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Unfiltered: Larry Joe Campbell on Staying in LA

When my husband and I were dating, we often went to Second City to have a few laughs after a long work week. Back then, two comics stood out: Keegan-Michael Key (who ended up on Mad TV) and Larry Joe Campbell.

This blog is by the latter. You know him too – remember the television show According to Jim? He was the funny one. He's the blond, hunky guy that had great timing and a fantastic sense of how to turn self-depreciation into big laughs.

Did you also know he was born in Cadillac, Michigan? Campbell received a Bachelor's of Applied Arts in theater at Central Michigan University and a Master of Arts in theater at Wayne State University. He also has had roles in Weeds, My Name is Earl, Friends and The Trouble with Normal.

Campbell is friends with Megan Grano, who gave us her thoughts on working in the Mitten State last week. To provide a counterpoint, Grano asked Campbell to write up his version of why, or, in this case, why he would not come back to Michigan. Sad, but true. Our movie and television industry is just to young to pull this veteran actor back.

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By Larry Joe Campbell

Back in 2001, I was auditioning for pilots. I remember going in on, What about Joan, a Joan Cusak sitcom that would be shot in Chicago. My wife, Peggy, and I were expecting and we were renting a small apartment in Hollywood. I didn't get that gig, but I remember discussing the possibility of uprooting with Peggy. We agreed we would go where the job was; knowing that in this business, nothing is guaranteed.

What if I would have landed that role? I would have gone to Chicago, most likely with Peggy and our new baby girl, and we would have waited to see if the show caught on with an audience. Nine episodes aired before What about Joan was canceled. We would have moved back to LA and continued to look for work there.

I think the same can be said for Michigan right now. Even though there seems to be a lot of production work in Michigan right now, over the course of the last year, I worked once in Michigan, twice in Georgia, and of course, Los Angeles. Auditions for the productions filming in other states are still being held in LA. If I were to move back to Michigan, I would still have to get to LA to be seen. Sure I could put myself on tape, but you lose something when you do that. You lose the personal relationships that develop when you're in the same room auditioning for someone.

Those really great roles you dream about getting are being cast in Los Angeles. Even if those roles were to be cast in Michigan, and if more and more films and (especially) television series were to be shot there, I would not simply pack up my family and move.

I now have five children. I spent my first twenty-eight years in Michigan, but my kids only know California. They are firmly planted on the west coast and have bonded with friends. My wife is a fixture, not only in our community, but also at her school. I think that, if given the opportunity to work in Michigan, even for an extended period of time, my family would still call the Los Angeles area home.

I also have been doing more television work in my career. Any film work that I have done seems to be three weeks here and three weeks there. Currently, Michigan doesn't have the infrastructure to support a long running television series. Someone pointed out that Hung shoots in Detroit. I believe that the city is used for certain exterior shots and the rest is filmed in LA. I think it is terrific that Detroit and other places in Michigan are being used, but the series regulars on that show do not call Michigan home.

At this point, one would not find a major, continuous series filmed in the Great Lake state. In fact, there is a new series entitled 187 Detroit that is actually shooting in Atlanta. Michigan is moving towards legitimacy in the movie business with the best incentive in the country and the building of sound stages, but it would seem that folks are waiting to see if the tax rebate remains part of the state's incentive plan. The main people waiting for this seem to be the ones building the stages. So while the stage builders wait, Hollywood waits.

We should never rule anything out in this business, but at this point in time, I do not see myself moving back to Michigan. However, it has given me great joy to head back from time to time to shoot in a place that I called home. The familiarity breeds comfort, and that's a nice feeling when you're away from your family.

The opposite seems to be true for a friend of mine. He was living in LA for eight years. He had an agent and a manager. He had booked a small role on 24 but primarily was sent on commercial auditions. He decided to move back to Michigan. He auditions quite frequently there. In fact, he goes out for roles far more than he ever did in LA. He knows they won't be lead roles or even large supporting roles, but they're still fun, necessary roles.

Michigan is shooting a lot of pieces right now. The incentive has made it a hot bed, which is great, because I have a lot of friends back there, and they desperately need to work. When a production hits a city so many people benefit. I shot Fitful in Manistee last September. The two lead actors live in LA. The rest was Michigan talent. The crew was all from Michigan. When we ate, we ate at different restaurants around town. The locals benefit. You need props, set pieces. Hardware stores benefit, grocery stores benefit. Dry cleaners, hotels, the list goes on and on. So many people benefit when a project is shot in their city.

It is a Catch 22, however. If productions continue to shoot in Michigan, those friends of mine back there will get the opportunity to work. However, that means friends of mine in LA will suffer. My real hope is that all of us continue to support this craft and continue to go to the movies and watch great programming, so that execs feel the need to amp up production everywhere.

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