Like lots of other starry-eyed young actors, Barret Swatek moved to Los Angeles right out of college with dreams of making it in Hollywood. Unlike most of them, she succeeded. In this truly behind the "scenes" conversation, Barret shares her journey--from skanky agents, acting classes and sneaking onto studio lots, to finally landing her breakthrough role on "Seventh Heaven," all the way through her recent turn on "Yellowstone" and beyond. She talks about auditioning, life on a set, watching herself onscreen, and hanging out with friends who have become huge recognizable stars. Come backstage with us to find out what it's really like to work in Hollywood.
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Barret Swatek 00:00 I think when you have stars in your eyes about this thing you want to do with your life and something you've always wanted. Even if someone had told me probably it would have gone in one ear and out the other. Because I think you think well Oh, I'm sure it is hard, but it's not gonna be hard for me.
Like a lot of young actors with Yes, Stars in Their Eyes, Barrett Swatek, moved to Los Angeles in her early 20s with dreams and determination to make it in Hollywood. She succeeded. She's been in more TV shows and movies than I can list here. But they include: Seventh Heaven, Awkward, American Housewife, and Yellowstone. I'm Elizabeth Pearson Garr, and in this episode, Barrett shares what it's like to be a Hollywood actor. Hi, Barrett, thank you so much for coming on my podcast. I really appreciate it. When I started this, I really was inspired by trying to get behind the scenes stories of people who do really interesting and unique things. And I thought, well, today I really am going truly behind the scenes literally, with an actor. So, thanks for doing that. Yeah, I'm curious, you know, I feel like the entertainment industry is so notorious for being a really tough business, people hear ‘no’ generally a lot more than they hear ‘yes’. And were you ever reluctant to kind of jump in to the industry? Or were you just so passionate that you thought I gotta give it a shot?
Barrett Swatek 1:38
Well, I didn't know. I didn't know how tough it was. So I wasn't reluctant. Because I had, I had no idea how tough it was. So I did just sort of jump. Yeah, I definitely jumped right in. And then I had like, a very, you know, rude awakening of what it's like, I didn't know anyone in this business. So I didn't have anyone to tell me that it was hard, prior to moving to LA. I didn't know anyone in New York in the theatre world. I didn't know anyone in TV and film. I think if I had someone would have told me that. And maybe warned me about it.
But maybe that was good. Yeah, I think sometimes naivete helps.
Barrett Swatek 2:15
And I think even if someone tells you that, I think when you have stars in your eyes about this thing you want to do with your life and it’s something you've always wanted, even if someone had told me probably it would have gone in one ear and out the other. Because I think you think well, oh, I'm sure it is hard, but it's not gonna be hard for me. Good thing too, because it just keeps you on that path. And I never also have been a person who, you know, there are people who I think focus on what could go wrong with things. And probably in a way I should do that more. But I sort of always Look on the bright side, I will myself into happiness, or success or whatever. And then and then when things go wrong, I've devastated.
But you have to have a positive attitude. I mean, there's enough things that are sort of out of your control, I mean, in life, but in that business, too, right. Other people are offering you parts and that sort of thing. So you got to take it half glass full, I guess instead of half glass empty. So what was kind of your process? When you arrived there? Were your hopes to land on TV, like you eventually did in movies? Or were you just like, Oh, I hope I get a commercial or something. How did your goals kind of evolve over time.
Barrett Swatek 3:32
I loved to have done all of the above. But what I didn't really understand until I got here was you have to have an agent or manager. Most television shows and commercials and movies that are worth their salt. They don't solicit actors who don't have some sort of representation. So I had to find someone to represent me. And that's really hard because people don't want to represent you unless they've seen you, your work on TV or film. So it's a catch 22. And it's the same with getting into the Union. Any production worth it’s salt is union, it's SAG-AFTRA and to get to be a member of SAG-AFTRA you have to work on production. So that's also this catch 22 It's all these like sort of…
Elizabeth 4:21 chicken and egg
Barrett Swatek 4:22 Yeah, totally. So I had neither of those. But what I did do was you can work as a non-union actor as an ‘extra’ so before college, I would come out to Los Angeles during summer, I went to University of Arizona and come out and take summer school classes at UCLA stay in the dorms there. And I signed myself up with an ‘extra’ company. I think it was like central casting. And I think I did it maybe three times. And if you're lucky, they have to qualify a portion of the extras to be able to eventually be union. I think one of those shows did that for me. Back then you had to do two. So one of those, I got that. And then I think like two years later, I did a movie, I did lethal weapon 4, I was an extra in it. But I ended up getting a line out of nowhere. They needed me to say something, which is huge, right? Yeah, totally played a nurse in the hospital and they were like, nurse, go get that and I got something like, right away or something like that. So when you get a line, and you're automatically considered to be eligible for union status, so that one got me into the Union. So that was sort of a hurdle down.
