If you really want it then do it. Don’t let lack of money or nepotism or your geographical location or insecurity stop you. Write stories you want to tell, characters you want to play. Read read read plays and novels. Shoot on your phone with friends. Get weird, be bold, and don’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Richard M. Carrillo.

Richard M. Carrillo (He) has starred in Adam Rapp’s Blackbird (Unit J), The Cripple of Inishmann (Ion Theatre Co., San Diego), Balm In Gilead (Broad Theatre, LA), Paradise Lost (Broad Theatre, LA), Corpus Christi (Diversionary Theatre, San Diego and US tour), Brittanicus (Compass Theatre, San Diego). Film work includes starring roles in Pale Shelter (2021 IndieFest award winner), Where’s your Heart At?, Manhattanhenge (2023 Manhattan Film Festival award winner). Television roles include The Ex List (CBS), Soiled Doves (AMC pilot), The Plot Against America (HBO), The X Factor (Fox), In Harms Way (Revolt TV), Thanks For Nothing (MTV). Richard has a BA from UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television where he trained with the likes of Annette Bening and Alfred Molina. A resident and Artistic Director of Unit J, Richard is also an accomplished drummer, theatre and film producer, Festival Director of the Bushwick Short Film Showcase, and a US Navy veteran. In his free time he enjoys carpentry, talking to strangers, and restoring old Volvos.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in a small town in Southeastern Colorado. My dad was an archaeologist, Mom a nurse. They split when I was 6 but remained close. That part of the state is pretty poor so we found ways to make life fun with the little we had. Lots of nature, creeks, wooded areas and open prairie. Spent a good amount of time on my stepfather’s family farm. Worked there and in his greenhouse and flower shop in junior high and high school. I found myself drawn to music and theatre at a pretty young age. Spent a lot of time playing in the school marching and jazz bands, along with projects with friends and even had a little hip hop duo with my brother in high school. I hope that never sees the light of day.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I think it was just an incessant need to express myself. I couldn’t find any other creative way to do it, and telling stories with my voice and body thru characters I connect with seemed to work best.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Scott Conte was my acting teacher in college at UCLA. His approach to the craft has always stuck with me. It’s helped me to stay grounded not just a performer but also the day to day. He told me to never get lazy which isn’t always easy. I auditioned for him at the school before being accepted, and on the first day of class he told me he specifically remembered me and wanted me there because he saw something special in me. No one had ever told me that…about anything. I’ve never forgotten it.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Just recently got to work with Judd Hirsch and Bob Balaban, two legends I never thought I would come across. It just reassured I’m doing something right.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Paying one of those scam “agents” a lot of money for headshots and the opportunity to work with them. The put so much lipstick and rouge on me I felt like they were trying to sell my services to something I didn’t sign up for. Never got me any work, hope the money I gave them kept the lights on for awhile.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Poison, which is currently playing at my loft Unit J, has been a blast. I’ve been learning so much about the craft and process but also about myself. I am also producing this staging which is so much work. But I love it. I really like having my hand in more than just acting. It might be my working class roots but I need to get my hands dirty to feel like I’m accomplishing something.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?

If you really want it then do it. Don’t let lack of money or nepotism or your geographical location or insecurity stop you. Write stories you want to tell, characters you want to play. Read read read plays and novels. Shoot on your phone with friends. Get weird, be bold, and don’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Take breaks. This isn’t a sprint. Live life outside of performing or entertainment, in general. Befriend people outside of the industry, learn a sport or hobby, find interest in the day to day. I love cooking, for myself or groups. Its meditative and it also provides. Feels whole. We embody so much with our work, feel so much, process so many emotions. We need to be good to ourselves and step away often.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Work hard, meet people, be kind, be bold, be truthful to yourself.

For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theater performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?

The emotions are the same, the only difference is technical. You could take classes but it all comes with doing. Get in front of your phone camera and do scenes and monologues. If its too big then bring it in; not the emotion though. Always keep the emotion and intent. Less is more, yes. But that less has to come from something real and enormous inside.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have no influence but I do believe in kindness. Simply be kind to others.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t be so hard on yourself” Easier said than done sometimes, but you have to give yourself a break. I went through so many years beating myself up and it never got me anywhere. Yes, be accountable to yourself. Be disciplined. But don’t knock yourself down.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

On instagram you can follow @richardmatthewcarrillo and @unitjbushwick

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.