Getting to the Soul of Actor C. Thomas Howell - Part 5

Part 5 of a five-part interview series with Actor C. Thomas Howell from the "Outsiders" and "Southland."

Here is the final installment of my great adventure of getting to know C. Thomas Howell. I have found this task challenging in some ways. Perhaps it has to do with meeting and working with actors. They are an interesting breed with all the characters they play on screen. I think sometimes we get it turned around; they are not those people of course.

I am grateful to Tom, however for being so candid and open with his life and letting us discover a bit of how he sees the world. When I was a child my favorite places in the world were libraries and bookstores. Some would say that I have a library in my house today with the hundreds of books around.

As a kid I found great pleasure in reading biographies and memoirs. It was always fascinating to discover how other people went about their lives. It is powerful thing, when someone opens up the window of their existence to our perusal.

I think its because when we experience or hear another’s take on life we are actually seeing our reflection in their words. In fact they are telling us something about ourselves. In reality we are all the same in many ways with what we do here and the stories are all our stories.

The test is to look at another’s truth and see our own while acknowledging the same strengths, weaknesses, bravery, illusions, dreams, hopes and love within ourselves. In that reflection we find that we share the same goals which are to harm none, stand in our truth, honor our words, create what we can be proud of and live our destiny. I thank C. Thomas Howell for allowing us a brief glance at a bit of his soul.


Tom, what are some of the projects you are working on now?

I've recently finished filming the new Spiderman movie which will be in theaters next summer. It was my first experience with a 3D camera so I was very excited to work on the project. I'm a big fan of the director Mark Webb who made quite a leap from 500 days of summer to Sony's epic. He handled it wonderfully and I'm sure he will be a major director for years to come.

Currently, I'm directing a film that my partner Darren Dalton wrote from an old HP Lovecraft short story called The Lurking Fear. It's a thriller that takes place in an old insane asylum that's based just outside of Philly called Pennhurst. Pennhurst is apparently haunted and has had many documentaries regarding the various myths and stories shot there. It's a fascinating story. Scary and intense. I'm very excited to be shooting at such a remarkable location. Traveling is probably my favorite part of this business. I feel blessed to travel the world doing what I love the most!

What are you planning for the future?

This fall I'll be back on the set of Southland again shooting our fourth season. I've been in this business for 35 years and can honestly say that this is the most creatively satisfying gig I've ever been apart of. The writing is sensational and all of the actors are extremely dedicated. The world of the Los Angeles Police Department is a complex beast filled with danger and heroism and I'm very proud to represent on all fronts. I look forward to working on this project every day. I only wish we shot more than ten episodes a season!

On a personal note... My daughter Isabelle was accepted into Columbia University this year so I plan on spending a lot of time in New York City. I'm very proud of her and her accomplishments. Being a father of three takes up most of my time and energy. I love spending time with the family. I'm constantly amazed by how much I learn everyday while being a parent. It keeps me grounded and helps me retain a sense of sanity while battling daily in this crazy town known as Hollywood.

What are your goals as an actor, director, etc?

As I grow older I tend to care less and less about what other people think of my work. As a child performer I used to lose sleep over what others thought, just hoping to be accepted in the community of film making. Over the years I've discovered that the more personal I can make my work the more universal it becomes. The more I challenge myself, the happier I make myself. The happier I make myself, the more I'm accepted by my peers and the public. It really comes down to focus and intent.

Most actors are broken as people. Most of us had difficult childhoods or poor upbringings to some extent and seem to be looking for acceptance outside of ourselves. So acceptance is the genesis behind the original motive of become an artist in most situations. For myself, however, easing the burden of others opinions regarding my work has made me a much better performer. I'm much more focused and present during the work and lets face it, that's where good acting stems from. It's taken me a long time to figure out that we as performers make the process far more difficult than it needs to be.

At the end of the day, as long as I'm pleased with the work that's all that really matters... and believe me that's not always easy as I'm my toughest critic. My goals at this part of my life are fairly simple. I want to continue to grow as a person and as a performer. I want to challenge myself and meet those challenges. I want to challenge others to be the best they can be as well.

Tell us what is your general spiritual direction?

Spirituality for me is a lifestyle that goes hand in hand with my work. As, I've shared with you in a previous blog I've been studying Kriya Yoga through the Self Realization Technique. Kriya is the scientific study of oneness with God. It teaches you to not separate yourself from Source, but to embrace it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For the most part, the general public gives God one day a week or even less, one hour of one day a week. Kriya has taught me to recognize Source in everything I do, work or play.

No matter how big or small the task, if you can understand that you are doing it for God it seemingly subtracts any and all judgment or negative energy. Acceptance of ones station in life can be difficult at times, but if you accept God with what you do on a day to day basis it can put a smile on your face and in your heart no matter what it is you are doing.