And meanwhile, are you waitressing? Or just auditioning.
Barrett Swatek 5:37
During this time, this was you know, before I had moved out here.
Elizabeth 5:41 oh, this was your summers. Okay.
Barrett Swatek 5:42 So then when I did move out here, I had various jobs as a hostess at night at a restaurant. I was a nanny during the day. Then at some point, I got hired at a commercial real estate company. I knew someone from college who worked at this commercial real estate company. They hired me almost full time, but they’d allow me to leave for auditions if I needed to.
Elizabeth 6:05 Oh, perfect.
Barrett Swatek 6:06 That was the last job that I worked before. I started working as an actor.
And then you found an agent or a manager,
Barrett Swatek 6:13
I found that, I think I probably went through a couple of sketchy agents and managers, there's a lot of them. They weren't really very good. I don't think they had like great clients. And they didn't really have connections to good productions. But they sent me on on kind of some random auditions, commercials and like weird infomercials and stuff like that. But it was at least experience. And I had a funny story. Those agents I got because back when I moved here, the way you found an agent or a manager, the way to find out who they were even like what companies existed, you would go to the Samuel French store, the playwright publishing company, and they had two books, one for all the managers in Los Angeles and Hollywood and one for all the agents and you could buy those two books. And then I would go through all of them and see which ones I thought were right fit for me, and I would send them my headshot and resume.
It's so pre internet. Yeah, do really old school it with the books,
Barrett Swatek 7:15
and none of them call me except for one. He was a manager. He's passed away now. And it was kind of a creepy story. He back in the day had represented like Suzanne Somers, and Farrah Fawcett, and all these sort of iconic, blonde, beautiful actresses. And I was like, Oh, well, I'm blond. Like, he seems to represent all these blondes, but let me send my stuff to him. And he called and he said, I get hundreds of headshots a day. And I never call on them. Yours stood out to me. I'd like to meet with you. And I was like, Oh, great. And I said, Okay. He said, How about next week? How about lunchtime? And I said, okay, and I said, Where's your office? And he said, It's my house, which was one red flag, but I didn't care because I was so excited to have the meeting. And then I'm like, Okay, it's at your house okay and I'm writing down the address for this house. And then I said, is there anything else I should bring, besides headshot and resume? And he said, Yeah, cuz it's lunch. Why don't you bring me a turkey sandwich and a Diet Coke… I was like, okay, you know, turkey sandwich
bring me lunch.
Barrett Swatek 8:21
Diet Coke, What would you like on the sandwich? He's like, um
Elizabeth 8:28 you're a waitress
Barrett Swatek 8:29
And so I call my parents to let them know that I was so excited that I got this meeting. Then I told them, my dad was on the phone that I was meeting him at his house, and he wanted me to bring him a sandwich. And my dad was like, You call him back and tell him you are not going to meet him at his house. You can meet him in public somewhere, do not go to his house. So I called and he didn’t answer, and I left a voicemail, and he never returned the call. So that meeting never happened. But that was the only agent or manager that responded to any of my headshot submissions.
Well, you dodged that bullet, and you save money on that turkey sandwich.
Barrett Swatek 9:08
So I did end up getting a great agent. It took a few years. I was in an acting class that still exists today, this guy Andrew Magarian. And he taught a lot of young actors. I sort of worked my way up to the advanced class and in that class was Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. and this guy Eric Balfour, who I just was watching that series, the offer about the making of The Godfather, and all sudden, like it was Eric Balfour, I haven't seen in 20 years. And I was in that class and a guy came to watch some of the scenes studies. He was an assistant at an agency at the time called writers and artists. They don't exist anymore. And he was like, You're really funny. I think you're really good. I'm an assistant and an agency. Would you be open to me like on the side submitting you for auditions, not signing you representing you. And I'm not even really supposed to do it. And I said, Sure. So he submitted me on a handful of auditions. And one of them was the show Seventh Heaven. And it was for one episode guest star. And I got it. And then they liked the character so much that they signed me on to be a regular, recurring character. I did three seasons of that. And so then I got signed.
by his agency.
Barrett Swatak 10:30 Yeah.
Wow. It's kind of a classic example of not just being in the right place at the right time. But seizing the opportunity. When it's presented, you were ready, you'd gotten yourself prepared. There was an opportunity presented and you like banged through that door and made the most of it.
Barrett Swatek 10:44
Yeah. And I immersed myself in. I religiously went to this acting class. It was my everything. I worked so hard to be up to the level of the other actors in that class, and I worked every day on it. You have to really put yourself out there and study your craft and go to shows and you have to hustle and figure it out.
