Hard Work, Talent Help SHSU Senior Reach For The Stars
Aug. 23, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Kim Mathie
|Though he is still a senior in the SHSU musical theatre program, Gustavo Gomez already possesses a Screen Actors Guild card, having earned his union membership after taking on a small speaking role in the 2011 independent film "All She Can" and a McDonald's commercial, filmed in Spanish. —Photos courtesy of Noam J. Christopher, from the film "All She Can"|
For senior musical theatre major Gustavo Gomez, anything is possible. At only 21, his journey is a testament to where impossible thinking can get you.
Born an American citizen to Mexican parents, Gomez was sent him to live with his aunt and uncle in Virginia while his parents stayed behind in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. He was just 16 and didn’t speak a word of English.
By the time he graduated from high school in Harlingen—where his uncle later moved their family for his job with the government—however, Gomez was in the top 10 percent of his class.
“Although I moved by myself at a young age and had my aunt and uncle, it’s not the same as having your parents,” Gomez said. “But since my parents were making such an effort living so far away, I wanted to make the most of my time.”
And indeed he has.
Gomez always thought he’d be a graphic designer; that is, until he auditioned for the school play High School Musical and was cast in the lead role. Still, looking back, he said he can see that he always had a flair for the dramatic.
“I would always make shows for my parents,” Gomez remembers. “I would tell my sister what to do. I’d be the tech person and would be holding the flashlight or dropping the Uno cards so they would rain down on the finale.”
With a new future in mind, Gustavo moved to Laredo after high school to be close to his family and to attend Texas A&M International, taking general requirement courses while he figured out his next move.
While he was there, a former high school teacher from Harlingen called him about an opportunity: New York producers were coming to the high school to hold auditions for a film.
“I went back for the audition,” Gomez said. “I met the director, they took my pictures, and I read from the script.”
And that was it. Three months later he was offered a speaking part in the film All She Can, which would eventually become a 2011 Sundance Film Festival selection. His answer was obvious.
Gomez played Manuel, the best friend of the two main characters.
“I had like four or five lines, and I worked for about a week and a half,” he said. “It was so exciting. They make you feel like you’re famous.”
For just a few lines, Gomez became Screen Actors Guild-eligible and would secure an agent. The Screen Actors Guild is the American labor union representing film and television performers.
While the experience was exciting, it didn’t have him running off to the Hollywood Hills in search of stardom and fame. Instead, an old friend from high school suggested he try out for Sam Houston State University’s theatre program, saying how great it was.
Gomez auditioned for the musical theatre program but wasn’t accepted on his first try. After the audition, he met with the committee who told him what he needed to improve.
“Dancing was my weakest area,” Gomez said. “They really emphasize dance a lot here, but it was important that I expand as much as I can. It’s such a rough industry that if you can sing and dance it opens more doors for you. And I really enjoy musical theatre.”
He stayed on as a theatre major and continued to work on his weak areas. The next time he auditioned he was admitted into the program.
Gomez recently wrapped filming for a McDonald’s commercial, filmed in Spanish, which will air on Spanish networks in the US, Puerto Rico and on the Internet.
Despite auditioning just days after getting his wisdom teeth pulled, his face swollen and on painkillers, Gustavo secured a part and his SAG membership. His SAG card provides many benefits ranging from access to union jobs, minimum wage requirements and protection, access to health insurance and more.
Still, he says it’s not easy as it might sound.
“It’s really hard to audition,” Gomez said. “Some auditions can be a hit to your ego.
“You can go into an audition and there are 100 people that look just like you and who are just as talented or more talented than you, and you can allow doubt in, which is the worst thing,” he said. “You have to show them how you’re unique and sure of yourself.”
Gomez credits the theatre department and its faculty for giving him those skills.
“The classes really get you ready for the real world,” he said. “The faculty still audition and work professionally in the field and really speak from real work experience.”
In addition to auditioning for TV and film roles and focusing on his studies (he’s also a Spanish minor), Gomez is the graphic designer for the SHSU Athletics Department and a photographer, taking headshots for his classmates and working weddings.
But he wouldn’t call those skills a “Plan B.”
“I just realized that my hobbies could also help bring in extra money,” Gomez said. “I’m lucky that my skills all tie together, so I work on them.”
To do anything else would be a wasted opportunity.
“In life, nothing’s impossible,” he said. “Work hard for it and tell yourself you can do it, and it will happen.”
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