Check out our interview with actor, writer, and filmmaker Cal Barnes who can be seen in feature film ‘The Astrid Experience’ marking his debut as Director and also as a writer.

Follow Cal @CalBarnes

Hi Cal, please tell us a little about you?

Hi Naluda. Good to be here.

I’m an actor, writer, and filmmaker living in Los Angeles, CA. I’ve been living a professional life in the arts since I moved to LA from Portland, OR when I was 21. I just recently released my feature film directorial debut ‘The Astrid Experience’, which I also wrote and star in, and am currently working getting my next feature, ‘Son of Neverland’, that’s based on my fantasy novel series, set up at a major production company or studio.

My daily activities on the journey include coffee, writing, and soaking up sun in the morning, yoga and breath work in the afternoon, and more creative work and reading at night.

Describe yourself in 3 words?

Creative. Adventurous. Resilient.

How did you get started into acting?

I didn’t grow up in a part of the country where acting was really celebrated or encouraged, so I mainly played sports growing up, but was always drawn to the arts — mainly writing and music — I had a particular talent for writing all through growing up. When I was twenty, I was going to college at Portland State University, mainly taking generals and creative writing courses. College is all about exploring, so I took an intro to theatre class in my second semester where we went around Portland, watched all these amazing plays, and wrote papers on them the next week. I fell in love with theatre over those three months, and for my final semester of the year I decided to enroll in an into to acting class. I excelled for a beginner, and was naturally drawn to the intensity and the challenge of the craft. I became obsessed with acting. When I wasn’t in class, I was at Powell’s in Portland, reading acting books and trying to absorb as much about the craft as possible. I had an amazing teacher, and he was really the first person in my life to see me and call the artist out in me. Out of all the beginners in the class, I was one of a few people that rose to the top as someone who could maybe seriously make acting a career, and my teacher encouraged me to pursue it. I can’t stress how key this was. It is definitely one of the top five most important moments in my life, and likely the reason I ever moved to LA. That class changed my life — it really did — I’m really grateful for that time.

How has this changed your life?

It’s changed everything about my life. Moving to LA, and so many of the friends, relationships, and experiences I’ve had — both good and bad — are because I took a risk and decided to give acting a go in college. I was fortunate to land in such a great class, with such a great teacher and other students. It just shows how much influence teachers have over young people. You’re very vulnerable and malleable at that time. If I didn’t have such a great teacher, or was discouraged or unsupported in that class, I may have never found the courage to leave my life in Oregon behind, and move to LA. I just think about how different my life would be then, wow! The world needs more great teachers!

What is the best and worst part of being an actor?

It’s hard to say what is the best thing about acting, because there are so many great things. I think one of the best parts is the sense of connection and peace you get when you really commit to the work, and show up to set or class in a state of openness and exploration. It’s like what we’re all running around down here on this planet trying to attain, only you get to do it for a career. It’s pretty cool. It’s really what makes it all worth it.

The hardest part is tough to say, as there are a lot of those as well. Definitely the inconsistency, stiff competition, high unemployment rates, and winner take all nature of the actors life can make it hard to stick to the path year after year, especially in the lean times. I get why it’s definitely not for everyone, but I think I have the type of personality that is naturally cut out for it. I’m high risk, secure with being insecure, and like new experiences, so the actual lifestyle of being an actor has always come somewhat naturally to me, but it’s by no means easy. Acting truthfully is very hard. It’s like a constant battle with the self, as the self is the only thing that ever gets in the way of truth.

How do you prepare for a role?

I’ve been through the ringer with methods, and was very intellectual and technical when I was in my early twenties. I’d try and analyze every action, memorize every beat, fill out my whole script by writing out the subtext, and write long journals about the characters back story. Don’t get me wrong, all that is well and good, but as I’ve evolved in my craft try to work from a much simpler place, from my gut, rather than my head. Now I just work from the basic questions like—

Who am I? What are the circumstances? What do I need from the other person? What do I want the other person to feel? What do I need the other person to do?

When I first started acting, it was all about me. It was all heady. Now it’s just about my partner in the scene — everything is about my partner — what I need from them, and what I want them to do. I don’t plan the actions or the how anymore. The how changes organically as long as I’m listening and allowing myself to be effected by my scene partner. That’s where all the good stuff is.