And not give up.
Yeah, totally. There's like five lots in Los Angeles. There's the Disney lot; Paramount; 20th Century Fox; there's CBS Radford lot, and then there's Warner Brothers, oh and Sony. I used to drive around these lots and be like, Oh, my gosh, maybe one day I'll get to audition or go work in one of those because that's where most of the casting directors offices where you couldn't get in through security. And I figured out, this was before 9/11, the Sony lot was a little bit easier. And one day decided to come drive up to the gate, a headshot. And I said, Oh, I have an audition for Party of Five, party a five shot there. And they were like, what's your name? And I said, it's Barrett Swatek. And he obviously just pretended to look at a list. And he's like, Yeah, going in, you know, to park in this structure, I would just go in and walk around the Sony lot, just to be like…
Wow, just soak it in.
Barrett Swatek 12:02
Yeah, I go to the commissary and sit and eat lunch there. I'd walk by the Party of Five casting office and just like see if anything's going on. But nothing happened.
It's almost like a living vision board or something. You know, like you were you had it out there. And you are kind of like working towards it. Yeah. So then when you got on the set of Seventh Heaven, what did it feel like? Was it kind of what you had hoped it would be and what you had dreamed.
Barrett Swatek 12:29
Mm Hmm. And it was nerve wracking and I look back at those episodes. Well, I haven't watched them in forever. But when I have seen like a clip or two from that, and that was a long time ago. I'm like, Oh, I kind of cringe at my acting. But I also was like, really? I was really green, but they liked it.
Yeah, they must have liked it kept you for three seasons. That's excellent. Yeah. So since we're talking about being on set, can you describe to me what a day in the life is like sort of on a set, because I think so many people have just these images of the entertainment industry is all glitz and glamour. But it's a lot of hard work. It's early hours, and it's waiting around. And it's being prepared for your lines. And I was just wondering if you can kind of tell us the reality of what really goes on to shoot for a day.
Barrett Swatek 13:13
Oftentimes, usually the women have super early call times because there's a lot of hair and makeup that has to be done and takes a lot longer for the women than it does, guys, of course, our lot in life with that. So you'll, you know, you often are getting up at four o'clock in the morning to get to a set by five, and you're sitting in a hair and makeup chair for about an hour or so and then go into your trailer or hopping into wardrobe. And then usually you go and rehearse the scene once, run the lines, block it, go back, they set it up for lighting, and you wait. And sometimes it takes a long time for that that setting up a shot can take an hour. So you wait for the setup. And then you go in and shoot that via a wide shot. And then they start moving in and different angles on different actors. And you just close in on that shot. And each time they close in, they have to reset the lighting and there's not near as much action in acting as there is waiting, most of the time.
And every time you have to remember what you've done and do it. Yeah, pretty much exactly the same. Right? Like if you made some little gesture.
Barrett Swatek 14:28
Yeah, that's still hard for me to remember. I did this show called American Housewife a few years ago. And Sara Rue is she was with me in this one scene and her character gets in or person takes out a bunch of money and she starts counting off the money as she's doing the lines and giving the money. And I was like I would have the hardest time with what you're doing. I don't know how you're doing that and hitting the right people with the money while you're talking and doling out these bills and talking at the same time. I think that's too much for me.
It's hard to many things. Yeah. rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time. Yeah, yeah. So obviously, you've learned all your lines prepared yourself beforehand. But do you find that sometimes you're there on set? And does everything get completely changed? Whether it's because of your scene partner or the director, or you just are feeling a different vibe or a different chemistry in the moment?
Barrett Swatek 15:26
Yeah, it can change on a dime. And you have to be prepared for that. And you have to be open to it and malleable. And I think a good director and producer, when they cast you often in an audition, they'll ask you, okay, let's do it again. But here's a couple notes. And they want to see that you can take those notes, and you can change direction, I think that's important. But sometimes, there's actors who have a hard time with that, especially if you've really researched a role and you've worked on it, and you've worked on it. And then you come in and you have your idea of what going to be, sometimes it's really hard to let that go and do something else. Because it's it's in you already.
But it really is one of those mediums that requires just so many people, you the actors are the face of it. But there's obviously the directors and the producers back there, the writers who I've heard, you know, often writing feeding in different lines, sometimes right in the middle, of course, there's all the tech people and the lighting people. I mean, it takes a real community of people to make that whole thing run well. So you have to be a good team player.
