Catching up with Sheldon Best '08

Best's most recent appearance on the stage received critical acclaim


Sheldon Best '08.

Sheldon Best ’08 has immersed himself in the grind of being a professional actor following his graduation from Brandeis.

He has built an impressive list of credits, including leading roles on the stage in Washington, D.C. and New York City and appearances on television shows like "The Good Wife" and "Person of Interest." 

Most recently, he closed a six-week run of "Brownsville Song (B-Side for Tray)" at Claire Tow Theater at Lincoln Center in New York. Best played the lead role of Tray, and his portrayal was given critical acclaim from the likes of Variety, the New York Times and Theater Mania.

Best took some time to answer questions for BrandeisNow on his recent work and what lies ahead:

You've had a busy year with performances on the stage and TV appearances. What are you up to now?

I have been doing a number of readings, which allow playwrights to hear their developing works aloud. I've also been currently preparing for pilot season, which is when new TV shows cast and shoot an episode in the hopes of being picked up next season.

How do you prepare for pilot season?

There are many ways to prepare for pilot season, from making sure my headshot and resume are up to date and really represent my work, to having clips of me on camera for my agent to show to casting directors as they submit me for auditions. I also try to take note of what I learn from every audition and try to incorporate those lessons into the next one.

Are there particular roles or types of shows you seek?

Yes and no. My agents will submit me for a wide swath of work. I am then able to read whole scripts (or sometimes only the scenes they provide) and decide if I would like to move forward with an audition. So this happens on a case-by-case basis.

Do you have a preference, or a concentration, right now between the stage, film and TV?

I've been really blessed with opportunities to work and grow as an actor onstage. I am very interested now in taking what I've learned and continuing to work in theater, but also to build on the TV jobs that I have had and begin working in film as well. I am really intrigued by the way one is able to tell a story depending on the structure and conventions each medium supports. So I want to take the lessons my teacher, the theater, has taught me and develop as an actor versatile enough to work in all three media.

What role would you really love to perform?

I'd love to play a superhero or supervillian. Something you'd see in a Marvel or DC movie.

That sounds a lot different from your recent part, Tray in Brownsville, a play that's rooted in the difficult realities of city life. How did you prepare for that role?

While the play deals with some heavy subject matter, Tray has no idea that his life is going to be cut short. In many ways, he is able to just be a 18 year old young man dealing with family life, boxing, and getting scholarships to pay for college. So I prepared by brushing up on boxing skills, observing how young men Tray's age dress, move, and talk, and by visiting the Brownsville Recreation Center to learn about what that great organization is doing for young people in Brownsville.

Did you have some previous experience with boxing?

I did. In 2012 I worked with the boxer Gary "Kid" Stark, Jr. and fight director Rick Sordelet when I played a boxer in a show called “Sucker Punch” down at the Studio Theater in DC

You were also recently in a production of “Loneliness of the Longdistance Runner.” I sense an athletic theme...

Yes, there have been a number of very physically demanding roles. I love the challenge.

How did your time at Brandeis help prepare you for your acting career?

I had always loved theater, but wasn't sure that I wanted to pursue it. I decided at the end of my sophomore year to declare a theater major. I figured I should pursue what I'm passionate about fully and if I decided along the way that I wanted to do something different I would still have the opportunity to do so.

For me, what helped prepare me most for this career during my time at Brandeis was working on shows with the Brandeis Theater Company. It serves to prepare students for a career in the theater with professional and faculty directed shows that follow Equity (Actors’ Equity Association) rules. So to get that kind of experience as an undergrad was invaluable.

What advice do you have for students who are considering a career as an actor?

Much of this business is out of your direct control. Spending energy focusing on those aspects can be draining and is not as effective as focusing on what you can do. So put time and energy into learning things that help you grow into the best actor you can be, be they through readings, classes, auditions, seeing/doing plays, writing, or something seemingly unrelated to this craft altogether. The more you know about the world around you, the more you can incorporate it into your work.

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