“The reason I got the numbers I did was because I auditioned so much. For every one cop role that I landed, I auditioned for ten at least”- Judd Lormand
If there’s a list that with the ‘Hardest Working Actors’ on it, Judd Lormand should be at the very top. He’s appeared in over 70 films (Jack Reacher, LBJ) and TV shows (NCIS: New Orleans, American Horror Story) and if that’s not impressive enough, he once booked 72 parts in 72 months.. all while living in Louisiana. Now, that’s a streak! Lormand is a true working actor and a true success story, proving that hard work will take you far.
Lormand is now starring on the hit CBS show, SEAL Team, where he plays Lt. Commander Eric Blackburn, the teams commanding officer, who’s “constantly juggling and trying to stay a couple steps ahead,” he said.
In this interview, he talks about his role and becoming a series regular for season 2, how he booked so many roles while living in the Southeast and so much more.
Can you tell me about Blackburn? He seems to be the guy who is moving all the pieces of the puzzle together.
Judd Lormand: Yeah, he’s kind of the constant chess player, you know? He’s there for the planning of the mission but more importantly, when the guys are out there on the ground… Like I always say, it’s pretty obvious what their obstacles are. They’re ducking bullets and RPGs and explosives and everything you can imagine. Whereas Blackburn, he’s the guy who’s trying to juggle all the agendas, all of the things that are going wrong, when you lose your drones, surveillance, when you lose that what do you do? When the unexpected enemy combatants come into play that we weren’t expecting, how do you deal with that? A chopper goes down. So, yeah, he’s constantly juggling and trying to stay a couple steps ahead in the chess game.
You’ve got some dialog where, I don’t know what he’s saying, but it always sounds really cool. Do you have to say that technical stuff a million times before it comes out of your mouth natural like that?
Judd Lormand: Without a doubt. As you know, there’s a lot of short cuts that we can talk about but I tell you what, when it comes to some exposition like that, I think that the only way to go is just repetition. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Rinse and repeat, over and over until you literally have said it a million times.
Speaking of exposition, your character has a ton of it each episode.
Judd Lormand: Yeah.
You manage to do it in a way that’s not boring, you know what I mean? A lot of times, you’ll see someone saying all this dialogue and it’s just like, “Alright, let’s just get on with it.” But, you always manage to make it really interesting. So, good on you, but how do you do that?
Judd Lormand: Thank you, and I don’t know if I should take all the credit because of course the writers do a great job.
You can take some of the credit.
Judd Lormand: Nah, they do a great job of getting the material to us. I think, what we see over time is when they give Blackburn some exposition, I think that they’re now accustom to writing it the way Blackburn would say things. So, I think myself playing Blackburn, and the writers writing for Blackburn have kind of hit a nice little groove as far as that’s concerned. And, you know, the way I look at it is when it comes to the exposition that I do, I guess my only, I don’t want to say my secret, but my only strategy going in is, I’m gonna do it as slow as I need to do it until they tell me to speed up.
I don’t mean slow, I don’t wanna say slow but, I’m gonna take it at my own natural Blackburn pace. And, I think what a lot of times what we do as actors, I know I’ve done this a million times in the past, when I get a two paragraph bit of exposition, there’s such a reflex to try to just speed through it. Because you say, “Well the only way I can make this doctor sound real giving these two paragraphs of medical jargon, is to say it fast.” You know, like a doctor would. And so, when it came to Blackburn back in season one, I kind of resisted that urge for a few episodes and just delivered it the way Blackburn would. And one of the things that I kind of established early on was that Blackburn’s gotta keep a cool head when they’re out in the field. It’s very stressful situations but he tries to keep his cool. Stay level headed. And so I talk about that in the exposition as well. Just do it the way he would talk. And if a director’s there and says, “Hey, we need to tighten this up, we need to speed it up.” I could go that route. But I think maybe what you’re talking about, as far as the way it’s coming across, is because of that. And of course because the writers and I, working that character for this long now. If that makes sense.