Barrett Swatek 16:30
Yeah, you do. You do. And sets can be very different. I feel like comedies, which is mostly what I do, those sets are more, in my opinion, more fun, they're more light, when you're doing something really heavy and dark, kind of hard to shake that heaviness in between takes, comedies are fun. I feel like there's a more playful energy on a comedy set. Also, if it's a series you've done for a long time, everyone's very familiar with everybody. They've been working with these actors and this crew for your on your fifth season. So your fifth year, and it's like a family and those kinds of sets are fun. Whereas I think a lot of times you do your work and you'll go on your trailer in between and read or work on your lines for the next scene. Or you might be you know, working on you've got some other job coming up, or you just want your alone time. I feel like the shows I've worked on where everyone is very familiar with each other. And it's like family, you don't find yourself going to your trailer in between you find yourself kind of just hanging out with everybody, because it's fun.
That's probably like American Housewife. How that was.
Barrett Swatek 17:38
Yeah, ‘Awkward’, was much like that, the TV show I did. Yeah, that's unusual that everyone enjoys each other so much. And very close. And that takes time, and it takes a certain thing doesn't happen always.
It must be challenging to be a guest star on a show because it's almost like coming to be a guest in someone's house or something. You know, you don't really know all those little intricacies.
Barrett Swatek 18:04
Yeah, that's very hard. But actors do have been there all along. They can be really gracious and lovely and welcoming. And that makes you feel really good. I'll never forget. I just did a one off guest spot on the show called ‘Guys with Kids’. And Jamie Lynn Sigler, who was the daughter she was Tony’s duaghter.
Oh, yeah. From the Sopranos.
Barrett Swatek 18:27
She was on the show and I came in. I was in hair and makeup. And she was beside me. And I'm like, Oh, hi, I'm Barrett. And she's like, Hi. And she goes, Oh, my gosh. Are you on ‘Awkward’? Do you play Ally on ‘Awkward’? I'm so excited. I love that show. I love your character. Oh, I'm totally I just I love it. I'm so happy. I'm so excited. We're working together. I didn't realize like until you just sat down that that's who you were. And it just made it the best experience. She made me feel so comfortable and good. And she made me feel special, which was nice.
Also, speaking of that character, she was pretty over the top at times. And did you feel like people would start to stereotype you, either. General people on the street think that you were like your characters? Or if we're future casting that people think because you've played a certain type of character that, oh, that's just who you are. Like, you're I mean, not just a comedic actor, but this type of person. These are the types of roles you will play in the future.
Barrett Swatek 19:30
Yes, they do do that. That's a thing that happens. And then I think it happens with every actor who gets…
kind of typecast.
Barrett Swatek 19:36 Exactly. Yeah.
I must be a little bit frustrating because part of being an actor is you can do so many things. I know that's part of it. You're a chameleon, you can do a lot but just because you've succeeded in one thing, yeah, people see you that way.
Barrett Swatek 19:49
Yeah, or like ‘Awkward’ was a very broad or over the top comedy. And you take a show like Parks and Rec or the Office. It's very, very grounded comedy. They even think oh, well, that actor can only do big broad comedy, they can't do grounded comedy, they write you off. You can only do this.
So once you started to get success, what was the process of kind of getting parts? So you had this agent who is not a sketchy agent? And would he or she then how does it work? Do they send you offers? And then you go through them and say, Yeah, this is something I'm interested in, you go on auditions?
Barrett Swatek 20:30
It used to only be auditions. I mean, in the beginning, I didn't really get offers. So just be like, Hey, you have they submit you. There's something called the breakdowns, the breakdowns come out every day, casting directors put out what roles they're casting for. And then agents submit you, I don't even think they used to do it via a website, they'd have a messenger service send over all the headshots and resumes of their clients that they think would be good for a role. And then the casting goes through them. But now they do it, obviously, all online. And they go through and look, that was what they would do then. And then they say, of your list of clients that you submitted, I want Barrett Swatek, Nicky DeLoach and Desi Lidek to come in to read for the role of Jane on whatever the show is, or movie. So yeah, they send you on audition. So that would be like the first audition and then they narrow down and then there's callback and they narrow it down. And then you get to a place where casting knows you very well, they've cast you for other shows, and you kind of skip over all of that. And they call in for you. We'd like Barrett Swatek to come in and read for this role. You don't have first steps, you go straight to the producers, you skip over like the first few calls. And then you're kind of in there with all the people who are making the big decisions, and then they'll see you and then they'll probably be another couple of callbacks or sessions after that.
So it's so many layers.
Barrett Swatek 21:59
Yeah, lots of layers. And then now I would say, I was very lucky in that role on “Awkward” was an offer. I didn't have to audition for it. Because I had worked with the Creator before. “American Housewife” was an offer, I didn't have to audition for it, because I had worked with the executive producers of that show. That's real nice when you establish that kind of relationship. That they trust in you and they know, right, I had to audition for something the other day. So that still happens. I'd say it's like, half and half.
