In the wake of reality titans like Jersey Shore and on the cusp of a renaissance in television comes a reality show slated to amalgamate acting talent and the real-life struggles faced by performers. Fashioned as a hybrid between The Real World and Glee, The Class chronicles a group of Chicago-based actors as they pursue their dreams of big-screen fame, a journey that promises to entail more than they knew they were in for.
“LA is a completely different world [from Chicago],” said show creator, executive producer, acting coach and director Nick Celozzi, who has written and produced over 20 films licensed to industry giants like Warner Brothers and MCA Universal. “Chicago actors believe in what can be with hard work. That’s what I love about Chicago. Unfortunately, that’s now how it works out west.” Celozzi’s assessment comes from first-hand experience, both as an actor and a Chicagoland native. Chicago actors, often the products of theatrical productions, aren’t always aware how to command the camera’s attention, often relying upon techniques successful on the stage yet not transferable to the big screen. Though talented, they often aren’t prepared for the harsh criticism or cutthroat nature of the west’s colossal film industry. “Take things personally? You better not go,” Celozzi says of LA, a place where the verdicts of casting calls often boil down to ‘No’ and ‘Not this type’.
“The reason is there’s a million pro actors that are really good.” However, Celozzi’s wisdom tangents on constructive rather than denying. The Class offers the actors lessons in catching the eyes of the major studios while showing viewers the difficulty in rising to fame. Throughout an episode, the audience tags along for the multifarious assortment of auditions, acting classes, day and night jobs, and intimate moments behind the chaotic blend of victories and failures that go into the ascent to big screen success. Through this scope, the idea of acting as a career choice takes a role far more arduous than is often presumed.
“Everyone thinks they could be an actor,” said Carin Silkaitis, one of the show’s several acting coaches. A veteran thespian and acting teacher at North Central College, Silkaitis initially struggled to get away from the notion of being on a reality show. However, her interest peaked upon hearing that the show aimed to show the world what its really like to be an actor. To those who think the task is easy, she warns, “if they could see how it is, people would be like, ‘What the shit?’ In the spirit of The Real World, The Class’ cameras go beyond the days’ interactions and activities, speckling the broadcast with glimpses of the personal conflicts that cultivate well-crafted character development. To do so requires personal interviews with the actors about what makes them tick, efforts often starting as uncomfortable but proceeding as relieving.
By doing so, The Class chronicles the tribulations and triumphs that have allured every cast member to the big time, allowing viewers to see that traveling this road, like any other, requires great challenges and sacrifice. “[The Class] tells the truth about what actors really go through,” said consulting producer Grant Stokes. Also an actor, he described the common case of his fellow industry men having to get the roles and attain experience, epitomizing the struggle as, “just what [the actors] do to stay in the business.” And the time for such a show couldn’t be more ripe.
In the midst of the television renaissance, the world has seen the industry’s most talented writers and directors often abandoning the magnetism of major motion picture studio productions for the chance to exhibit the breadths of their artistic abilities on the small screen. With this season slating the end for juggernauts like The Office and 30 Rock, a void has opened for a show that sparks conversation while keeping the audience religious in viewership. Behind the classics of this time as well as past (take, for instance, Seinfeld, and the seemingly immortal The Simpsons) are casts of writers and actors that give their best to create productions worth remembering. The Class begs the question: is it time we heard their stories?