According to Cristiano Ronaldo, “Talent without working hard is nothing” and one talented individual who embodies this quote is Jim Titus. Born in New York City, Titus is an actor/producer/director who’s been in a slew of projects ranging from TV series to films. His resume includes This Revolution and guest roles on The Mindy Project and Criminal Minds. Titus is most noticeably known for his role as Detective Barry Maple on the critically acclaimed TV series Pretty Little Liars. He will reprise his role for the show’s final 10 episodes beginning May 23rd(while the show returns April 18th). Jim will next be seen guest starring on CBS’ Superior Donuts this Monday, April 10th.
Check out my interview with Jim Titus where he discusses Pretty Little Liars, what his dream role is, his upcoming projects, and more below.
1-When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
If I remember correctly, I did my first play around the age of four. From that point on, I was hooked. I grew up doing plays in school and eventually joined a repertory theater in Manhattan when I was 11 or 12. My mom was a film and TV make-up artist, so I grew up with the privilege of getting to see how things worked behind the scenes. At 16, my mom helped me to get a summer job as a Production Assistant on a big film production. When it was time for me to return to school, several of the adults on that production told me “If you’re still interested in the Film & TV industry after spending three months doing PA grunt work, then this is definitely the industry for you.” Two weeks after graduating high school, I hit the pavement in NYC and landed an agent and my first commercial within six months. From that point on, there was no turning back.
2-Your first role was in Finding Forrester. How was it being on set of a film with great actors like Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Anna Paquin, and Busta Rhymes?
Okay…My Finding Forrester story is an example of being prepared and taking a calculated risk. I was actually on set as an extra. That morning, before filming began, they let all of us know that someone would be getting upgraded to a principal role. A lot of people were gunning for it. I remember this one guy who kept saying it was his. So, later on, during a lighting set-up, I just started making up a scene with April Grace, who was the principal actress playing the teacher. I think I just yelled out “Hey, teacher! I’m not showing up to detention today. I got things to do!” She paused for a second, then started giving it right back to me “We’ll see what your parents have to say about that”, I came back with something like “Yeah, alright. You’ve never seen them up here at teacher parent night. What makes you think they’ll care now?” So anyway, we go ahead and do a rehearsal and I fall back into my place as an extra, keep my mouth shut and do what I’m supposed to do. After the rehearsal, the Assistant Director walks over to me and says that the Director, Gus Van Sant, wants to give me a line in the film. The rest is history.
3-You’ve played Detective Barry Maple on Pretty Little Liars since 2010. How did you get the role?
HaHa! That’s another good story. Let me start by saying, there’s a great philosophy when it comes to auditioning—”Don’t worry about booking the role, book the room.” Basically meaning, if you do the work and leave a great impression, they will remember you even if you don’t get that particular role. I’d auditioned for the lovely casting directors, Bonnie Zane and Gayle Pillsbury, for a major role on a different cable series around six months before the PLL audition. From what I understand, that role came down to me and one other guy. The other guy got that role. Then one day I get a call to come to their office to audition for a one episode guest star role on a new show called Pretty Little Liars. This was before the show actually premiered, so nobody knew it would become the phenomenon it did. I don’t think I’ve told a lot of people this, but I actually auditioned for two roles. The other one being a restaurant owner, I believe. I ended up getting the role of Officer Maple(he didn’t have a first name when I booked it). I prepared to the best of my abilities and next thing I knew they called me back for a second episode…then a third. Then I just kept getting called back for a couple episodes each season. There was one day when I was telling the show’s creator, Marlene King, how I couldn’t believe I was still popping up on the show. She said to me, “The advice you should tell your young peers is: Always be prepared, because one episode could turn into a full series run!”
By the way, that show I’d originally auditioned for when I met them, was cancelled after two seasons and didn’t really make a mark on pop culture. It’s kind of crazy to think that if I’d booked that role, I wouldn’t have been available to audition for PLL.
4-What is your favorite moment from the PLL set?
That’s a hard question because it was such a fun set to be on. The cast and crew were all very warm and welcoming. I guess my favorite moment would have to be the final table read. It was really a bittersweet moment. There was just so much emotion in the room. I was probably one of only a handful of people who weren’t in tears. For a guy like me, who was only originally scheduled to be on one episode, it was completely surreal. This was a show where no character was guaranteed a future. To sit in that room and realize I’d made it to the final episode was kind of mind blowing.
5-You have two upcoming guest roles on CBS’ Superior Donuts & TBS’ Angie Tribeca. How were these experiences?
Superior Donuts was a LOT of fun! I haven’t done a lot of multi-cam sitcoms in front of a live studio audience, so it was great to experience that energy. Jermaine Fowler was a really cool and creative guy. He was also really generous as an actor. He would offer up suggestions and even additional lines if he felt they served the story and the character. That cast is just full of comedic heavy hitters. Judd Hirsch, Katey Sagal, David Koechner, Maz Jobrani, Darrien Sills-Evans, and Rell Battle! Anna Baryshnikov was just in the Oscar Nominated film Manchester by the Sea! I mean, getting to watch any one of them work would be a privilege so having the opportunity to observe them working together and the way they develop their characters was just an incredible learning experience.
