February 28, 2008

The Cornell Connection: Drew Brody '94 and David Greenman '00

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The Sun: So, you two are working with Cornell in Hollywood. How’d you guys get involved with that?

David Greenman: The program is a subsidiary of the Cornell Club in Los Angeles, and it’s been built up a lot in the last couple of years thanks to Nancy Mills and Nick Muccini [from the Cornell Club in LA’s Board of Directors] and other alumni. They’ve really created a great community out there that gets better every year.

Last year, Drew and I happened to be at an event, and Nancy Mills said to me, “How would you feel about running an internship program for us?” and I said,“Oh, OK.”

She said, “I think Drew Brody’s interested as well, and I said, “OK.”

She said, “Here’s the paper work.”


And I went over to Drew and said, “Drew, I hear we’re running the internship program together, and Drew said, “Hey … that’s … Good to know [laughs] … terrific!” And thus, the internship program was born.

Sun: So you guys didn’t know each other before this?

D.G.: We had crossed paths …

Drew Brody: We did, yes. We had met a couple of times. We didn’t overlap in school, but …

D.G.: You’re much older …

D.B.: Yeah, much older …[both laugh]

D.G.: We knew each other, we had some mutual friends, but we didn’t, you know, go clubbin’ together.

D.B.: And we got drafted into doing this by Nancy, who had really run Cornell in Hollywood, and did a very good job.

Sun: So what exactly is the internship program that you guys are running?

D.B.: I had done an internship when I was here in the Cornell theater department.

Went out and did an internship with a film program, so we wanted to create something like that.

So here’s how it works. We have Cornell alums who work in the entertainment industry out in L.A. who will write up a blurb saying, “We can probably sponsor an intern for the summer.”

D.G.: So we’d both done internships. Drew had met with a producer who came to Cornell to talk and ended up getting it that way, and I sort of stumbled into finding some people in LA that were Cornell alums and ended up giving me an internship.

Both of us found it a very valuable introduction to Hollywood. So we’re using this, hopefully, to give other students the chance to have the opportunities that we had to go seek ourselves; we’re handing it to them.

D.B.: I think Hollywood, the entertainment industry, at least as much as anything else, and probably more so, is about relationships.

Everybody who goes to Cornell has, presumably, the intelligence and education to succeed, and beyond that it’s, do you have the personality for it? And how do you get in the door? So hopefully we’re opening the doors.

Sun: David, you were a theatre major?

D.G.: I was a pre-med/theatre Arts major. The first day at my MCAT class at the Kaplan on College Ave, I left class early and went home and called my father and said, “I’m not going to go to med school. I’m going to move to L.A. and become an actor.”

Sun: How’d he respond to that?

D.G.: He talked me into finishing the MCAT class and taking the MCATs, and then going to L.A., but I could still use my MCATs for five years, which have since expired, so I guess I’m not going to med school …

D.B.: You do well on the MCATs?

D.G.: I did OK.

Sun: I feel like a lot of theatre majors at Cornell have the back-up plan, they’ll do theatre and something else.

D.G.: Because you can. You can always do Theater. And here it’s not a conservatory program, so people aren’t coming to here specifically to be trained as an actor …

Sun: Drew, I don’t know what major you were.

D.B.: I was a theatre arts major as well. Uhhh, I did a lot of technical theater here, and … did a, uh, independent study in playwriting.

And I went on to do a Master’s in playwriting. And now I’m … in Hollywood making movies.

D.B.: If you use every fifth word you’ll get a good quote out of that.

D.G.: [laughs]As long as it’s not the “I, uh, I uh, uh, I … “Brody had no answer to my questions.”

Sun: [laughs]

D.G.: How are we as interviewees?

D.B.: Who else have you interviewed?

Sun: One of the Tuskegee Airmen, actually.

D.B.: I don’t know if I have the historical cache that that guy has.

Sun: But the Airmen have a G.I. Joe though, so who knows, you might have a G.I. Joe if you hit it really big some day … They’re actually doing the live action movie; maybe you’ll be in that.

D.B.: They’re casting already though … I’m not a real G.I. Joe-type either … Is there a dorky computer-guy G.I. Joe?

D.G.: I really think you ought to go with Mr. Rogers …

D.B.: Alright, is there a Mr. Rogers G.I. Joe?

D.G.: Probably not, G.I. Joes have muscles and … kill people.

Sun: [laughs] What were some of your other experiences like outside of Theater at Cornell?

D.G.: I love Cornell. It’s such an amazing mix of culture and academia.

I got so much exploring, not just the particular theater department, but on campus there are so many opportunities, and Ithaca itself is such an artistic community. It’s a really vibrant, great place to go to school.

Sun: Drew, what was your favorite part of Cornell?

D.B.: I loved Cornell. Everything about it. All of my close friends from Cornell. I’m still friends with all the guys I lived with freshman year on the same dorm floor in the U. Halls [the old West Campus brick dorms] … Do the U. Halls still exist? They aren’t there any more are they?

Sun: U. Halls got torn down.

D.B.: OK, well, thanks for destroying my memories. [laughs] So we all still see each other every year. I was a math major for a day and a half, and then I moved into the theatre building for the next four years. I had my office in the elevator. You can ask anybody. And I had a great experience.

Sun: Dave, what’s your experience been like acting out in L.A. — especially with the writers’ strike …

D.G.: It’s over! I’m actually hoping to go back next week and get some auditions going again. Umm, it’s a very up-and-down life. When you’re working a lot its the best.

When you’re working alot, it’s the best — you can’t beat the pay and the joy of acting and creating something like that — and when you’re not working, you need to have something else to keep you going.

I’ve been lucky enough to create a life there where I can sustain myself when there’s a writers’ strike or when there’s less work available for me. And that’s important for me, because very rarely are you always working or making the million dollar paychecks.

Sun: Is the image that people have of actors in L.A. accurate — waiting tables by night and doing auditions by day?

D.G.: I know people who have done that; I’ve played one on TV; I’ve never waited tables.

I actually substitute teach high school, which is great, because I do it when I have time to do it, and when I’m auditioning or working on something, I don’t.

Sun: Is there any advice you’d give to the Cornell student looking to make it in the entertainment industry?

D.B.: Absolutely. Do it now. Do it when you’re young. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. Do your projects. Work on everything you can.

If I had to do it over again, knowing what I know now, I would have gotten rid of all reservations, just jumped in head first and gotten everything I could out of it all through my Twenties.

D.G.: I think both of us would have liked to have jumped in head first a little more, and hopefully, with the program we’re working on, people will have that opportunity to meet more people and get involved quicker.