Desean Terry ’00 Shares Career Advice with Theatre Students

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The latest installment of “CFA Conversations with …” brought Desean Terry ’00 to campus, where he discussed the challenges as an actor in the film and theatre industries, while also giving theatre and film students insight into how to become successful in the early stages of their careers. Terry is currently co-starring alongside Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Anniston, and Steve Carrell on the Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show.” His acting credits include “Scorpion,” “Southland,” “Shameless,” and “Monk.”

“The best part of the industry is that you are dealing with great connections,” said Terry, “and you really get to know people by how you impact them viewing your work … building relationships with those people.”

“CFA Conversations with…” is a speaker series hosted by the LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts that invites successful alumni back to campus to share their stories with students. This particular discussion was held on the stage in Strub Theatre, giving the gathering an intimate feel and allowing students to interact directly with Terry. The conversation was moderated by Jason Sheppard, technical director for the LMU Theatre Arts.

Changing Film Landscape for People of Color

During the talk, Terry discussed the changes in opportunities for black actors, sharing that when he started out as an actor, the roles for black actors were more limited. He noted how much the industry has progressed in recent years, with many studios working to shed racial stereotypes in casting and hiring more diverse groups of actors.

Terry is also the creative director of the Collaborative Artists Bloc, a theatre company that takes plays to areas of Los Angeles that don’t often have access to live theatre. Many of these plays shed light on social justice issues in the United States, while also opening up discussions with the audience to invite conversations on impactful current events.

Leading with Your Strengths

He also touched on the issue of strengths and weaknesses within the entertainment industry and shared a quote that a career coach gave to him: “We live in a self-help culture, where we are always attacking our weaknesses, when successful people instead lead with their strengths.” Using this piece of knowledge, he fully pursued directing, coaching, and acting, in which he found much success.

Terry began his education at LMU when he was 16 years old, starting as a computer science major before switching to business, and then finally finding his calling in theatre arts. He graduated in 2000 with a B.A. degree.

From LMU, Terry attended a graduate program at Juilliard School in New York City, where he continued to work in the film industry. Upon graduating, he said, he found himself auditioning for various roles. A student then asked for recommendations regarding auditions. Terry said to lead with your strength and to “find what you love to do. Show people what you love and want to do, and you’ll open yourself up to opportunities in that field.”

 

Reporter Riley Apodaca is a junior English major.