And what about “Yellowstone”? How did that come around? And can you talk about working on that?
Barrett Swatek 22:34
Yeah, I think I just said to my agent “I know this show is coming out because I'm friends with Kelly Reilly who plays Beth Dutton. And I knew she was shooting that series. I really didn't know anything about it. But I knew it was Western. And I just said this drama’s coming out. And I know that I haven't done a drama in a long time. But tell me if you see anything in the breakdowns for that, because I think I could do that I grew up on a horse farm, I can ride horses, just keep an eye out for it. And if you have a problem getting me in for any of the roles that I might be right for if they're giving you a hard time, because I'm a comedy actress, let me know. And I can let Kelly know. But they didn't have a hard time. That role of Victoria Jenkins came up in the breakdowns. And I was living in New York at the time. And they were just like, can you put yourself on tape for this role? So, I went in and put myself on tape with a woman in New York who has a business where she does that.
So you're not just setting up your iPhone, in your living room? You're doing it a lot more professionally than that.
Barrett Swatek 23:35
Yeah, yeah, you can do that. I mean, that's what people did all during the pandemic. And now that's just sort of the norm. I don't know if live auditions will ever come back. Unless it's like the last, Yeah, it's all on self tape. So now people really have made a portion of their home where they have the iPhone set up, where it's good light. And everyone's got like a little studio now in their home, because that's how they had to do and it hasn't gone away.
It's kind of sad, because you think you could probably get a lot of feedback from the casting directors in person. If you were doing that.
Barrett Swatek 24:12
Yeah, I prefer the in person for sure. But Yellowstone, so then they call me and they were like, just so you know, they put a pin in you for Yellowstone, when someone says you've been pinned for this role, that's they like you, they probably want you but they're not going to pull the trigger just yet. Maybe they're seeing if some other actress might give them something else that's different, or they're just not sure yet, or they've offered it to who knows Naomi Watts or whatever, and they're seeing if she'll accept the offer or not. So they're like they pinned you will let you know. And I think I didn't hear anything for another couple of weeks. And then they call me and they were like, you've got that and I ended up never, I didn't have to go around anybody to like help with that.
That must have been fun and gratifying to show your more dramatic side.
Barrett Swatek 24:58
Yeah, yeah, it was great and I put a little bit of a light hearted spin on that character. And when I got to Montana, Taylor Sheridan, they picked me up from the airport in there took me straight to meet with him. And he was like, I loved everything you did, in that audition. Like, I want you to do exactly what you did. You had fun with it, because I think that character could have easily been played as, like a hardcore bitch. You know, like a wealthy rich woman who's kind of a snot and close minded and I chose to see her more as someone who's wealthy and suffering and really just wants to like, let loose and have fun. And that's her objective and make friends and break out of that.
Is it challenging sometimes, though, to try to figure out what angle to come at a character with? Because you don't have the whole script or the whole backstory. You're obviously having to create this for yourself. And so it's awesome when something like that you nailed that on the head exactly what he was looking for. But I wonder if there are other times, you know, you've given it a lot of thought, and you think this is who she is, and then they're like, yeah, she was 90 degrees different from that. How are you supposed to know you didn't have 10 scripts to read?
Barrett Swatek 26:17
And that's the hard thing about not being live in the room with these people anymore? Because they could just say, actually, can we run that again? Really, she's this, this and this. And can you… and with that in mind, but when you're just sending a tape in, you don't have that option. And that's hard.
Because you could pivot I'm sure people could take notes, like you said, you have to be able to be directable. Yeah, you could do that in the audition if it were live.
Barrett Swatek 26:43
Yeah, I had an audition the other day, a taped audition. And it was like, this character is a Christian judgemental teacher. She's very attractive. She's very, very Christian, but has a trashy edge. And I was like, Okay. And then there was like a note, and it said, actors do not use a southern accent. This character is not from the south, but the same as she would use. We're saying do you use in the south, so I could see probably why. They were probably seeing actors, and they were doing it with a southern accent, because that's what it seemed like, it was very hard. I'm like, Oh, my gosh, how do I, okay, she's not Southern, but she's saying things like, Lord have mercy, which is what a southern person would say, Yeah. And she’s trashy, but she's super Christian, it was very hard to figure it out.
Is that part of the fun, though, that's so creative to just yeah, let your mind go. And to have to really get in there.
Barrett Swatek 27:41
At first, it was frustrating. And my friend who she's an actress, as well, and she helps me she'll read the other role. She's like, Oh, I can't figure this out. And then we kind of played with it. And then we kind of together found a through line as to how it can maybe work, and who knows, I don't know if it did or didn't.
