Marc Cherry ’95 wanted to be an actor, but there was something else in store for the theatre arts major. Earlier this month, the creator and executive producer of the hit ABC series “Desperate Housewives” and Lifetime’s “Devious Maids,” now filming its fourth season, met with College of the Arts and College of Communications students to tell his story and share career advice.
“Show business is a glass dome,” he said. “You have to find your way in. My door was writing.”
Here are five takeaways from Cherry’s visit to Cal State Fullerton:
He Played Favorites
Cherry had two favorite teachers during his time on campus: Dean Hess and Gretchen Kanne, professors emeriti of theatre and dance. “Dean really appealed to me because he gave such good common sense, don’t-bump-into-the-furniture, learn-your-lines type of advice. Gretchen tried to imbue in her students an almost religious-like fervor for the art of acting. She taught about the passion that you need as you approach your art. Between the two of them, I got some tools and a way of looking at art that is necessary — there’s a practical aspect to it, but you also need that deep, down-to-the-bone fervor to get you through the rough times. And Dean gave me one and Gretchen gave me the other.”
Movie-Watching Is Learning
“Go get the American Film Institute’s list of ‘100 Greatest Movies’ and start watching,” he told students. “You’ll be in for a treat, because there are movies on that list that are just fantastic: ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ ‘All About Eve,’ ‘Casablanca’ … Don’t go to Hollywood unless you’ve seen these movies because you’ll embarrass yourself.”
Know Your Craft
“Part of your job if you want to be in show business is to know the train that you’re in,” he shared. “Every actor should understand what the written word is. And writers, let other writers teach you. It’s the best training program. I do believe that you can be taught how to act … but ultimately, I feel writing you have to teach yourself.”
Hard Times Bring Lessons
After finding early success as a writer/producer on “The Golden Girls” and a few short-lived TV comedies, Cherry hit a rough patch. “Technically I shouldn’t be successful, because I had my shot and then I went through massive unemployment,” he shared. “Usually when you’re a writer after the age of 40, they take you out behind the barn and shoot you.”
But the bills kept coming, he explained, and “poverty is a great motivator.” “Desperate Housewives” became such an outrageous hit after this slump, he added, that his story of his years of suffering are now a Hollywood anecdote.
He’s Not Too Cool for School
“I have nothing but affectionate memories of my time here at Cal State Fullerton,” said Cherry. “(Being asked back) always means something to me — it’s a validation that I went out into the world and I did good.”
Additional photos of Cherry’s visit are available online.