Tell us about your work in the film “The Astrid Experience?”

‘The Astrid Experience’ is a passion project of mine that I wrote and star in, and is also my feature film directorial debut. I play Chase Abbott, an artist in recovery who’s been making a lot of bad life decisions, who eventually hits bottom and has to begin rebuilding his life again. After several years of deep, personal work, he meets Astrid and the adventure begins.

I originally wrote the outline for the script in 2012 after this experience I had walking down Hollywood Boulevard with this actress I knew. It was originally titled ‘The Untitled Overnight Los Angeles Romance Project, but I shelved it as I went to work on other projects. In 2018, one of my friends, musician John That, who I also directed a music video for, asked me if I had any feature scripts we could produce ourselves. I dusted off the script from 2012, infused six more years of life experience into the text, and rewrote it completely with resources we had access to, and the script we now know as ‘The Astrid Experience’ was born.

We then went about producing the script, using all the talented friends, locations, and resources we had access to. For the larger roles, we casted it ourselves in LA using the breakdowns, and hired mostly crew that we found off online job boards. It’s incredible how everyone came together on this project, and overall we were able to get from script to shot and “in the can” in five months, which is impressive.

Then, we hit the post production trenches, and that was a whole different beast. It took us years to get through, but that’s a story for another time.

What is the film about?

‘The Astrid Experience’ is about an artist in recovery who meets a free-spirited actress when he helps her out of a difficult situation at a casting studio. To thank him, she invites him to a party, kicking off a magical night through Los Angeles that shows him he has something more worth living for.

How challenging was to be an actor, director and writer for the project?

It was challenging for sure, but I had enough time on set as an actor, and had written enough scripts that I sort of knew what I was getting into. Writing and acting is actually a pretty great combo, because so much of the acting homework is already done when you write something. Writing is also done in pre-prodcution, so it takes up no energy on set and doesn’t really interfere with the acting process. I love acting in stories I wrote. It’s a great way to take additional control of your creative process as an actor. Its done a lot for me, so I can’t recommend it enough.

Directing and acting is another thing. Directing is so demanding, that it makes it basically impossible to zone out into your imaginitive world of the character while one set, which is often one of the most enjoyable parts of acting. While directing, the real world problems of making the movie are much more demanding than any acting preferences, so I found directing is what takes up the majority of my daily energy whiles shooting. I went into the project knowing it would be this way, so I made sure to memorize the script and do my acting homework a few months before we even went into preproduction so that was cemented in, because I knew I wouldn’t’ have time once my directing hat was on. I also knew the only way to act and direct successfully my first time was play a character the isn’t too far from home base. Chase Abbott is different than me (Cal), but it’s not like I’m playing Daniel Plainview in Their Will Be Blood or anything, like this completely method Daniel Day-Lewis role which requires staying in character the whole time, so although it was still difficult acting and directing simultaneously, it was within reach on this film. My co-producer, John That, and our genius DP, Chris Pilarski, were really my eyes behind the camera while I was acting, so they were also instrumental in getting us to the finish line.

If you need to pick in order, what goes first: Acting, Directing or Writing?

I feel acting and writing are the ying and yang of the same thing — they inform each other — they both work with words. Writing is bringing words and stories into being, acting is taking those words and infusing them with life, making them flesh. Becoming a deeper actor has made me a better writer, and vice versa. They are my first two loves. Writing is a pure creative art form, acting is an interpretive art form. There’s really no way to artistically compare them. The lifestyle of each is what’s the most different. Acting is extroverted, writing is introverted. That’s why I do them both. I really need them both to feel artistically healthy. I feel one is not complete without the other. As I said, they are two sides of the same coin. Writing comes easier to me — it’s safer —but acting is more challenging. Acting is really the call to adventure. It’s taking action. I always have to answer the call.

Directing is different. It’s a whole new thing for me. In writing and acting you’re fully isolated to your art form, and that’s all you’re expected to do, or need to do. As a director, you need to be able to do and know just about everything there is to know about your project. You’re really the star of the set. You’re the central artistic communication piece of this huge entity which is “the film.” You have to be an artist, a leader, a business man, a negotiator, a peace keeper, and a whole lot more, all wrapped up into one person. It’s very difficult. The great directors are the true master minds of our industry.

