Smally-wood: How Two Not-Yet Famous Actors Navigate Acting Careers in Southern California

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The official Shuddhi movie poster, Movie release to be in 2017, Lauren Spartano-Lavysh in the center (Photo courtesy of Saanvi Pictures)

By Scott Sinclair

Contributing Writer & Reporter

 GREENSBURG, Pa. – Lauren Spartano-Lavysh is a Wexford, PA native, currently living in Los Angeles pursing dreams of making it onto either theater or television screens someday.

She has had a small body of work, including a recent trip to India, starring in the independent film “Shuddhi,” where she played an American vigilantly out to avenge the death of her best friend. Her husband, Konstantin Lavysh, a native of Belarus, has had some limited ]success in getting small television and independent movie roles. Some of these include guest starring appearances in ABC’s “Castle” and the short-lived Fox series, “Gang Related.”

Spartano-Lavysh describes the day-to-day life of actors who aren’t quite able to live solely on an actor’s income, and what is required to take the next steps toward, if not super-stardom, at least the ability to live off of an acting career.

“I feel like I’m still at the beginning,” she says when asked where she is in the process of booking and working acting jobs. “When ‘Shuddhi’ comes out I may step up a little bit, but it’s not out yet so nobody knows about it.” This is a common occurrence in the movie and television industries where work is done but never released, leaving the actor without any evidence of their ability to do the job. “I don’t even have any of the footage to add to a demo reel,” she said.

Since “Shuddhi” is an independent film, Spartano-Lavysh is actually part of the team trying to help get it out to the world. “I’m like the US contact, but there is only so much I can do. [The movie is not acted] all in English, so there is only so much I can do.”

During this time, Spartano-Lavysh has held some of the typical jobs of the out of work actor, such as clerical office work for agents and waiting tables. She’s also kept her creative energies flowing by selling handmade crafts and consulting people on home improvement ideas, mainly focused on the organization and artistic sides of individual rooms in their homes.

Sometimes even being kept informed about acting jobs is difficult due to lack of communication from agent to actor. At one point, Spartano-Lavysh was dropped by an agent and only found out months later when she sent an email asking about potential roles.

The agent game itself is an interesting spider-web. In Spartano-Lavysh’s estimation, the top ten agencies handle almost all of the famous “A” list actors seen on TV. Below them are many smaller agencies which handle the rest of the working (and out of work) actors trying to get a foothold in the industry. Some agents are known for having a stable of specialized actors. For a while, Lavysh was represented by an agent who only handled Russian actors.

Otherwise, the agents are on par with the level of actors they represent based on the following list of actor hierarchy: co-star, guest star, recurring guest star, series regular, series lead. In all actuality, only the series leads have true financial negotiating power on their respective shows, while the other levels are essentially paid at the going rate determined by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

Things have gotten much brighter for the couple though. Konstantin Lavysh has actually moved through the ranks of his craft to become a recurring guest star in the new drama/suspense series “Ice” on the Audience Network, which is included for Direct TV subscribers. The show premiered on Wednesday, November 23, and also stars Jeremy Sisto, of the last few seasons of the original “Law and Order” series.

Lavysh was originally to be killed off the show after episode four, but the executives at AT&T, which is Direct TV’s parent company, like what he was doing with the character and kept him on at least through episode eight. Should his character survive all the way through season one, he could potentially spend season two as a series regular. The difference, explained his wife, besides the larger payday, is the fact that his name would appear prior to the first commercial alongside the series leads as opposed to being the first name shown afterwards, as it currently is. A small but important distinction in the television world.

Believe it or not, despite this stroke of good fortune, Lavysh still maintains a periodic restaurant job, and has even waited on producers he has worked with in the past. In the egotistical world of Los Angeles this does lead to some awkward moments, explains Lauren, but such is life for an actor whose income is not 100% generated by his craft.

Besides acting on-screen, Lavysh also dubbs in background sound for various TV and movie productions. “He likes it and is actually really good at it” says Lauren. This is something the average person would not think of as a paid entertainment job, but it does help to keep the household bills paid.

So, what about the possibility of the couple acting together on something? Is it feasible that Lavysh’s upward trajectory could be a benefit to his wife’s career? The answer is an obvious yes, in fact the two have already acted together. Spartano-Lavysh’s casting was based solely on the fact that they needed a woman to play opposite him, and quite literally she happened to be free that day. Should this project get picked up and funded, the casting would pretty much be in place.

“It’s actually funny” she says, “I’m not cast as his love interest, but someone that he is interested in, but I don’t feel the same way.” So, her inspiration? “I just use times that make me angry with him, like some argument about not doing the dishes or something,” she says with a laugh.

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