From acting in major films to teaching at the University, Joe Chrest, an adjunct professor in the LSU School of Music and Dramatic Arts, is living his dream.
Chrest began acting his senior year of high school when he took a speech class to overcome his shy habits before starting college.
“They had us do an acting scene and I found that I really enjoyed that,” Chrest said. “It was much easier to be somebody else than to be myself in front of people. It just really clicked.”
Chrest graduated as part of the University’s first Master of Fine Arts program.
“When I first came to LSU, I was a graduate assistant. And I saw right then how much I loved [teaching],” Chrest said. “If I was independently wealthy, I would either be an acting student for life or an acting teacher.”
Despite Chrest’s busy acting career, he finds time to teach “Introduction to Acting for the Camera” at the University.
Chrest said having time to teach while acting is “a dream scenario.”
“It’s like having your cake and eating it, too,” he said. “I think the students enjoy someone who’s actually in the field. It’s not like I did it five years ago, or even three. I did it last week or yesterday. They teach me so much. They make me a better actor, and I think I’m able to bring the nuts and bolts of what’s going on and to help them to understand to love the process like I do.”
His favorite role was Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at Swine Palace, a local theater. He was one of the founding members of the theatre in 1992.
Chrest has been in a variety of films including both “21 Jump Street,” and “22 Jump Street,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Free State of Jones,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” and the Netflix-original series "Stranger Things."
Chrest said he has played four father roles since playing Jonah Hill’s dad in “21 Jump Street” and “22 Jump Street.” He was contacted about a role in “Stranger Things” while shooting “Deepwater Horizon.” He has also recently had several roles set in the 1980s.
“I’ve been stuck, really since 2015, with an ‘80s haircut,” Chrest said. “I haven’t been able to cut my hair the way that I want since, which was a huge bummer at the [Emmy Awards] because I had a $400 hair and makeup budget and I was looking forward to getting a really expensive Beverly Hills haircut.”
Chrest said filming “Stranger Things” felt like summer camp because everybody “hung out,” which is rare with everyone on different schedules on set. The Duffer Brothers are young and passionate and their energy trickles down and makes everyone excited about the process, Chrest said.
“With ‘Stranger Things’, I was talking with Cara Buono, who plays my wife — it’s one of the best sets we’ve ever worked on,” Chrest said. “The guys work so efficiently, that we’re in and we’re out. The irony is you’re usually looking forward to getting off work, but we would just be bummed out when it was time to go home.”
Chrest emphasized the importance of working hard and loving what you do and that the results will come later. Chrest said the satisfaction of performing does not require a performance to be universally seen or praised, but needs commitment.
“I always try to answer to myself, I can make my art really any time, any place,” Chrest said. “I don’t need someone to hire me or applaud it. I can get together with my friends a do a play that no audience is going to come to and I love that stuff.”
Chrest can be seen in his upcoming role in “Assassination Nation.”