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Living the dream in Hollywood

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EDMOND, Okla. (AP) _ Johnathan Prince leaves Los Angeles occasionally to relax and recharge in Edmond. But living here would go against the grain of his aspiring acting career.

The 28-year-old has discovered his acting niche in Hollywood. And the entertainment industry is starting to take note of Prince, who adopted the name Johnathan Tyler for his acting career.

Soaps, commercials and an independent film are signs of progress.

``I always loved the stage,'' said Prince, during a recent visit to his mom and stepfather in Edmond. ``I did my first play my senior year. I got the lead role for Dracula.''

His blond hair was dyed black. Prince's handsome features were transformed into a vicious menace.

Prince's mother is local Edmond author Debi Baxter, wife of Robert Baxter. His father is Jerry Prince of Oklahoma City.

Prince graduated from Edmond North High School in 1996 and received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2001.

He appeared in several musicals after high school at the Jewel Box Theater in Oklahoma City. But he broke away from acting for a few years after getting married.

``Just the stress of trying to balance the engagement, school and a couple of jobs was too much,'' he said. ``It made me realize that there's no way I could try to do acting and try to have a relationship with someone.''

Fermenting inside him remained his dream to pursue acting to a higher level. And he swore to himself if he was ever single again, he would bring his dream to fruition.

``One day you wake up and you're like, 'I'm not married anymore.' And as devastating as that situation was, I spent about a year here after my divorce just working my job,'' he said of his 2002 divorce.

Prince was depressed, working hard as a dental sales representative while living alone in Moore. He'd drive to south Oklahoma frequently to make business contacts.

``What's so funny is I still remember stopping in the cafes to eat,'' he said. ``They'd have the TV on and it would be a soap. And I'd look up at the screen and I'm going, 'Oh gosh, I wish. I wish I was there.' I hated my place in life. I was like 26 years old. 'And I'm sitting here in south Oklahoma's little 'podunk' town when I should be there doing that. What is wrong with me?'''

Prince read the book ``Hollywood Here I Come,'' that explained how to get an agent and join an actors union. He journeyed in March of 2003 to establish an acting career. Meanwhile, Prince was able to transfer his dental sales position with the same company in California. His new sales territory was in the Burbank area _ just where he needed to be to market himself as an actor.

Facial photos, no agent, no direction, no start. So Prince started taking acting classes, stayed busy, fought traffic and adapted to the newness of being in Los Angeles without having any friends there. A year was needed to figure out what was a waste of time or an advantage to his career.

``There's so many scams,'' Prince said. ``There's so many people just trying to make a buck off your naivete.''

People offer acting classes but are without connections to help aspiring actors get to the next level. He stays away from student films because most are never seen. Some agents take a fee but do nothing to land clients roles. Much worse, Prince has been offered and turned down parts in porn films. People want sexual favors in exchange for influence.

``You have to be so careful because there's so many shady people and so many things going on there,'' he continued. ``Either they want you just for your body or your money. It's a tough place. ...I could never live with myself making those kinds of decisions just because I wanted to be a big actor. I can get there in another way.''

He submitted his photo and resume on a Los Angeles casting Web site. After six months in Hollywood, Prince was offered the part of an extra in NBC's ``Passions,'' a daytime drama. He appeared in a restaurant scene having dinner near the principal characters.

``I was all excited. I was like 'Oh, my God I'm on a soap.''' Although he wasn't a principal character in ``Passions,'' Prince realized how far he'd come from watching a soap on TV in a small-town Oklahoma cafe.

He also has appeared seven or eight times in background scenes on NBC's ``Days of Our Lives.''

``And I'm trying to work myself into more of a principal type role with them,'' Prince said. ``But I think it's just showing up, being available, and them getting used to you.''

Prince has been in Hollywood for less than two years, but he's already becoming a seasoned promoter of himself. Most recently, he did a test spot commercial for K-Swiss Tennis Shoes and expects to learn more about the venture in January. Producers are looking for the all-American boy look, Prince said.

Finding independent projects can be difficult for actors. But Prince has landed the lead role of a detective in an independent film ``CVU Psycho Kid.'' Las Vegas will provide the backdrop of the film to be produced for film festivals. He expects the film will be released as a DVD.

He said many movie actors' careers got their start in independent film making. The exposure is good for producers and directors looking for talent. Timing, appearance and knowing somebody of influence are key ingredients for success. Directors want to work with reliable actors who are consistent.

``It's just a matter of getting to that point where you rub enough shoulders and meet enough people,'' Prince said. ``I hate that it's political like that. I hate that it's more of a who-you-know type business. But it is.

``You've just got to be diligent, I've learned,'' he continued. ``And it's that diligence that if I just stick it out, it's going to pay off. I'll start landing more roles and getting more stuff.''
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