You have to put a lot out there and see what sticks. How have you dealt with that over the years, maybe differently, as you've had more experience in the business, but it must feel a little personal, even though it's just work, when people say like, oh, you're not right, for this part? Or how have you dealt with any rejection you've had or just the ups and downs that are inevitable in that industry? Do you just have a really strong constitution?
Barrett Swatek 28:23
I think I have a strong constitution now. I probably didn't then. And sometimes when it's in the beginning stages, I'm just like, okay, whatever, that had nothing to do with me. I know, I'm good. I've been doing this for a long time. And I've been working for a long time. So I know, I know what I'm doing. And I know I'm good. And I just wasn't what they wanted. Yeah. And a lot of times, you'll read for something, and then I'll read in the trades two months later that they cast an African American woman in the role, you know, you just don't it's like, I'm like, Oh, my gosh, why did they see me, but they probably don't know. It's harder, when you get very close to something when it's between you and another actor, then it's really hard to accept the No, because you map out sort of the next, whatever, if it's a movie, you map out the next six months of your life in this movie, if it's a TV show, you map out the next eight years of your life and help but kind of get like oh my gosh. So if I get this and this and this and this, and if it's a hit, then this and this, and this and your life unfolds before you very quickly, the great things that can happen. And so that makes you even more attached to getting it. And that's hard. Those are hard to get over.
I'm sure. And you're not alone in that every actor is on that same journey.
Barrett Swatek 29:40
Yeah. And some actors can't. I have a friend. She's so talented. She's like, I'm just not built to handle the no’s. She's sort of taking a step back. Because it's hard. You know, she's like, I just got to figure out a different way to approach this and I'm not going to take auditions anymore until I've figured that out.
Are there many differences from your perspective for your job of working on a movie versus working on a TV show? Obviously, a TV show that goes on for five years is a lot different just for the time but say a day on the set isn't much different, or is your approach to it might be different.
Barrett Swatek 30:19
No, I don't think so. I think it all depends on what kind of movie it is. Are you meaning my approach to…
Preparing for your role? And how you work?
Barrett Swatek 30:32
The TV series, you're sort of very familiar with your character, and you've been doing it, you know, you're on your third season of playing this person, it's a little easier. I've definitely didn't have to prepare as much. I mean, I've prepared in that I preparing my lines, but like, I didn't have to really go through every choice and move like I would a film because it was just so natural to me already.
Have you ever been kind of intimidated by anyone you've worked with? Maybe someone who's has a lot of celebrity or someone who's worked in the business for several decades or something? Or do you just kind of go in and say, Hey, I got this part. I deserve to be here.
Barrett Swatek 31:13
I was definitely intimidated on “Yellowstone” working with Danny Huston. I was very nervous. There's an acting coach who's fantastic. Leigh Kilton-Smith, and I've worked with Lee before and I emailed Leigh, she had worked with Danny before. And I'm like, is there anything you can tell me? I'm nervous how he works, and what does he like? And she's like, he's wonderful and gracious, and generous, and you're gonna love him. And it definitely put me at ease. And it made me feel sort of knowing that I went in still nervous that I felt like I could ask him because he'd already been playing that character for like, five episodes. So I said, you know, hey, I'm your wife. Tell me, have you made up in your mind how we met how long we've been married? I asked him, you know, how long we've been together? Where did we meet?
Oh, that's great.
Barrett Swatek 32:02
What made you fall in love with Victoria. And he loved it. He loved that I was asking those questions. And he was very generous with Yeah, okay, well, here's what I think. And that was so helpful. And it made me feel incredibly comfortable with him, how to approach that character and our relationship on screen.
You kind of had your mutual backstory, then together.
Barrett Swatek 32:23
And by the way, there are actors also, who could have been like, No, I haven't. And I actually am so focused right now on this, and we'll figure it out. When they call action. He also could have said that, and it wouldn't have been wrong of him to that he was game to play. That was great.
I was listening to a podcast recently with some actors. And it's amazing how different people work. Some people really, like you were just mentioning seem like they just come into the scene at action and want to make it all happen. And some people want weeks of preparation. And if they can have tons of rehearsals, they want that. But everyone on the cast might have a different approach to so you really have to be flexible on how you work and how you will be in that scene it sounds like.
Barrett Swatek 33:09
In television, there's hardly any rehearsal. The writer of it, the creator of the show, is really the top dog or the show runners. And then in movies, it's the director, not the writer calls the shots.
Have you ever wanted to direct?
Barrett Swatek 33:28
Um, I think aspirationally that sounds like I would love to, but I would never just be like, Okay, now I want to direct I would go and I would start shadowing directors and DP’s (directors of talk free) before I would ever try to undertake that. That would be the responsible thing to do. Maybe one day, there definitely is a need for female directors out there right now.
