Go where the work is. Actors have always had to live by this mantra; travel comes with the territory. Once upon a time, actors went east for theatre and west for television. Now with a growing television presence in New York, as well as a budding theatre scene in Los Angeles, the landscape has changed. Affordable flights are easier to come by and technology facilitates fluid representation for performers. Bi-coastal careers have all but become the new normal. It’s not unheard of for a working actor to regularly move from coast to coast. It can be an emotionally (and financially) expensive juggling act.
Against the backdrop of his lead role on the hit CW series, Supergirl, actor Jeremy Jordan works to maintain a healthy career, which means compromises while living on both sides of the country. “It’s challenging, but it’s necessary because I’m married, and my wife is the business,” he says. “It’s easier to maintain a home-base in L.A. The trade-off is that I’m paying two rents.”
The Tony Nominee is married to actress Ashley Spencer, who is currently working in New York while Jordan primarily hangs his hat in L.A. They have made peace with the demands of their careers keeping them away from each other for long stretches.
Now with Supergirl relocating from Los Angeles to Vancouver this year, the geography has become even more complicated. But Jordan has a relatively optimistic attitude toward the strain it puts on his schedule.
“I prefer not to be bi-coastal, but there are benefits. I get to have close friends on both [coasts]. I get to strengthen those relationships and create new ones,” he says. “You can spread the love.”
Sure, being a series regular on televison is lucrative and fills a different creative niche, but he does miss the theatre. Jordan finds ways to the stage, even if he can’t get back to New York. Last month, he revisited the role of Tony in West Side Story in a two-night engagement at the Hollywood Bowl. Soon, he’ll reprise his Tony-nominated role, Jack Kelly, in Newsies when the show is filmed September 11 at the Pantages Theatre in L.A. “Theatre’s definitely my number one thing,” he says. “I’ve missed it.”
Sometimes though, being cast in a project isn’t the only way work can bring an actor out West. Actress-writer Jessica Blank is currently on hiatus from her home in Brooklyn while she and her husband, Erik Jenson, begin pre-production on their film, Almost Home. The project is an adaptation of Blank’s 2007 novel of the same name. The two became prominent as the authors of the explosive documentary play The Exonerated.
Blank is a bit of a bi-coastal expert and teaches classes on the subject to young actors. With appearances on shows like Rescue Me, Blue Bloods and Law and Order, as well as in films like The Namesake, she has kept a very disciplined view of the life of a working actor. “Jobs are usually relatively short term,” says Blank. “If you're an actor you kind of have to enjoy traveling, being flexible, and going where things take you.”
That said, it certainly used to be easier to go back and forth. When they were living in New York for the premiere of The Exonerated, they hadn’t yet celebrated the arrival of their daughter, Sadie. A child has brought a new dimension to the equation. The nomadic call for actors panning for work becomes all the more challenging when things like preschool are on the menu.
“We didn't plan it this way, but we wound up spending a big chunk of our daughter's first four years in L.A.,” says Blank.
The actress is making the most of it, optimistically pointing out that her now six-year-old might benefit from the unconventional upbringing.
“We didn't want to drop her into a new school for two months [while we were shooting in L.A.], so we're homeschooling her while we're here, and then she'll start back at her regular school in New York in November. She’ll learn a lot about making movies.”
Addams Family and Rock of Ages star Wesley Taylor has a decidedly more matter-of-fact approach to jumping from one side of the U.S. to the other. In his case, it’s a matter of saving his sanity.
“I was getting ditched from Broadway shows I had developed for years,” Taylor says. “New York was the city I always envisioned myself living in, and theatre will always be my first love. But NYC can burn you out. I need to miss the city again.”
In the midst of a television development deal in L.A., Taylor has, for the moment, veered away from song and dance to look to the camera. New York ran him ragged. “The signs told me to go where the love is,” he says.
But he hasn’t forgotten New York completely. “Whether or not you can actually afford to have property on both coasts, the bi-coastal gypsy who bounces from coast to coast is valuable because no one ever really knows where you are at any given time. It makes you slightly unattainable, which is sexy.”
Sexy or not, Taylor’s advice for actors considering a move to either coast is honest, if pithy: “[In] NYC: Save your money. [In] L.A.: Save your soul.”