I once heard is it said that directing is like being the parent at the birthday party. You’re responsible for all the kids, you have to make sure no one gets hurt, and if anything goes wrong it’s your fault. Acting is like being the fun, drunk uncle that shows up to the party once it’s already in full swing. He parties and has a good time, all the kids like him, and then he leaves the parent to clean up all the mess at the end of the night — yeah, that’s pretty much how it is from my experience, haha.

What other projects have you been part of?

I’ve been in a lot of projects over the years. I had a small role in ‘Unfriended’ back in 2014, that was produced by Blumhouse and released by Universal Studios. I’ve had roles in some big music videos. I also have a major supporting role in the sci-fi thriller, ‘Krispr’, that will be coming out this year in 2023. The film has some similar themes to Ex Machina, so I think it’s going to really do well. I also have a few more of my scripts I’m attached to star in making the rounds right now.

The biggest project I’m currently involved with is called ‘Son of Neverland’. It’s a major adventure-fantasy project — think Avatar/ Marvel in terms of size and scope — based off my fantasy novel series of the same name. The story takes place one hundred years after the fall of Captain Hook, where Peter and his gang must defend Neverland against a dark, melevolent god bent on destroying all they love. I’m attached to star as Peter, and I really can’t wait to bring this story to life. It takes the Neverland universe to a whole new level — a level I think it’s been wanting to hit since Peter Pan was born in the human consciousness over 120 years ago now.

What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?

I really like playing leading man roles with a strong shadow/ or dark side. I have a natural edge to me, and I’m learning to embrace it in my acting practice and in the roles I play, and not shy away from it. Chase Abbott in ‘The Astrid Experience’ has an edge. Peter Pan in ‘Son of Neverland’ has an extremely strong shadow and edge. I’ve always wanted to play a detective with a strong dark side or haunted past. I have a few Neo-noir thriller scripts I’m attached to star in I’m shopping around. One in particular, Infinite Limits, is getting some attention. In the story, I’d be playing a detective who hunts down a serial killer that uses paradoxes to kill his victims. Yeah, a detective in a Neo-noir crime-thriller is really a perfect role for me. It’s definitely at the top of my list.

If you weren’t acting, what would you be up to right now?

When I’m not acting — which, let’s be honest, is most of the time in this career — I’m either writing, working out, or working on getting my other projects off the ground and into production. It’s all about getting back on set. Being on set is the roller coaster, the rest of it is waiting in line to get on the ride. I make the most of my time off, through. I take a lot of walks and skateboard cruises around my neighborhood during the day to get some sun and clear my head, but my mind is always going, it’s always being creative, or thinking about being creative — being creative is way better.

Which fictional character would be the most exciting to meet in real life?

Off the top of me head — Peter Pan, Superman, or Aang from the Avatar animated series — I’m sure one of them could teach me to fly for real. Also, James Bond or Don Draper, they could help me with my style.

Can you name 3 actors/actresses you would love to work with?

I think it would be cool to work with Dicaprio and Pitt. They were sort of the king leading men when I was growing up — still are in a lot of ways — they always played the best roles. Pitt was immortalized in as Tyler Durden in Fight Club, which is probably the film I’ve watched the most of all time — I’ve probably seen that film well over one hundred times — and Dicaprio has pretty much been hitting since Basketball Diaries. I’d also love to work with Andrew Garfield, he’s such a truthful actor. Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Guy Pierce, the list doesn’t stop.

For actresses — Kate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Margot Robbie, Sydney Sweeney, Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams, and that’s just a start.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding part of my work is the feeling I get by creating something from nothing. The idea of bringing something into the world, that didn’t exist before. Being that vessel for the divine creative force. The ability to be creative everyday, and have a go at making my living doing it. Creativity is something I do naturally — I have to do it to feel right, like breathing, eating, working out, etc — so the ability to turn something I’ve done for free and for fun for most of my life into a career, that’s been a real gift.

What’s your advice for the newer actors?

Best advice is get great at your craft — always be in class, always be learning — If you’re just gonna focus on one thing, focus on getting great at acting. Always stay connected with your love for the craft. Acting is a muscle, you must constantly work it out, or it will atrophy. Stay in the craft, stay in the work, stay connected with others. Being a great, committed, healthy actor that is connected with their world and surroundings is 90% of it.

