When he was 22 Espie Randolph took an impromtu trip to Austin with a friend. He’d never been here before, but two months later, the impulsive aspiring actor from north Texas decided it was time for a change.
“I was living in Arlington, the place dreams go to die, working in a horrible restaurant for horrible people and I was tired of it,” he says. “I moved to Austin to be poor and be an actor, and that’s just what I did.”
Truth be told, acting was nothing new for Randolph. He’d been doing it since age 12, performing alongside other kids on a UPN Network sketch comedy show.
Acting afforded the once shy student an outlet for expression. “I’m really not a super outgoing person naturally,” he says. “But then I figured out that you could separate the personality you created on stage from who you actually are.”
Here in Austin, Randolph got an internship with a talent agency to learn about the local scene – and make it work for him. “Casting notices would come in and I would email them to myself. I swiped some contacts. Hey, you do what you gotta do!”
He did some bad plays and waited tables before landing a role in “Aida” at Zachary Scott theatre. “I really don’t know how I even got it,” he says with incredulity. “I think I was black at the right time. That’s happened to me a number of times through the years, just black at the right time.”
It’s that sharp wit that earned Randolph a number of fun parts after “Aida”, including a role in Zach’s production of the improv comedy “shear madness.” Zach proved a monumental learning experience for the young actor. “I got to meet a lot of good actors and watch them do a show consistently for three months. They were on point, spot-on, every day. That was the big realization: that’s what you have to do to get paid – got it.”
In the fickle business of acting, Randolph came to understand that consistency makes or breaks. “you have to do what you do well all the time to bring in a crowd,” he says. “People have to know that when they see you in something, it’s going to be a show. You have to always give them that, because the second you don’t is when you lose.”
After a few successful productions at Zach, Randolph tried out for Esthers Follies, the much- lauded Sixth Street Sketch Comedy House. He won a spot in the company and has been performing there weekly ever since.
“I don’t do things that win awards – I do lowbrow comedy,” he deadpans. “But it’s the hardest work you can do.”
Writing comedy and doing film and bigger productions are all part of Randolph’s future plans. He’s been cast in a few films, but none of them has actually gotten off the launch pad. “I’m the kiss of death for movies,” he quips. “If you want your film to fail or get shelved, cast me.”
Setbacks haven’t stopped him. At the moment, Randolph is playing Lisa Turtle in “Staged By the Bell,” the Institution Theatre’s campy take on the 1990s Saturday morning staple. And in November, he’ll reprise his role in Zach’s presentation of “Santaland Diaries,” the one-man play based on the book by David Sedaris. As if that isn’t enough, he’s also participating in the Theater Action Project, an initiative that goes into local schools to teach kids about the dangers of bullying through interactive performance.
“I know I’m ready for the next challenge,” he says. “Where there might take me, I don’t know yet.”