Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures…and especially, extraordinary artists. I’m elated to feature Paul Victor, a truly sensational artist, human, writer and activist. If his his dreamy looks and strong presence don’t captivate you at first glance, his witty brilliance and warm soul never fail to amaze and impress.
Paul and I met in 2015 on the national tour of Dirty Dancing. His fortified work ethic, collaborative conversations and supportive artistic interests are just a few of my favorite characteristics that make him an absolute dream to work with. And of course, his brilliantly open and cultured perspective which you can see in his responses below. I loved strolling through the lower east side last week capturing his mysterious fervor and understated magnificence. He is one to watch! #BrilliantFervor
Meet Paul: Paul grew up in Pittsburgh, PA in the heart of Steeler Nation and attributes his work ethic to the blue-collar roots of his hometown. He now resides in Harlem in a shoebox all his own. Paul spent 2 years traveling Europe and the Caribbean playing Tony in Saturday Night Fever for Royal Caribbean International, and met Rachel the year following when they were both on the National Tour of Dirty Dancing. Recently, he wrote and starred in a new series for HereTV called ‘MESS’ (@MESStheseries on Facebook and twitter). When he’s not auditioning, taking class, working a survival hustle, you can find Paul reading or eating. Or both. @PaulRaymond716
Significant Quote: "Go out dancing tonight, my dear, and go home with someone, and if the love doesn’t last beyond the morning, then know I love you." - Andrew Holleran, Dancer from the Dance
Q: Tell me about how you discovered your passion for performing? Any special teachers? Specific performances?
I started out as a jock, playing a sport every season, that sort of thing. But my parents, to balance that out, made myself and my siblings play an instrument as well. I played the violin, and my freshman year of high school a friend asked me to play in the orchestra for the Spring Musical. The show was Seussical, and the entire time I kept thinking to myself ‘ they (the actors) are having so much more fun than I am’ so the next spring I auditioned to be in the cast of Beauty and the Beast, got it, and the rest is history- quit football and my other sports, started training every day after school at the Pittsburgh CLO Academy, private voice lessons, all of it. I dove in deep and fast.
Q: Moments you remember as soul-igniting?
The first time I stepped onstage was both invigorating and frustrating and I knew I wouldn’t be able to let this go until I got it perfect, which of course isn’t possible, so now I’m a full-fledged addict. Anytime I see a particularly intelligent or subversive or different performance. Being in the theatre watching Cynthia Erivo’s performance as Celie was an important moment for me recently. I don’t remember being so moved by a performance in any medium, ever. It definitely reignited a fire that was dangerously close to being extinguished.
Q: What healthy habits and/or positive anchors have you found along your way to help keep you grounded and focused?
I think its important to take care of your body. As a performing artist, our body is our work so it’s important that we provide ourselves and our choreographers, directors, and ultimately, our audiences, with as fluid and expressive a canvas as possible. I work out regularly. That being said I do love sour patch kids so its a balance. I read a LOT, which gives me perspective and lets me escape, and I’m lucky enough to have a support network of people to vent to, when need be. I also have started writing, which has been an amazing way to have creative control over something. I recently sold the first season of my show MESS to HereTV, and I’m writing season 2, which has been a way to explore all the stuff I’ve found myself dealing with over the last few years. It’s like a private therapy session, having the characters have to figure out their issues (which are mine) has been enlightening, and given me a sense of pride and perspective, in that in the room as a dancer or an actor you have X amount of power. But in this world, I created it. I have control, I get to decide what happens. And it may never see the light of day, but its already allowed me a freedom in performing that was unexpected, but very welcome.
Q: How do these habits impact your performance and how do they inform the goals and next steps of your career?
Well if I work out, I feel good, and if I feel good, and confident- I’m more free to play in the room and more willing to explore and look like a jackass and share myself with other actors, directors etc. I’m the type of performer who finds little things the longer I’m with a role (and even when I’m in an ensemble, I consider it a role and try to flesh out a real person), so my goal is to expedite that process in rehearsals by bringing as much to the table at the start as I can.
Q: What's your favorite way to celebrate?
I’m a Cancer through and through- my ideal celebration is a chill dinner or something with a close friend or 2. I have to remind myself sometimes to be young and dumb and go out on the town and when I can remember to do that I always have an amazing time, but my go-to is one friend and myself cooking dinner together and connecting. That always feels like a celebration to me.
Q: How do you take care of your body, mind and spirit?
Well, like I said, I work out regularly. I’ve set some pretty specific goals for myself, physically. So it’s been fun but super challenging and at times frustrating trying to bring those to fruition. I’m not as good about stretching, etc as I should be, and (don’t tell my college dance teachers) but I’m not as good about getting to class as I should be. As far as mind and spirit- I don’t have any set method for taking care of myself. I’ve been a bit run down lately by the grind of auditions seemingly going nowhere coupled with my survival gig of waiting tables, so I’ve found myself taking myself to movies and spending a lot of time outside of my apartment, but still by myself. It sounds cliche but when the world is going crazy I tend to quiet down. Often at the restaurant, we’ll have entitled, rude people and it can be super frustrating, but ultimately I feel worse for them than I do myself. Eventually I get to go home at the end of the shift; they never get to escape themselves. I try to just listen to myself and be kind to myself. Reading the words of other artists helps a lot so I’m always reading like 3 books at a time. I just finished the Vegetarian by Han Kang and the Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, and I’m currently in the middle of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. A random assortment of books- novels, self-help, memoir. Whatever looks good to me, offering a bunch of different perspectives keeps my own perspective from spiraling too far out of control.
Q: What is the most delicious meal you've ever eaten?
When I was in Europe, we would dock at this little seaside village in France called Ville-Franche. It was on the train line that took you to either Cannes or Nice, depending on which direction you took it. Some friends and I one day, instead of taking the train, decided to explore that little town, which looked like it was from a movie honestly. We found a bakery and bought some goodies, then we found an epicerie and bought meat and cheese, a farmers stand and bought fruit- it was like stepping back into time and meeting all of the locals and these tiny little shops that have been there for God knows how long and THE FOOD. We took our food, and a few bottles of prosecco and found a park at the top of a hill overlooking the ocean and had a picnic and it was such a lovely day and the company was perfect that it will always be, I think, my most favorite meal.
Q: Any words of encouragement for aspiring artists out there?
Art is made by ordinary people, and its your flaws and shortcomings that make it personal, which is what makes it good.
Talk to anyone and everyone in the business about how they got to where they are, and be wary of any room in which you are the a) smartest, b) most talented, c) most successful.
Go to class!