Yes, there sure is. There has been for a while and continues to be. Is there something about the business that you feel like people would be surprised by who aren't in it?
Barrett Swatek 34:07
Um, I think people would be surprised if they went to a set and saw how many people it takes to shoot a scene between two people, a two minute scene, hundreds. It takes hundreds of people. And I think that that's surprising. I feel like when my parents have come to visit me on set, they're always like, Oh my gosh, all these people you know, it's a it's just a pain from the lighting to set designers to extras to AD’s to Teamsters, it's hundreds of people to put on something.
Is that kind of your happy place to be on a set? When you walk on do you just feel kind of like oh, this is it. There's creative energy here. This is just where I love to be. Does that still happen for you? Or is it kind of so old school at this point?
Barrett Swatek 34:59
No. It feels great, even getting up at four o'clock in the morning and driving work in the dark. It can get old but it's still there's something sort of very exhilarating about that. Knowing like, Oh, I'm gonna get there, yeah, dark and get my coffee and then you watch the sun come up and you start shooting. For me, it's a fun reason for getting up at the crack of dawn.
How do you feel about watching your things? After it's all put together? Like would you sit down with some of your castmates from “American Housewife” or something and watch an episode ever? Or?
Barrett Swatek 35:29
We did for “Awkward”. We did it a lot. We would get together and watch shows. And then I know people who don't do that. I loved watching that. That was fun to watch. I didn't really find myself picking apart things. There's been other times where I’ll watch and pick apart but unfortunately, I mean, I'll be honest, for women, I pick apart more my appearance than I do necessarily my acting. It's just a I just, it's just a thing.
Yeah, it's just a part about being a woman. Yeah. Has that been a hard thing about being in the industry? Do you feel like because you get judged for your looks? I mean, that is part of it. Because I used to work in TV news. And it was really a hard thing for me when people would say like, Oh, we're not considering you for this job, because we already have one of you. And I'd be like, You mean, you have someone who looks like me? Definitely don't have me. And so I don't know, I have more of that probably. Does it ever feel like wait, I've got a lot of talent in here. I'm not just about the exterior package.
Barrett Swatek 36:33
Yeah, that's, uh, yes, it does. It is hard. It's hard to age. I put pressure on myself to definitely look, you know, as young as I possibly can, and as great as I possibly can and in shape. And that's just part of it I think.
What would you tell at this point, 20 year old Barrett, would you encourage her? Or would you have like words of wisdom?
Barrett Swatek 36:59
I would have told 25 year old Barrett because that's when I was working on “Seventh Heaven” to save my money. Don't spend it. I didn't have anyone you know, there's no one in my life and my family. No one was in the finance world. No one really, my my dad is awesome. But he didn't give me any words of wisdom of how to save money and what to do with the money. And I remember, it wasn't my agent, another agent told me like, I'm so happy for you, this is so exciting that you've got this job. Put away some of that money, because you just don't know when your next job is going to be. And I was like, Yeah, and I was buying clothes. And I spent and I would have told myself to because all those things I bought, like I don't even know where they are now. I mean, it was a long time ago, I think I still have like maybe two dresses in my closet right now that were from the first red carpet I ever did spend a lot of money on this dress for it. And I have one other dress from right when I first started working like big purchases, but I had other stuff. It's just stuff, you know. So I would have told myself to save money for those times when you may not be working, you won't be freaking out about when the next job is. Got a little bit of security.
You mentioned dresses like red carpet dresses. Do you have any stories about red carpet experiences? People love watching those shows? Is it really fun to get all dolled up and go? Or are you just a big ball of nerves?
Barrett Swatek 38:23
It’s super fun, I enjoyed it a lot more back in my 20s I loved the glamour of it. And I loved having my picture taken. And I just thought you know, I was like, Oh my gosh, like they are yelling my name and or taking my picture. It does make you feel like, Oh, I'm successful. But at the end of the day, though, you're going home and you're like, Okay, what's the next job going to be? It feels good for a minute, you know, for a hot minute. And now I liked it. But on occasion, I would never strive to go to a premiere of a movie unless it was my own or I have a really good friend in it. And I'm there to support them. But, you know, on occasion, when it's something that I've done that I'm really proud of, I'm excited to do it.
Some actors I've read that really complain about they just want to act. And they don't really want all the rest that goes on with this job of like, oh, I have to do press, I have to go to red carpets, I'm getting all this negative attention or positive attention from the media and internet chatter. Does that stuff distract you and bother you? And or do you just feel like it's all part of the package?
