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  • Writer's pictureAugust Sorenson

Life After The Academy: Angel Parker & Eric Nenninger

Updated: Apr 16

Angel Parker and Eric Nenninger, who, between the two of them, have credits in The Recruit, Marvel’s Runaways, The Rookie, Malcolm in the Middle, Generation Kill, Mad Men, and more, have steadily built their careers over the past two decades. The married couple met while studying at The Academy (graduating in the class of 1999) and recently celebrated 25 years. The Academy Pages spoke with the duo to discuss their work, the challenges of navigating an ever-changing industry, and building a relationship as fledgling actors in the entertainment capital of the world.


The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


Graduation: you both completed the program in 1999. And then what, immediate fame and stardom?


Eric: [A laugh.] Yeah, no bumps along the way. Everything was glitter and gold right when we graduated. After graduation, I did an internship with a local theatre company called “A Noise Within.” It was a semi-educational, semi-professional internship, which was a wonderful program to do. I was taking classes and in shows with them and learning from the more experienced members of the company. I got to sit backstage, listen to them, and observe them put it all together while making connections…just being part of, you know, the LA acting world. I had small roles in classical plays like Cyrano de Bergerac and The Taming of the Shrew. It was an exciting transition.


With that classical material, do you feel like you were joining a tradition?


Eric: Yeah, absolutely. I learned so much from that foundation at The Academy. Putting it into practice and being a colleague with professional actors transitioned me into being an actor in Los Angeles. Being involved in a theatre, listening to actors with all this experience that I didn’t have, and then taking it from there, I got my feet into the acting scene.


A lot of your early credits were in the theatre. 


Eric: It was a good way to get to work. Classical plays have huge casts; they always need people to run letters onstage and say, “Heigh-ho!”...it’s not a bad idea to show up for those. 


The Academy gave us a sense of pride in being a professional. You could take that professionalism into the real world because you were the type of actor people wanted to work with. That translated to film and television, and I was able to get an agent through a classmate of ours. With the technique and professionalism already there, I was able to audition for commercials and TV shows. I got callbacks because they respected the type of actor I was.


And what about you, Angel? What was your post-graduation experience like?


Angel: I was asked to be part of Company. We were still in the Pasadena campus at that time, and in between locations. At one point, we were in a makeshift warehouse and at the Pasadena Playhouse at another. They rented these spaces for us to do shows in…I did a Company show in the Pasadena Playhouse, which was cool.


After graduation, the Academy helped me get an agent and manager. I immediately hit the pavement doing small theatre, like Eric. It was not paid work, let’s be clear, so you needed a job that allowed you to do that. I remember working the morning shift at Starbucks because I could do an eight-hour day and be off by noon if I started at 4 a.m. 


We were both learning and navigating the business…learning how to fit into it. We used to print headshots and resumes and drop them off in bins outside casting offices, email submissions, and pick up background work–I did a lot of background work in those years coming out of school. I could make money and be onset at the same time. That was sort of our “gig economy,” you know?


Tell me about how the industry has changed and what you’ve observed and experienced.


Eric: I feel like there’s more access today, but there’s also more actors. When we started, there were fewer TV shows being made and a more limited number of jobs. The opportunities were more concentrated. I noticed that as our careers went on, things became more digitized, and more scripted shows were being made so things could happen quicker. You have more personal responsibility or autonomy over your career than you used to. I can reach out to a casting director over social media and post the materials I’ve made online. You never had a chance to do that when we were coming up.


Angel: You can submit yourself for so many things. For the larger roles, you can’t–you still need an agent or manager to open those doors for you, even if they’re digital–but with casting networks, you can submit for almost anything. You may feel like it’s going into a void; all the work you’re doing, so you have to be self-motivated. If you are, you can get a lot done, and it can go out into the world. You can build a following on social media. I was watching a show with our son the other night, and he was like, “Oh, that’s a big TikToker!” But I still love how collaborative our business is. There’s nothing like being in person or onstage together.


What about career moments? You both have nigh-endless resumes at this point…so what about a particular high point and maybe a project you wish would’ve turned out differently?


Eric: The project I’m most proud of is a miniseries I did with HBO called Generation Kill. It was an amazing job with amazing guys I’m still friends with to this day. We shot it in South Africa…it was a dream. It was an authentic story. Occasionally, marines will stop me on the street and recognize me for that. I always tell them how proud I am of that project. 


