"Transition isn't absolute. I float back and forth from screen to stage": Actor Joshua Bitton on theatre to TV, challenges and CBS' 'One Dollar'
Actor Joshua Bitton divulges all it takes for pro-theatre artistes to make a shift into the entertainment industry and how his role as Chewy in 'One Dollar' is one to look out for
Created by Jason Mosberg, the ongoing CBS mystery drama 'One Dollar' premiered back at the end of August. And within a month of airtime, it has managed to garner quite the fan following, with its sharp portrayal of "the denizens of a small rust belt community and the shift in perspective from person to person as a dollar bill changes hands."
The official synopsis of the show says: "One Dollar is set in a small rustbelt town in post-recession America, where a one-dollar bill changing hands connects a group of characters involved in a shocking multiple murder. The path of the dollar bill, and point of view in each episode, paints a picture of a modern American town with deep class and cultural divides that spill out into the open as the town's secrets get revealed."
As exciting as the plot sounds, the fact that it brags about popular faces like John Carroll Lynch, Nathaniel Martello-White, Philip Ettinger, Christopher Denham, Kirrilee Berger, Joshua Bitton, Níkẹ Uche Kadri, Gracie Lawrence, and Hamilton Clancy in its cast only adds to the intrigue of the drama.
Speaking about the same, and especially his character Chewy from the show, actor Joshua Bitton divulges all it takes for pro-theatre artistes to make a shift into the entertainment industry. It is interesting because another of Joshua's fortes happens to be sports. So how come he is a familiar face to all TV series fanatics? Here's what he had to tell MEAWW.
Tell us a little bit about your character Chewy in 'One Dollar'. How similar or different do you consider him from yourself?
Chewy is a simple, straight-forward kind of guy. He’s a smart-ass and a ball-busting, good cop. However, his worldview is rather narrow. He has ideas that I would qualify as racist (problems with affirmative action, etc...). These ideas I don’t share with Chewy.
His sense of loyalty to those he works with, those he is close to, is very much a trait we share. At his heart, Chewy is a good guy. He’s a working man, but he hasn’t been exposed to a lot of other perspectives than the ones he grew up around. In our show, he might. He might get a chance to grow and change… or he might not.
When you say mystery drama, what can fans expect from 'One Dollar'? What is the one thing they should absolutely look out for?
Everyone in this world has secrets. These are people who are trying to get by, or move up or hold onto a certain way of life. They will do whatever they can to do achieve this. Watch where the dollar goes. Some of those people will be connected to the crime, some won’t, but all will illuminate the world of Braden, PA, more and more.
How did the role come to you? Tell us a little bit about your audition process.
Allison Estrin, our casting director, is someone I’ve worked with and known for years. She contacted me and told me about the project and told me to start working on a Pittsburgh (AKA 'yinzer') dialect, and she told me the tone of the show – truthful, natural, almost improvisational. Then I came and met Craig Zobel. The audition was a remarkable experience. Where we started with the character and where we ended in that room were two completely different interpretations of the character. It was so exciting. So playful. So exploratory.
Funny enough, Chewy was not the role that audition was for. I read and screen tested for a different role. I didn’t get it (obviously, haha), but Allison called me up and told me she thought Craig wanted me to be a part of the world, that he was writing something with me in mind. From that birthed Chewy. I put down an audition, and here I am...
Having starred in so many varieties of popular hit TV shows, what would you call the biggest challenge (if any) that you've faced as an actor?
This is an interesting question. There are challenges in so many of the roles. Some are emotional, challenging you to confront a deeply painful circumstance the character has to live through. Sometimes the challenges are physical, or a dialect.
However, to be honest, the biggest challenge for me has been the grind and focus you must have and the endurance you must build up in order to get the jobs, in order to carve out a space for yourself in this business. The years of getting close, the time spent constantly questioning if there is actually a place for you. The struggle of it all. That path can be a rough one to walk. That’s the toughest part of it all. After that, the job is the joyous part, at least for me.
And speaking of variety, what is your favorite genre of TV shows in terms of acting? Are there any that you would like to explore?
I love it all, but I’ve always been drawn to drama more than comedy. That being said, in 'One Dollar', I’ve gotten a chance to find a lot of humor, and it has been so much fun. I’d love to do an action movie. I’ve done some on this job, and on 'The Pacific', but it would be fun to go deep into that and challenge myself in that physical way. Oh, and a baseball movie! Dying to do that.
You are also a passionate sportsman – how did acting happen then? Was it always in the cards? What made you decide on this as a profession?
Perfect follow-up! I played ball my whole life. Baseball was my first love and I was lucky to play in college, but I was also a football player in high school and spent hours playing pick-up basketball every day and every summer growing up in NYC. Acting came as a surprise, in a way. A friend convinced me to take a class in college and I truly got hooked. It felt akin to sports. The team aspect of a cast and crew, the focus and training necessary, the passion required. It smoothly transitioned me from sports to this career.
With your experience in theatre, how different or similar do you think acting for the stage is from acting for the screen?
For me, they are essentially the same. At least my approach and process to both are. The main difference would be that film allows a level of intimacy, a privacy in moments. What stage has is this amazing reciprocal relationship with the audience. You’re in the scene with them, in a way. Both are amazing in their own respects.
What are your biggest inspirations in the field? Any particular actor/director that you would like to work with, in the future?
There are so many, ugh... how much time do you have? Scorsese would be a dream. He’s such a passionate, eclectic filmmaker. And I’m a New Yorker… he’s a New Yorker… haha. I LOVE the Coen brothers – their wit, and darkness, and clear tone and point of view. Ang Lee and the depth of humanity he creates...
Actors are an endless list– Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Idris Elba... I don’t know. All of them. The scope of artistes that are out there, whose work is so human and layered, is too long a list to amass.
Having moved from theatre to TV yourself, if you had one advice to give someone trying the same, what would you say?
Actors act. Do it all. When you are starting out, do everything you can. You will learn something from every job, every class, every audition. I’d say work on student films, learn the way around a set, the language of the workspace. For me, the transition is one that isn’t absolute. I float back and forth from screen to stage, and I wouldn’t have that any other way.
Any upcoming projects that you're excited/thrilled about?
There’s a two-hander play that a brilliant director I know, Jerry Dixon, and I have been talking about doing. Other than that, I’m excited and ready to step into the unknown. Working with Craig Zobel has been so artistically fulfilling that I feel recharged and ready.