Absolutely, yeah. You were a guest star on the show for the entire first season and you appeared in every episode, right?
Judd Lormand: Yeah. Yeah, that was great. As an actor yourself, you can appreciate this. It was one of those deals where I worked the pilot and then I was lucky enough to get brought back for the second episode of the season last year.
When I came out to LA, I packed a carry on cause I thought I was just gonna be out there for an episode or so. I was only booked for one, and then when I got out here, in the middle of episode two, they booked me for three. Then in the middle of three, they booked me for four, and that just kind of continued on till 22.
Judd Lormand: Yeah. It was kind of a surreal experience getting to go the whole season that way and it was just such an incredible experience, start to finish.
When did you find out that you were gonna be a series regular?
Judd Lormand: Well, there was rumblings about it toward the end of our shooting season last year, but you never wanna… just because someone says, “Hey, I think we are gonna make you a regular.” As you know, you don’t go to the bank with any of that, you don’t get too excited, you just kinda go like, “Okay, we’ll see if it happens.” Then finally, I think on the last day of shooting, one of our producers pulled me aside and said, “Hey, listen, we appreciate everything you’ve done for us and it’s gonna be one of our first orders of business over the hiatus will be to get you signed up.” And to hear someone who has say so, actually say so, I’ll just never forget that conversation as long as I live. It was so awesome.
It’s got to be a testament to you and your acting. That must have been the best feeling, I would think.
Judd Lormand: Yeah, it was such a great feeling, it really was. And I was feeling that way all throughout the season. When I’m on episode ten and I’m getting booked for 11. I was like, “Here we go!” It’s like popping a bottle of champagne. It felt great every episode, getting another one, it was just so great.
Over all to look back, the best feeling for me was after season one was over it was, I say we, myself, the cast mates, the writers… Blackburn started as just a guy that was here and there but he became an integral part of the team throughout that season. We don’t know anything about his personal life, he’s just a guy who’s focused on his job and I think we created a compelling, integral part of the story. That makes it so rewarding for me, you know what I mean?
Yeah. I never had that opportunity to be a series regular, which would be awesome. But, now that you are, is there anything different that you’re doing? Obviously, it keeps some pressure off, because you’ve got a job for another year, but is there anything different other than that? Do you know what I’m trying to say?
Judd Lormand: I think I understand. Besides the personal life stuff, like you say, besides the fact you’re under contract and it’s a little more secure, I don’t really change my approach about the way I go to work. I’m super excited to go to work every day, whether I work three days an episode or seven days on an episode.
I think it was, I spent so long in the southeast as an actor, where we went from just short term gig to short term gig, right? Down there, at the time when I was pursuing, it was really tough to even book guest stars roles in the south east, much less a series regular. So, due to that, my mentality was just, “Okay, I can’t move because I’ve got kids. So, I’ve gotta stay and work this market. I’m gonna catch as many small fish as I can.” I think due to that mentality, now that I’m in the position with Seal Team in this wonderful opportunity to just do episode after episode, I go to work every day super thankful and super excited about what’s to come.
To be honest, nothing much has changed. I still print my stuff out early. You still have to memorize your lines. You still wanna give a great performance. You wanna make the most out of what you are given. And if you’re given a lot, you wanna make sure you tackle that to the best of your ability. I don’t know if anything’s changed other than I’m super excited about getting to see more of this character. That’s the fun thing, man. Artistically its like, as you know as an actor, when you’re first getting started, to really dive in and explore a character, sometimes you can’t do that on the job, you’ve gotta do it through plays or studies or classes. But this is the first time that I’ve gotten to explore and help develop a character long term.
Last year, I think, my excitement was, “Oh shoot, I’m on another episode.” This year, well that continues, that excitement, I’m still excited to go to work every day. But, I’m excited about building this character now. And seeing his role and telling the stories that Seal Team is telling. As an artist, that’s new for me, you know what I mean?
And also, it literally took me the whole season last year to get used to the, the feeling of not auditioning.
