Your parents lied to you. The truth is that you will very likely never be the leading man or woman. You probably aren’t star material.
I know. It sounds mean to say it out loud. But just not that many people become name-in-lights, late-show-guest, stylist-and-wardrobe-specialist famous. Some of it is skill, lots of it is luck and loads of it is timing. So you probably won’t make it.
You can choose to be upset by this, discouraged, sad.
Or you can be Bill Cobbs.
My dad and I discovered Bill Cobbs sometime in the early 90’s. We started to see his face crop up in television shows and feature films and it became a sort of game. Well into adulthood, I’d still call Dad to let him know when I saw a Bill Cobbs performance.
Cobbs is a guy from Cleveland who was in the Air Force, sold office products and cars and after doing some community theater decided he’d try to make it as an actor – at the age of 36.
When he got to New York, the only job NBC would give him was in the sales department. But he said “No, thanks.”
He kept going on auditions and by the time he was 40, Bill had made it into a movie.
His role? “Man on Platform” in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three in 1974.
And that did it. For the next 44 years and counting, Bill kept getting parts. He got to be an actor.
Over the years, Bill has played “Bartender,” “Man in Lunchroom,” “Man in Coffee Shop,” “Old Man” and – my personal favorite – a character referred to as “Fish Fry Baby.”
He has never been the leading man in a blockbuster motion picture. But he has been onscreen beside some of the biggest names of all-time – Sylvester Stallone, Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Sandra Bullock.
And if you look at his filmography on the Internet Movie Database, it is hard not to be struck by the sheer magnitude of output Mr. Cobbs has managed.
In less than 50 years, he has appeared in 195 projects – a number just shy of the amount from Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp – COMBINED.
Too many of us get disappointed when our name isn’t the one in lights and we forget that fame has very little to do with impact.
You don’t have to grab all the attention in a handful of plotlines. Sneak into as many stories as you can manage.
Don’t worry about quipping quotable lines and delivering devilish grins. Just show up. Over and over and over. Serve the coffee, clean the lunchroom. Fry some fish, baby.
See how many people you can connect with, even in the smallest of ways.
Be like Bill.