Careers rarely go according to plan. In Job Hacks, we shake down experts for the insights they cultivated on their way to the top of their field.
Name: Theodus Crane
Original Hometown: Atlanta
Job: Theodus Crane is an actor best known for his role as Big Tiny on The Walking Dead. He is also a standup comedian and a trained fighter in Judo, Kickboxing, Boxing, Filipino Martial Arts, and Sanda. He’s a 2 time Amateur World Champion in the World Sanda League.
Your talents are all over the place: comedy, fighting, acting. What was the first area you initially became interested in?
The first thing I was into was visual art. I was drawing and painting from a very young age. But I came to find that — like a lot of things I’m into — once money became a factor, it took the fun out of it.
How did the fighting come in?
That was something I was into at a young age, too. I started training in martial arts at about 12. I started in judo and then got into boxing and later on it life got into kickboxing and karate. It turned out to be one thing that helped me pursue my goals and changed my life as far as dropping weight and getting focused.
Since you’re such an experienced fighter, do you do your own stunts when you’re acting?
It’s basically a form of job security. But it’s best to be smart about it. I’m not generally one to shy away from things, especially in acting. But there are things I’ve seen that I know I just don’t have the training for. [Stunt men] have spent their lives learning these skills. So at a certain level, you just let the professional do their job and be the best actor you can and be accommodating to the stunt person.
When you do stunts, what’s that experience like?
It gives you a lot of respect for the crew side of things. Even though it’s the same union as the actors, they’re treated more like crew. I understand that it is a gift to be on the side of the camera that I’m on, but I also enjoy merging the two. Nobody is going to be able to double me, so I get to learn this other side of acting and be really athletic.
What was it like to enter a massively popular show like The Walking Dead once it was already airing?
I was not that familiar with the show when I got onto it. I watched it afterwards, and I do enjoy it. But I made the conscious decision when I auditioned for it that I wanted to go in completely fresh. Sometimes that can be counter intuitive, but that was something I was trying at the time. I didn’t even know it was a graphic novel until after I was on the show.
Have you had a lot of fan encounters?
I’ve been very fortunate that I have, even though that particular character was short lived. A lot of it is social media — we’re in the age where that’s one of the actor’s biggest assets. So I still get lot of response there, and I’ve done conventions.
Since social media is one of the biggest spaces for an actor, how do you navigate it? Do you hire someone to help you, or does it come naturally and you do it all yourself?
It’s definitely a learning process. The different platforms — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — have all grown differently at the rate where I actually have a public relations person to help me with all that. Just to take that next step in presenting myself to the public. But most of it is me. I wanted to make sure that it was as much of me as possible interacting with people.
So every now and again, I have someone who helps me if I have a question like “Is this okay to tweet?” They might say, “this is what’s going on now in the news, you might want to focus your attention on this.”
What’s been the most challenging part of your career so far?
There are levels to everything. The most challenging part is figuring out where I am, and if there is a plateau, how to ascend to the next level gracefully.
And what’s been the most surprising part?
How quickly everything happened. Things escalated quicker than I was told. Now I embrace the surprise and, quite frankly, I enjoy it. It’s been an overwhelming experience.
But honestly, I’m fortunate that it happened in a time in life where I had already learned a couple lessons in humility. Sometimes I like to daydream that if this were to happen when I was 18 or 21 — how it would affect the kind of person I was. But at this point it’s remembering that it’s a job. My focus is 100% on it, and I’m still the same person I was before I got into it. Instead of making it anything it’s not, it’s doing everything I can with this experience to help shape me into a better person.
What’s your dream role?
I grew up reading comic books, so my dream role would be The Savage Dragon, which is drawn and written by Erik Larsen. I grew up reading it and got a chance to meet him a few years ago. It’s something that still resonates with me.
If there was a young person just getting into acting who asked you for advice, what would you tell them?
Take every opportunity you can to learn from whoever can give you input. Take classes, go to plays, be in plays, go to college, major in whatever interests you. Live life, because that’s what we are by profession — livers of life. We go out and have experiences and learn as best we can how to convey the emotion we get from the experiences we’ve had and pour them into characters onscreen. So go out and be the best person you can be and become as knowledgeable as you can while staying humble and taking everything in. Become a sponge.