I can imagine that.
Judd Lormand: Yeah, for eight years straight, seven or eight years straight, that’s all I did. The reason I got the numbers I did was because I auditioned so much. For every one cop role that I landed, I auditioned for ten at least. So, I was just auditioning. Oh my gosh, in the southeast, there’d be weeks were between Monday and Friday, you’d have nine or ten auditions, and this went on for years. That was my life. Then all of a sudden, I come up here for Seal Team and we get a few months into Seal Team and I’m still freaking out because my agents not emailing me any auditions. And I know why, it’s because obviously I can’t read for any TV because I’m on Seal Team. And if it’s a film, every now and then I would get one that if was projected three months from now to shoot, he would send that to me. But, it was like once every six weeks he’d send me something, instead of once every three days. It took so long to mentally adjust to that. I always say, when you’re cutting your teeth in this, your job is to audition, period. That’s your job. Just go on as many auditions as you can. And it took me so long to adjust. And it’s like, now your job is to shoot. To go to set and you know, knock it over the fence, just like you would for an audition, every single time. That’s another difference. Now the job is, the same role and a lot less auditioning. So, that’s a big difference too.
You mentioned working in the Southeast region. While you were there, you booked 72 jobs in 72 months all while living in Louisiana?
Judd Lormand: Yeah, yeah.
Judd Lormand: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy.
I don’t have a question I just wanted to say that’s great.
Judd Lormand: Thank you, thank you. It’s like one of those little stats, unless you’re an actual actor, it’s hard to get your head around and appreciate. It’s not like something I can tell my aunt and uncle you know? But, when another actor hears that stat they’re like, “Wow, that’s crazy.” And it is because I was in the right place at right time and I had a great work ethic, you know? I was just ready to drop and go for anything and everything and I never stopped hustling. It just happened that way. Right time, right place and just the right amount of hustle. Determination I guess.
Do you think early on in your career, if you had moved to LA, you would have had the success you have now? Because back then you were, I assume, a big fish in a small pond.
Judd Lormand: Yeah, yeah. That’s a great question. The short answer is who knows? I’ve no idea. But, to elaborate a little bit, back in 2013, I think I must have had 30 or 40 credits by then? I had a good reel. I saved up some money from gigs and I told my wife, “If I’m ever gonna catch a medium sized fish, or at least guest start roles, or catch a break, I’m gonna have to go hustle the LA market. They’re not offering these roles in the south east right now.” So, I came out here in the fall episodic season of 13 and pilot season of 14 and hustled my ass off and made some good headway. But what I found was, the problem in my situation was the fact that I had a wife and three very, very small children at the time.
So, I was kind of cutting off my nose by my face because I was out here trying to hustle this new market but I was sending video tapes back home and if I got a call back I was like, “Oh shoot, I either have to jump on a plane and fly in for a call back in New Orleans tomorrow, spend 800 bucks on a plane ticket to do so, or risk burning a bridge with the casting directors that I’ve developed a relationship over these last few years.” I just said, ‘you know what, in 2014 after pilot season I’m gonna have to make a conscious decision here to let go of the LA goal for the moment, not forever.’ I said, “Judd, do you love what you’re doing?” The answer was ‘yes’. “So, if you’re a costar or a small guest star on a show, and that’s all you get right now, are you happy with that? I’m not content, but I love my job, yes.” I said, “Okay, and that’s what you’re gonna have to do until one of two things happen. Number one, you make a connection or you land something that turns into something bigger and you catch that miracle fish in the south east, or, you wait till your kids are 16, 17 years old, and then you can go to LA.” So I just said, “I’m gonna focus on the southeast.”
In 2014, that’s the last time I came out to LA, and I hoped it wouldn’t last forever. I said, ‘for now this is the last time and I’m gonna have to focus on doing the best I can do in this regional market.’ I guess it was March of 17, so a little less than maybe two and a half years later, the Seal Team pilot was shot in New Orleans and I was fortunate enough to book the Blackburn role in that and, what do you know, the stars lined up and it got picked up and here we are.
