Actor Max Arciniega can tell you the exact number of times casting directors told him “no” before he got his first acting gig in Hollywood: 76.
“We don’t really have much of a choice,” Arciniega said. “ ... People don’t understand is how much we have to audition before we get our first job.”
After making a name for himself on the acclaimed series “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” as Domingo “Krazy-8” Molina, the Northwest Side native wants to prepare would-be actors by opening an acting school, so they can avoid the pitfalls associated with Hollywood casting directors.
The MA School of Acting has a tentative start date of June 1, said Arciniega, the school’s co-owner (with Vilma Llaguno).
The school was supposed to open in May, until the ongoing coronavirus pandemic pushed back the launch date.
“It’s something that I wish I would have had prior to going to L.A. because I grew up in the theater and I went to theater school,” said Arciniega, a Columbia College theater alumnus. “When I auditioned for television, it was a different medium, so it took me a long time to get comfortable.”
The school, which is scheduled to be located within the Dream Team Talent Inc. building at 7515 West Belmont Ave., will have a four-part curriculum called “In the Rooms,” which is designed to help actors succeed in the most important part of getting a job in the TV industry — the audition:
- Acting 1: Co-star roles
- Acting 2: Guest star roles
- Acting 3: Recurring roles
- Acting 4: Series-regular roles
“It’s going to walk them through that whole process so if they choose to either stay in Chicago, that now has a TV market, or go to New York or Los Angeles if they want to get into television,” Arciniega said.
The cost for classes will be posted when the website goes live Monday at maschoolofacting.com, Arciniega said.
The impetus for the school came from a group he would put together with fellow actors who found themselves in stereotypical acting gigs.
“It was the gangbanger, the thug, the gardener; you name it,” Arciniega said.
Arciniega, who grew up in the Hermosa neighborhood and attended Steinmetz High School, credits his parents, who immigrated from Mexico, for developing his work ethic.
“If they came from a different country and not speaking the language and created a life for themselves in the States, it gave me no reason to not pursue something that I was passionate about,” Arciniega said.
That work ethic has made him a standout character on “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”
Arciniega’s character was killed by actor Bryan Cranston’s Walter White during season one of “Breaking Bad” and reappears during season two of “Better Call Saul.”
“I think the impact of Krazy-8 in the basement with Walter White was the fact that this was White’s first physical kill,” Arciniega said. “And in the way that he did it is how White ‘broke bad.’ ”
Vince Gilligan, director and producer for both shows, named a character after Arciniega, Maximino “Max” Arciniega, who was an associate of Gustavo Fring (actor Giancarlo Esposito) and co-founder of the Los Pollos Hermanos fried chicken franchise.
On the set of “Better Call Saul,” Arciniega and Naperville North grad Bob Odenkirk often bond over their love for their favorite baseball team: the Cubs.
Between takes of a scene where Arciniega’s character reluctantly agrees to be represented by Odenkirk’s character, attorney Saul Goodman, during a DEA interrogation, they had a crew member get an iPad for them to watch a Cubs game.
“It’s funny because no one actually knows that,” Arciniega said. “We bonded and I talked to him about his experience of going home and throwing out the first pitch and singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’”
Arciniega has high hopes for the school — a school he tailored specifically to an actor’s career as he sees it.
“We were like, this is a great opportunity to get this experience which is going to be a much more specific experience than the other schools that are in the city,” he said.