Life's about choices and making the right choices can sure make life a lot easier, even though we are challenged constantly. Whatever your beliefs, whatever religion you follow, implement your teachings on a daily basis and it will change your life for the better. Try it... ( you can thank me later ).

Do you have any future projects that involve the community?

As a youngster I was always too busy to invest time into the community. My reasoning was generally work related. 'I'm too busy' or 'I don't have time,' whatever excuse I could come up with to avoid any outside responsibility, I would. My kids are the ones responsible for my interest in community issues or projects these days. Whether it's working with special needs children or raising money for our soccer club I can for the most part say due to the little ones I have managed to find more time to invest into others which in return has had a direct impact not only on my community but on me and my family as well.

While helping others, it has given us as a family the opportunity to set and obtain goals and has taught us as a whole not to give up. After all, if 'you' don't do it, who will? Another important aspect to working with the community, other than raising money or helping others is the fact that I have had a chance to meet other people with similar interests. Whether personal or on a business level you'd be surprised at how much "getting out there" can do for you personally.

It's been very motivating for me personally and I hope to someday raise the money to fund a ranch that will allow underprivileged children to experience life outside the daily struggles of inner city life. Some of these kids today have very little hope. They are raised by drug addicts or come from abusive home environments and feel if they don't become rappers or dealers they don't stand a chance. I'd like to share with them the responsibilities of caring for animals, growing their own food and offering them the benefits that a real loving home environment can do. The look on a kids face that has never sat on a horse before is incredible.

Experiencing ranch life has always been so healing for me personally that I'd like to offer the same experience for those that really need it. 'Hope Ranch has been a dream of mine for a long time. In fact my father and I wrote a script and shot a movie of the week that my daughter Isabelle played the lead in when she was 10 years old. One day and one day soon we will make this dream a reality. Education, love and spirituality will be the focus of the ranch. A chance for the hopeless to learn and grow. A chance for me to give back to my community on a much bigger level.

Tom, where are you right now, mind, body and spirit wise? 

My life is just like yours or anybody else for that matter. I struggle with ‘finances‘. I struggle with my ‘station’ in life. I struggle as a ‘parent‘, ‘husband’ and ‘friend.’ I have goals set that I have yet to obtain. Planet earth is a tough spot, man. It will kick your butt if you allow it. That's why ‘life tools’ are essential and if you ignore the signs you will suffer.

Life doesn't have to be about suffering, however. Mother Earth is filled with abundance and anything and everything we want is rightfully ours to obtain. We just don't listen to that ‘inner voice.’ We don't trust it... All we care about is paying rent and making sure nobody ruffles our feathers. We are born, we go to school, we get married, we have kids and we die. Surely there's more to life than that? Most people are perfectly happy with that scenario, but I want more. That's where God and spirituality enter the picture.

When I die I want to KNOW MYSELF. I want to leave this place having experienced God. I want to leave a mark or legacy for those behind me. That's a pretty tall order and to some degree I feel my body of work has affected a lot of people over the years, but is that enough?. They say film is forever, but is it? I hope to set a higher standard for myself than being famous or entertaining a few people, then dying. I want to set an example of how to be. How to live life. I want my kids to be proud of who their father is not because I'm in film, but because of my actions and hopefully, how I treat others. I'm more interested in my day to day actions and how I interact with people in a positive way than I am in being famous. You never know the cards you're going to be dealt in life and some people believe in fate or karma, others call it a predetermined outcome or destination for each soul.

I'm not qualified to answer that, but I do feel we create our reality through our choices and actions. Cause and effect is a powerful thing and in this world of duality, I believe you're going to get what you put out. For the most part it's pretty simple, do good things and good things will happen to you, right? Well, maybe not always, but for the most part in my experience that's true.

As Mick Jagger said, 'You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.' From a karmic stand point that’s a mouthful. Life's easy when it's easy, but managing your mistakes is what it comes down to.

Another one of my favorite quotes is from John Lennon. He said, 'Life is what happens to you when your busy making other plans.' I love that quote. Truer words have never been spoken. We are here for a short time and time is our most precious commodity. Manage your time wisely and make the best out of life. This is what I am focusing on day to day. Before you know it, your trip here expires and you move on to the next phase of existence and I don't plan on leaving this planet wishing I did things differently. I don't plan on falling short or playing the role of a victim, either. I'm going out having tried my hardest on every level possible. Mentally and spiritually. I hope you feel the same.

God bless you all and thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and feelings with you over the past few months. I've learned a lot and enjoyed it tremendously. I also want to take the time to thank Debra Campbell for allowing me the freedom and giving me this space to express myself.




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