That’s awesome. So, while you were in Louisiana between parts, did you have a side job or like a nine to five?
Judd Lormand: No. The first couple years I did some freelance computer work for a couple of people down there. The first couple years, before the gigs really started coming in it, before your residuals start coming in, I mean there was things I had to do for supplementing. But I would say from like 2013 on, I definitely didn’t have any other job.
I bought a Prius, and I told my agents, “Listen, Atlanta is an eight hour drive from my house in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As long as I have an eight hour notice, I can be in Atlanta.” So, I was being submitted for projects from Texas to Louisiana to the Carolinas to Georgia because I proved to my agent and casting that no matter how ludicrous the request was… there was times when like, literally at four o’clock an email comes in, ‘Hey, can you make it to Atlanta? There’s a audition tomorrow at noon.’ ‘Yeah, I’ll be there.’ I proved that I would do it. I was lucky enough to work two regional markets at once which are kinda combined in the last few years because a lot of actors are doing what I did. Yeah, it was crazy.
I still look back and in a way I missed the hustle, to tell you the truth. I kept a clothes rack in the back of my Prius. A hanging rack. I always had a toiletry bag and a few things hanging in the back, so that when that call came, all I needed to do was print my sides, make sure I had the right shirt for an audition, and go.
That’s smart. I started to do that when I was living in Maryland. I would drive to Philly, North Carolina, New York. So from where I was to Philly, it was like a two and a half, three hour drive. So, one time I drove to Philly, pulled into the casting directors parking lot, and I had like a half hour left, so I was just in my car going over the sides and I spilled coffee all over me. After that day, I started bringing and extra pair of pants and shirts.
Judd Lormand: Oh yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s why I ended up doing that. At some point, yes, definitely spilled coffee and everything else. I remember sitting on gum at one point on a bench outside of a coffee shop in Atlanta. I had gum all over my pants. Agh, twenty minutes before I’m supposed to go in, of course. But yeah, it just became a life style.
I remember when I met my agent, who’s my current agent now, in 2012, I was looking to get a different agent cause mine was retiring. When I met him, he had seen my resume at that point and I booked with a lot of the casting directors in the southeast and he said, “Wow, you must be one of the best actors in the market, you’ve booked with almost everyone down here.” I looked at him and I said, “I don’t know about the actor part, but I can tell you I’m one of the hardest working, for sure. No one can out work me.” I meant that. The craft is subjective, but I don’t think anyone can deny true hustle. When someone’s jumping in a car and driving across the country to be there and make everyone look good for the day, show up on time and do what they gotta do and go back home, yeah, I don’t think anyone can deny that kind of work ethic, you know?
What’s been the worst audition that you’ve ever done? Most embarrassing of the worst?
Judd Lormand: Oh, man. Early on when I first started… this is a long time ago, when I was scouring the message boards at film schools to try to get auditions in like student films? I saw one that I thought I fit the description of perfectly. But, there was a little catch. There this little thing at the bottom that said you must be able to play, to sing and play guitar. And I was like, ‘well, you know I mean I’m not a singer but I can carry a tune.’ You know, actors that are hungry and desperate, we’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole all the time right? I said, ‘I know a few chords’. I just started a few months ago, playing a few chords on the guitar. I mean, it’s a film, if I go in there and I do well in the audition, they won’t look at that.
So, I go in and I read for the role and the guys like, “Oh, that’s great, great, that’s awesome. So, you do you sing a little bit and play?” “Oh, yeah, a little bit, little bit.” He goes, “Great, great. So, we got a guitar over here, why don’t you do something for us?” He broke out the guitar and yes, I had to sit there and play a song and sing. Obviously, I didn’t get a call back, it was brutal. It was so brutal. Obviously, the lesson to be learned, is don’t exaggerate too much on your resume, don’t embellish too much. Yeah, that was one that still sticks out today and it makes my face turn red when I tell the story.