Angie Tribeca was another great experience! The show’s Executive Producer, Ira Ungerleider, is just a really great guy! My scenes were all with the lead actor, Hayes MacArthur, and another guest star (who I won’t mention since I don’t know if I’m allowed to), but it was a guy whose work I have loved for years! Also, I grew up with movies like Airplane, Naked Gun, and Hot Shots so that type of comedy is something I have always loved!
6-Out of all the film & TV projects you’ve been in, which is your favorite? Why?
Well, Pretty Little Liars will always have a special place in my heart because that is the first role that people would approach about on the street. It’s still very surreal when someone does a double take and says “Wait, aren’t you Barry Maple”?! That being said, on Superior Donuts I play a really fun character named Big Mike. He’s one of Franco’s(Jermaine Fowler) old neighborhood friends. They let me come in and give my take on their hilarious script and it was just so much fun to bring to life. I really hope to get the chance to return to the show and have fun with more of their dialogue. Who knows, CBS just picked up Superior Donuts for a second season so only time will tell. Fingers crossed!
7-Besides acting, you’ve produced and directed some short films. How did that come about?
Really, out of necessity. Sometimes you can feel trapped as an actor. Like most of the control is out of your hands. It’s nice to sit down and put something on paper, then bring it to life. However, one of the producer credits I’m most proud of is a short film from over a decade ago called Pangs. It was a small film, shot in a tiny apartment but it dealt with the emotional stress brought about by the Iraq war. I was originally just hired as an actor by the Writer/Director Sherman Payne. He was making it for one of his film school classes. I thought he had something really great and offered to come on board as a producer after the fact to see if we could get some eyes on it outside of his school. It ended up having a nice little festival run across the U.S. and we even got some really positive feedback from an Academy Award winning director who reached out after viewing it!
8-What is your dream role?
To be honest, I can’t say that I have one dream role. I just want to keep bouncing back and forth between drama and comedy. I guess I’d love to do a film like Harold and Maude. Something that blends comedy and drama while making you ask yourself deeper questions about life itself, all while playing around with cultural taboos—something that challenges me as an actor and as an audience member.
I’d really love to work with Jordan Peele. I thought what he did with Get Out was amazing! I’ve heard that he has four or five other social thrillers he’d like to direct, so right now I’d say getting to work on one of those would probably be a dream role for me.
9-What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into acting?
It’s funny, people used to always ask me “Do you need to know someone to break into the industry?…Your mom hooked you up, didn’t she?” I love my mom, but I don’t think a lot of people really realize what little power most people in the industry hold. Maybe you have a leg up if you’re the child of a mega famous actor, or the nephew or niece of a producer or director, but everyone else on set is just there doing a job. In fact, that is the major advantage I had as the child of someone in the industry. I grew up with the perspective that being an actor is just like any other job. If you are willing to do the work and put in the time, you will make advances. You’re going to need some luck and many blessings along the way, but just get out there and put one foot in front of the other and start moving forward. Ask yourself, do you want to be an actor or do you want to be famous? A lot of people just want to try and get famous, to those people I say, go start a YouTube channel or step your Social Media game up. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a tough hustle in and of itself but if the end goal is fame, I think that’s where you should focus.
If you truly have a passion for the craft of acting, get in some classes. If you can’t afford classes, pick up some books. Read some Meisner, Stanislavski, Hagen, etc. Pick up some books on psychology, go out to a coffee shop and just sit and observe people. Study human interactions and motivation. Like I said earlier, I grew up doing theater and really feel that is what will give you the best foundation possible. Find out if there is a film school near you and try to get cast in their productions. If you live in the middle of nowhere, get some friends together and make your own little films. If you don’t have any friends, buy a tripod and film your own one man show. Once you’ve developed your craft a bit, the internet can be a great tool. It has eliminated the need to live in one of the major markets. Do some research and I guarantee you, no matter where you are, there are going to be some decent performance opportunities.
10-What is NEXT for Jim Titus?
I just finished working on a project that I don’t have permission to discuss yet. All I’ll say is, it was directed and executive produced by Anthony Hemmingway who is frankly one of the best directors working in this golden age of television! He’s directed and produced on shows including The Wire, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, and Underground! I probably would have shown up to work as a P.A. again if he would’ve asked!
I’m also working on two different independent pilots. One of which I’m also co-writing and co-producing. We have a really great group of actors wearing many different hats. We’re still hammering out the format but it’s more along the lines of a sketch comedy show.
One of the wild things about being a guest star actor is you literally sometimes do not know what your next gig is until a day or two beforehand. It’s not uncommon to be on set 24 hours after auditioning. So the main thing that’s up next for me is continuing to study my craft and working at being just a bit better than I was the last time I stepped in front of a camera.