A Conversation with Marco Parra
Past student Marco Parra’s acting origin story is a comical one. In the eighth grade, after being reprimanded by his English teacher, he was presented with two options: one month of detention or joining the school play. He opted for the latter. Having been acting ever since, catch Parra’s work, most famously in commercials, working with brands like Radio Shack, McDonald’s, and Sears. Comedy has been integral to his success, but he’s found a great range in dramatic, social-charged indie films from Hermanos to The New Republic. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. To open, what advice do you have for young actors, recent grads? My biggest piece of advice? It’s so important to act like a professional. Yes, it is an art, it’s a craft, but it's also a business. Implement professionalism into your craft. That’s something that's very important. Be on time, show up prepared, all those things. What’s your key to continuing to work? Part of it is the grind...a day-to-day grind. And sometimes, that day-to-day grind doesn't even involve acting. You gotta take headshots or go to this networking event, which is both so important but sometimes tedious. From when I started to now, my passion is exponentially greater than it was. So I think that having a real passion for this career, for this craft, for acting, I think is key. It's the key to success and the key to continuing the work. And where do you find the passion in this work? I'm fascinated by human behavior. One of my favorite things to do is people-watch. I'll go somewhere where there are many people and observe, you know? Sometimes this could come off as a bit creepy. [Laughs] It's also a little bit of being able to be someone else, you know, play someone that's just completely different than who I am. Especially in a study of behavior, how important were listening and Meisner training in all this? Yeah, listening was huge for me…and it’s a great lesson for all actors, for sure. It took me a second to get it. It also makes you really understand the subtext of what you're saying. When we started doing the Meisner technique, I was like, "Oh, this feels good to me!" And I carried that, you know, moving forward. I feel like a lot of actors get fragments of different teachers and different techniques and make them their own. But Meisner is really the basis of that, of my technique, and it's been a solid foundation. Content creation is so important today...and it just gets more important all the time. Tell me about what you've done. Yeah, it's been my saving grace. I feel like when I left school and started going to other classes and getting into the grind of auditioning, it was very difficult at first. And, being a Latino, there weren't a lot of opportunities. And that made it really difficult and put me in a dark place. I knew this is what I wanted to be doing, but I wasn't really able to act often. So I was like, what am I going to do? I built a team of people that wanted to create and shoot content. It's so empowering to know that you don't have to wait for someone to give you permission to act. How have things shifted since COVID? I moved back to Arizona for a year during the pandemic, having no idea what I was doing...we didn't know if there would ever be an industry again, remember? I had a lot of conversations with myself: is acting even going to be my career moving forward? What does it mean to be an actor? Does it even matter? Do I need to start looking for something else? I started working as a landscaper to keep busy. Then self-taping started happening again. So I started doing some self-tape auditions and booking some jobs in Arizona, shooting a couple of commercials. I was on an episode of The Shrink Next Door with Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell. Being on set with them was insane. My career ended up picking up during the pandemic; it was really kind of strange during that time to actually see myself booking a bunch of work. Many congratulations on that! Is there something you look for in projects, something you avoid? I really like working on unique oddball comedies and dark comedies that have social messages to them. I like things written in a quirky, and not so like "in your face" type of way. The short film that I have going on right now that's hitting the festival circuit that I wrote is called Preggers. And it's a surreal dark comedy where this man, through a witch who put a spell on him, gets pregnant...and it's in a world where abortions are outlawed. So he has to go through the treacherous nightmare scenario that so many women have to go through. That's fantastic. It’s a dreaded question, but I have to ask it: do you prefer working on stage or on screen? Pacino, in an interview, said the theater is his favorite, but don't tell anybody! [Laughs] But personally, my heart lies with film and television. I love the different stages of it, from pre-production to the production, and then seeing what came of it. But the amazing part about theater is that it truly is an actor's medium. Once you're out there, it's your show. What’s next for you, and where can people find you? Well, for me right now, I have a couple of features in development. We're shooting a feature early this year. I'm excited that I'll be writing and acting in that. People can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and my website.