Barrett Swatek 39:30
It doesn't bother me, the social media stuff. I used to also like that and now that kind of stuff I don't like to do. I feel like I can be using my brain for something else than posting a picture with a caption on it to get more followers but they do care about that now. Someone was just telling me casting agents now, when they're going through the list of actors for a movie or a TV show. They have the actor's name and then next to the name. There's a number I was like what is the This number in there like, oh, that's how many Instagram followers they have. Oh my God, that's not something that's part of being an actor. It shouldn't be. I have a friend who's a incredibly talented actress, and she's insanely famous now, TV actress and I remember when the roll that she was doing became so popular in the show became so popular. I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I bet you're gonna get invited to the Met Ball. And she was like, I can't think of anything worse than having to go to the you will never see me there. But doesn't bother me. I think it would be a hoot once.
What about if you're just out with your husband or with your friends or something and people recognize you or want a photo or something? Is that a little awkward?
Barrett Swatek 40:50
No. And when that happens, I'm always super excited because I'm just like, someone's appreciating my work. It ebbs and flows. So I've never been, I remember having dinner for some reason I was having dinner with a group of people, Chris Rock was with us. It just did not stop. People kept coming up to the table wanting photos. I have another friend who was on a hit half hour sitcom that ran for 10 years. And I couldn't walk down the street with him in New York City without people yelling out his name and wanting photographs. And I do think that gets hard just because you can't enjoy yourself. But I was on a flight with him once too and people would walk by his seat and just secretly be taking photos of him. Oh my gosh, yes. But I never had that. That has not happened to me. It was just people saying like, I love you. I had a flight attendant on this last flight I did from Atlanta to Los Angeles and she just like came over to me in my seat and said So I just want you to know, I watched the series “Awkward” like five times now I love your character. And I was so appreciative. I was so
nice to hear. If you do get annoyed with it, there could be a point in your life when people don't recognize you anymore. And you probably wish someone did still remembered your work?
Yeah, the interesting thing for you is that, you know, these people are some people we've been friends with for so long. And then they became really famous, or they're part of your world. And then you see kind of what's written about people like in the magazines, You kind of see it from both angles, like everyone's just a person, everyone's just a person who wants to go have dinner with their friends or walk down the street. And yet somehow our culture heightens celebrity to such a high level. Like we just revere these people in the public eye. And someone like you, you're sort of like, wait, this is just my friend Joe, you know, he's a great actor, but must be really funny.
Barrett Swatek 42:36
Yeah. It's something that I was thinking of just how things have changed in this business, I started the streaming and there's so much content now. And if this were me at 22, I would be putting my work on tape with friends and uploading it to YouTube and getting it out there and posting it. There's all these ways to get stuff out there that didn't exist before. The only way to be seen was like what happened with me, someone saw me in an acting class or do a play or whatever. Now you have all these tools in front of you to be able to do that. And I think that's really cool.
It's interesting with the cell phones and digital technology. I wonder if a lot more people now sort of think they can be actors, you know, just because they're so used to being in front of a screen. Like so many people have thought about filming themselves, but they're not really trained in the craft of acting. And I'm sure when it gets down to it, you get to the casting agents and all that, you know, they can sort of remove the wheat from the chaff. But there's so many people who have screen prescence now, but they're not necessarily good actors. Well, this has been so fun for me. I love it. I love hearing all your stories. Thank you so much.
Barrett Swatek 43:53
You're welcome. Thank you.
If you've listened to a lot of episodes of this podcast, you may know a recurring theme with me. I'm inspired by people who follow their dreams and push forward to make them happen. I had so much fun talking with Barrett. Here are some of my takeaways from our conversation:
1) sometimes it may be better to go after something without being fully informed. If you really want something you'll go for it regardless of the hurdles in front of you.
2) never take a lunch meeting at someone's house, especially if they asked you to bring lunch.
3) Be ready. When opportunities are presented to you bang through those doors fully prepared.
4) Be gracious and welcoming to newcomers at your workplace, at your school, in your neighborhood or on your TV series. If you have one. A little kindness goes a long way.
5) If you're making money, don't spend it all on frivolous things. Remember the old adage about saving for a rainy day. And finally…
6) Attention and adulation may feel good for a minute. But at the end of the night, we're all just people going home to face reality. My huge thanks to Barrett Swatek for taking the time to share her stories with me. If you'd like to learn more about Barrett and her work, check out the show notes for this episode on our website: “What it's like to.net”. You can also find all of our past episodes there. If you want to hear more about Hollywood, check out episode three. What it's like to attend the Academy Awards with Amanda Doctor. The wife of Pixar’s Pete Doctor. Or Episode Seven, when John Malone shared what it's like to be a voice actor. If you're not yet following us on social media, please do. And please tell a few friends about this podcast too. I'm Elizabeth Pearson Garr thanks for being curious about “what it's like”.