Actor Todd Stroik has been proactive in going out and creating the career he enjoys, often by generating his own projects.
“I’m so blessed to be able to be so creative in this crazy field,” says Stroik, whose credits include the popular LGBT film Big Gay Love, as well as the short film Prudence, which debuted at this year’s Outfest in Los Angeles. He also recently completed his second season as host of The Casting Couch, an online series.
Happily, all his hard work is at last paying off, and acting parts are now finding him.
“It’s gotten to where friends and colleagues will just call and say ‘I’ve got this role that you’d be perfect for — are you interested?’ Which is wonderful,” he says.
Raised in the Midwest, Stroik recalls his first time on stage, in the fifth grade. For the holiday operetta Amahl and the Night Visitors, he says, “I played the lead and was hooked!”
From there, he had roles in such iconic musicals as Guys and Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof and Oliver.
He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in theater performance, with a minor in dance. During his college years, he worked for Disney in Orlando, Florida, which opened even more exciting doors for him.
“I absolutely loved working for the company,” he says. “I worked for them as part of their college program and knew I wanted to come back, so when I was offered a job performing with the Disney Cruise Line, I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do–so I jumped at it.”
Stroik recognized that it was a chance not only to live on the ship, but also to entertain eager fans from all over the globe while performing in high-dollar extravaganzas.
“You’re on a stage in front of literally thousands of people,” he says. “The audience already knows — and loves — your character, so you don’t have to work for their admiration! We just had to come out on stage and the audiences looked at us with such high esteem that they didn’t care what we did! I’m so thankful to Disney for what they did for me at that phase in my career.”
As much as he relished his time on board the ship, after several years he knew it was time to make his move to Hollywood.
Once there, the trick was getting his name and work known, but opportunities soon began rolling in, leading to his role in Big Gay Love.
Like his co-star Nicholas Brendon, Stroik affirms that he’s a committed heterosexual. He says he has never had any problems or hesitations about working in projects catering to the LGBT community, and as a strong supporter, he has developed a devoted LGBT following.
“I am a huge ally of the community,” he says. “In fact, I probably have more gay friends than I have straight friends, because I see that their hearts are bigger. They seem to just care more. … I pride myself on living a very positive, energy-filled life. So whether they’re straight or gay, those are the people I surround myself with.”
He said he found the story in Big Gay Love to be one that most anyone can identify with. “I love telling great stories. … There’s just so many characters that have so many great moments that I relate to, and that’s what really thrilled me to be able to move forward with this particular film.”
Stroik’s next project, The Casting Couch, was inspired by actors he knew who hadn’t had as much luck in landing roles.
“I’ve had a number of friends who’ve come and gone over the course of the five years I’ve been here and who have walked away with virtually nothing,” he says. “I wanted to try to turn that around by helping improve their odds of succeeding here.”
Seen online, the show features Stroik as the host and producer and tries to give viewers an understanding of how a working set operates, as well as other insider information.
“If you understand the more technical end of things, when you know and understand what everyone is doing, it’s easier for you to do your job,” he says, suggesting that an actor will better understand how everything works and how it affects their own contribution.
He and first-season co-host Cari Kabinoff had worked together on the short film Put It in My Soup.
“She was so great to work with, so about a month after, we got together again to talk about doing another project,” he said. He told her of the idea he had to give back to the acting community because so many people get taken advantage of in Hollywood.
Stroik says he has received considerable feedback from viewers grateful for the information and advice seen on The Casting Couch.
“I think the greatest triumph involved with doing the show is that we have been able to help so many people start, and even better, sensibly navigate their careers,” he says.
Stroik splits his time between working on The Casting Couch and preparing his own stage musical called Gods and Mortals, based on the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. Stroik plans to take the part of Cupid, the god of love.
In this classic tale, Psyche, a breathtakingly beautiful young woman, incurs the wrath of Venus, the jealous goddess of love, who sends her son Cupid to destroy her.
“But he ends up falling in love with the girl, and it’s how her story develops through Act One and Act Two that’s so powerful and so cool. I’m truly excited to be a part of something so great — not just since it’s my own work, but because my best friend Paul Anthony Romero is our composer.”
Stroik says the music for the show is a mix of classical influences. Romero, who comes from a long tradition of classical piano-playing and composing, approached him three years ago with the idea of their writing this together.
His first reaction was to turn it down.
“I didn’t have any experience in that field of writing and doing lyrics for a musical,” he says, “so at first I told him to find someone else. But luckily, he kept at it and got me to agree.”
The newly initiated librettist says they are done writing the book, lyrics and music. “We’re presently orchestrating them. Anyone can sample some of the music right away,” he said, at facebook.com/godsandmortalsthemusical.