well, one of things that you can look at is the first photos you took months back and the ones you took last week and the improvement level is there. I felt that college was a benefit to us in that it taught us all to teach ourselves. Mike has learned how to build and design websites. I learned photography and bits of design. And we put all of those elements into our daily lives and help out our friends in their jobs/hobbies.
You all seem more of a family than friends. It is lovely to see your bond.
That is so true. I like that you used the word family. Most of us rarely get to see our families and we are all dependent on one another. This is our “LA family.”
I have not been home to Texas in over 8 months and sometimes that feeling is so overwhelming I just have to sit down and take a second to deal. But knowing I have a group here that loves me and always supports me makes being so far from home easier.
I have such a strong bond with my Mother specifically, and being away from her is extremely difficult. My Mom always reminds me that one day I’ll know what it is like to have a child move away and that it’s a feeling only a parent can know. She is so strong and supportive of me, and she has always been there for me. We are aware that our families are dealing with us being away, just like we are dealing with being away from them.
It makes the reunions so much more exciting though I bet!
The hours and days you get together become the best days you have had with them. There isn’t time for drama and feuds, only time to enjoy one another and catch up. In a weird way, I think it’s best for some people and their families.
What would you say has been your biggest or most difficult obstacle so far? And how have you dealt with it?
Self doubt. I think most people including myself go through a period where life overwhelms them. Life did for me. It hit hard after college and when it happens you either get it together and roll with the punches and go after what you want, or you don’t. The doubt is an on-going battle. The obstacles are there and only we can push ourselves over them.
Most of my influences have come from films and books and songs, stories of underdogs that came from nothing and make themselves something. I consider myself a Rocky type of actor.
That having just a chance to show people what I can do and be is more important than winning. Just being in LA and having a shot at my dream is something I’m so grateful for I can’t equate that in words. I’m fully aware that most people never get that chance and I keep that close to heart.
What was your biggest influence to battling through the self-doubt and reaching for your dream?
Believe me, all of us here have our moments of doubt (auditions, filming, acting), but when you overcome them, you are that much stronger the next time. But like I said, it’s an on-going battle.
My biggest influence has been other actors.
What made you think ‘I can do this!?
People like Russell Crowe, the type of person that came from nothing and went on to do unbelievable things. Not sure if there is one main influence. I can say I watched Oscar acceptance speeches over and over. And every time I watched a film about a nobody chasing the dream (Goal, Rocky, LOTR) it inspired me to go farther. Also my Mom and my friends, honestly they instilled a belief in me. Most actors have a lot of self-esteem issues (don’t let them tell you differently!) So my family and Stephanie have been very influential in making me believe.
Now do not go throwing yourself off of that pedestal that fans put you on!! Actors are strong minded, confident people that can achieve anything with a click of their fingers!
Well, of course, but at times, there can be enormous doubt which is due to the rejection of the industry we work in.
Just keep believing!
I will do so. That Journey song is me at my core.
What is your absolute dream for your future?
My absolute dream is to win an Oscar for Best Actor.
In which role?
Not sure the part exists yet but I’ve envisioned that moment for most of my life, taking my Mom and Stephanie to the red carpet and giving a huge sobfest of an acceptance speech. It’s important to me to share my belief with people and remind them that we can be better and do all the things we dream of.
Then it is up to you to make the part exist and keep dreaming till it is fulfilled!
You are right! Although I don’t dream of being a celebrity, just to be a paid actor and live off of that would be amazing. To be paid for what you love is a blessing bestowed upon so few people.
Do you wish for a TV role or film?
Tom Hanks is my favorite actor and to this day remains a huge influence. He is so talented and humble. I love television, specifically Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. If I could be on a show like that, wow! But ultimately my heart longs for film.
The dark side of programmes then
Hahaha yep that’s me, which is another reason why I love playing villains, they are so interesting, not that Alex is by any means a villain, but he has those moments.
I would say that he is a comical villain
Most definitely! In future episodes we will hopefully see more of the depth, Alex is a star but not a big on and he by no means knows how to deal with the celebrity status, hence the naive moments.
I think it would be funny for Ben to pick up on one of those naive moments and write it into his script, I could just imagine the banter between Alex and Ben
Definitely, yes indeed. Curt is a blast to work with. The whole cast is, but Curt and I are best friends on the show so we get more time together in that sense. I think we have great chemistry and I hope that shows in the episodes.
I think it does, yes. Ben is very patient with Alex when he is being condescending.
He is, and we are lucky to be able to do some improv before we film in order to see what else we can get out of the scene. There is definitely a deep friendship there; a complicated relationship, but again, Mike has done such a great job of making the relationships believable and relatable while maintaining an entertaining narrative.
I cannot wait for the third
We are so excited to start filming the third episode, hopefully we can get that underway in the next few weeks.
Is there anything else that you wish to add?
Just that we love our fans and that we are striving to make the next episode better than the last and to stick with us because hopefully we can take this show all the way.
If you managed to read the whole interview, well done and I thank you! I hope you enjoyed it and please feel free to write a comment below letting us know your thoughts.