David DeSantos is one of those actors who make writers and directors go: Him. A Los Angeles native, he’s returned after several years on the road—years on the road that, ironically, required far less of his car. Now that he’s back in L.A., of course that critical appendage has regenerated itself. . .
Me: Well, I think I already know the answer to this, but I need it for the record, please. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you clean up your car before taking these photos for me?
David: In truth, I didn’t clean it up at all for you. It is usually pretty spotless. The only reason there is anything on the seat is because I’m in the car. I used to be the guy who had an empty coffee cup in the console, and some cigarette packs on the floor and stuff everywhere! Now, I can’t even begin to imagine my car in a state of disarray. If there is a mess in my car, how can I even begin to tackle the things in my life that are of sincere importance? And yes, I make my bed every day, and wash my dishes before I go to bed.
Me: This is fascinating to me! Every actor I’ve featured so far, the only reason the majority of their stuff was even in their car was specifically for that day and that day only. This was not my original thesis starting out! But tell me, you say you used to be the “messy guy.” That’s a huge change—I feel like that’s essentially a personality change. How did it come about?
David: I think it came in my late 20s when I realized that my outside mess can be a reflection on how I walk through the day. If my outside surroundings are more manageable and clean it allows me—like I said—to focus my attentions on the things around me that need my attention. I think it just came from growing up and living a healthier life. Inside and out.
Me: You’ve essentially been off the L.A. actor-beat for almost three years now. How does it feel to be back? And how does your “car life” compare now that you’re back versus what it’s been for the past few years?
David: Yes, I’ve been living in Ashland, Oregon as a company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the better part of the last three years, and it’s been paradise to be up there working. With complete gratitude I can freely admit that I’m coming off of 30 consecutive months of work with a seven-week break in the winter of 2009!
Me: Wow! I mean, I guess I knew that, but when you but it that way. . .
David: When I lay those facts down, and realize that my dreams have come true and I get to make my living as an actor, I know that everything is going to be wonderful. That being said, it feels so good to be home. I grew up in the valley. I used to hang out at the Sherman Oaks Galleria when “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” came out, so being home is a pleasure. I’ve been back for five weeks and have been very, very busy, and for some reason, just being in my car again keeps things active. Yes, I do love living in the woods and walking to rehearsal every day, but there is something wonderful about driving around the city for appointments, because you know you are in the middle of things.
Me: Oooh, that’s interesting. I think you’re right—being in your car in L.A. means that you’re in the midst, in the thick of it. Now that you’re back, how much time have you spent in your car each day, on average?
David: I’d say on a normal day it’s about three hours. It’s crazy to think that’s true, but it is.
Me: Tell me about what’s in that front passenger seat with you. I see a computer bag, a manila envelope, a banana. . . Talk to me about what’s in each. Well, I know what’s in the banana, I think. Unless you want to surprise me.
David: Let’s see, in the computer bag was my iPad, gum, some toothpicks, some paper work for class, and a water bottle. When I snapped the pictures, I was on my way to an opportunity for “Pretty Little Liars,” which I did book, and since it was at 11AM, and all I’d had up to that point was caffeine, I have a half-eaten protein bar and that banana, which I finished after the audition. The manila envelope has a few pictures in it.
Me: Do you mean headshots and resumes? Because that’s the second question I’m asking all actors of their cars: Do you keep hard copies of your headshot and resume with you these days?
David: Yeah. I probably have 10 in my car, but nowadays you really don’t need one. I mean, that’s not completely true, but they have started to become a little more obsolete. You almost never need them on commercial castings, and hopefully you have relationships with the casting directors you’re seeing, and don’t need to bring them anymore.
Me: Your trunk organization is so “compartmentalized!” What do you keep in the box and the bag?
David: So I got home from a job in Washington, DC that had me there for two months, and one month in Berkeley before that, after coming off a 10-month contract in Ashland—so those boxes are some leftover things from Oregon that I haven’t taken to my storage facility. It’s actually some office stuff, and since I’m subletting an apartment, I keep my stuff in the trunk for now. I actually taught a Shakespeare class to a friend’s acting class the other day, and was so grateful that all my research material—lexicons, first folio, etc.—was in my trunk.
Me: Nice! How did that go?
David: It was really amazing. The students had an absolute blast. There is nothing better than seeing someone’s eyes light up when they start to finally understand the words. I’ve been playing with Shakespeare for many years, and yet I still walked into the class thinking to myself, What am I going to say? I have nothing to say, I don’t know anything about Shakespeare! And yet, when I walked in and just started to talk about my journey with the poetry, it all fell into place.