The audition for the project was incredible. I remember thinking that there were a lot of roles in the project, so if I didn’t get this one, perhaps I would be considered for other marine roles…I look marine-ish and can have a marine voice if I want to. When I went into the audition room, I thought, “Please just let me read it more than once.” A lot of times, you’ll read it once and leave. I was fortunate enough to read it three times and heard back a week later that I was being considered for it. Then, a bit after that, I was told to pack my bags and get ready to be gone for six months. That experience was everything coming together: technique and talent and the serendipity of everything matching up.


And something you wish would’ve turned out differently?


Eric: I mean, I've had several auditions where I’m like, “Kill me now!” I remember my cellphone or pager going off–I hope I don’t date myself too much by saying that–and I reached down to turn it off and said something like, “You only make this mistake once.” I didn’t do it properly, probably because I was nervous. Of course, it went off again.


There are horror stories out there, but at least this one’s a little charming. What about you, Angel?


Angel: Every project I work on is kind of its own little baby. There’s love for each one and some hardship as well. I loved working with Dolly Parton and being at Dollywood in the Smoky Mountains for a summer. That was a wonderful time in my life. I love Marvel’s Runaways because of the women and friends I still have from working on that show. Working on The Recruit and The Rookie simultaneously is challenging, and I love being able to meet those challenges. There are challenges to an acting career, especially after 25 years. And being married and having a family–and raising a family.


I've wanted to, for years, do a Valentine's Day story on the two of you. I think it’d be great, but this is the next best thing. How did you meet, and how have you navigated the industry together?


Angel: Let's do the PG version of that story, Eric.


Well, you can make it PG-13, but I might not be able to print all of it. [Laughs.]


Eric: We were both in the same class. I was in the afternoon sessions, and she was in the morning sessions. One day, Miss Angel Parker caught my eye immediately with her beauty and grace. She was fine, August…she was fine. I was very interested, but she was very much not.


Angel: I don’t even remember him. 


Eric: In the second year, I decided to get my act together and start doing morning classes. In the morning classes, you had to focus a bit more than the people who showed up at 1pm. All the while, I was trying to pursue Miss Parker, and luckily, a mutual friend vouched for me. She was like, “Who’s that slacker dude?” and our friend, Ted, told her, “No, he’s good, he’s talented.” That vouch from our friend went a long way.


Angel: We were in school together, constantly seeing each other, rehearsing, going to parties, and being around each other. 


Eric: I was a waiter in Pasadena, where The Academy was at the time, and Angel came into the restaurant. I picked up her check. 


Angel: He gave me his free meal. [Laughs.] Then we started dating, started hustling together, and got out into the real world. We had the same mentality of hard work and taking advantage of every opportunity we could.


Eric: One of the things that I love and respect so much about Angel is her work ethic and her talent. It’s something that motivated me; I could bounce ideas off of her, and she wanted to be an actress as much as I wanted to be an actor. And both of us were going to do it. Nothing was going to stop us.


Angel: Many people didn’t pursue it after graduation. They went home, and their time at The Academy was this experience they had in life. It’s a very difficult profession, and the business can rob the joy out of it at many times. There’s a handful from our class still in the business. We go to each other’s shows and root for each other.


Eric: There’s an understanding of the dedication to it. When she gets a show and is completely immersed in it, I’m like, “Of course, why would you not?” 


Angel: Or mourning the loss of the jobs. I still get upset by not getting parts that I want–or don’t want–I get so offended: “How could they not want me?” [Laughs.] And we work very well together. We have different strengths, and to utilize those strengths to help each other on the journey that we’re on has been so great.


The last question I want to ask is looking back at graduation day again. What advice would you give to your younger self?


Angel: The advice we got from our speaker, Florence Henderson. It wasn’t “inspiring,” but it was practical. She told us to work on anything and everything you can work on.


Eric: You don’t know where those opportunities are going to take you. If I went back to my younger self and gave advice, I would say it’s about the people you’re working with more than the project you’re working on. You have an idea of what your career is going to be, but it’s not going to be that.


I love that. This was delightful. I am shocked that it took five years to sit down with the two of you finally. It’s been a pleasure.


Angel: You can track us down with Zoom, now! It’s made it easier.


You can find Angel Parker on IMDb and Instagram and Eric Nenninger on IMDb and Instagram.

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