Second piece of advice — when you’re not in class or on set, you should be writing, producing. We live in a creator economy now. Learning how to write just gives you just a little bit more leverage in your career, just a little bit more power in case the studio gods on Mt. Hollywood don’t come down and pluck you out of obscurity in your first year. That’s obviously ideal. I wanted that, everyone wants that, but if it doesn’t happen, what are you going to do about it to guarantee that you move forward? Writing and creating can help hedge against the risk inherent with an acting career, especially now when we’re not just competing with LA, but the entire globe with the internet. It gives you more long game resilience to weather the dark periods where there doesn’t seem to be a good role or script in sight. It also makes you less needy and less dependent during auditions, which paradoxically is exactly what you need to book. If you want to play a part, don’t wait around hoping it comes to you. Write it, film it, and do it — when Hollywood sees you already doing it, you’re much more likely to get more of it — that’s how it is.

Lastly, get a publicist as soon as you are able and/or can afford to do so. The business side of acting is a real thing, and something I put off for way too long. Great publicity can get you attention and maybe open some doors, but your craft is gonna be what gets you the part. Your craft is what will hold up under pressure, or break if it’s not there.

What would say are the greatest lessons you learned so far in this business?

I’ve had a hard road, full of ups and downs, massive set-back, and lots of self-destruction, but a lot of that came down to my behavior and personal choices. I think the most important lesson I learned is that it is all mental — it’s all what you’re attracting — if you’re in a mental position or making life choices that weaken your energy and allow people to take advantage fo you, there are plenty of people here who will do just that. If you’re mentally weak, or acting in a way that isn’t congruent with your core values, you’ll attract the sharks. Likewise, if you’re taking care of your mental, physical, and spiritual health, treating people well, and making wise choices, you’ll attract the angels. LA is the City of Angeles, after all. You want to be attracting the Angels, not the demons, trust me. Stay in class, eat healthy, work out, watch the alcohol intake or abstain entirely, get into therapy, work out any inner issues or energy blocks that are keeping you from becoming your highest ideation of yourself, or letting your light shine fully through— that’s the best advice I have.

How would your best friend describe you?

One of my best friends has described me — “I’m like a locomotive. I’m slow to start, but once I get going I don’t stop.” — I’d say that pretty accurately describes the rhythm of my life.

If you are a book, what would be the title of the book and why?

’Son of Neverland’, because it is a real book that I wrote, starring a character that I’m playing. It also explores a lot of themes that I’m dealing with in my personal life, such as responsibility, self-betterment, resilience, and overcoming adversity. Yeah, that book has me all over it.

What advice would you give to your younger self and why?

Oh, so much I could probably fill a book about it. To keep it short and sweet, I’d say — “Stay in acting class always, pay more attention to the business side, watch the partying, and get into therapy immediately.”

What book should every entrepreneur read?

Off the top of my head — “The Master Key to Riches”, by Napoleon Hill.

What’s next for Cal Barnes in 2023?

I’m currently interviewing with new agencies and looking to sign with an agent/manager team for 2023. I’m always open to taking offers and auditioning for roles I’m right for, but my main focus is getting ’Son of Neverland’ green lit and into production. That’s my aim. It’s what drives me everyday. Whatever comes along while I’m on this journey up the mountain, I’ll always give due diligence.

What is your favorite healthy food?

I love fruit — pineapple, berries, and cold pressed orange juice — I’m also really into these vegan ‘Go Macro’ protein bars you can get from Trader Joes. I eat a lot of protein bars. They’re fast, light, sustainable, and keep me going throughout the day.

And your favorite cheat food?

I don’t cheat — seriously, I don’t — I only crave healthy food. I care way more about how food makes me feel than taste, but having food taste great as well is obviously ideal.

What is your own definition of happiness?

Happiness is a feeling, and feelings follow actions. It seems that 80-90% of your life is your daily routine, so getting that right is as close to happiness that I currently know. Get a daily routine that you not only can tolerate, but enjoy doing — mine currently is waking up, making coffee, sitting out in the sun, writing, showering, yoga, working out, more creative acting or script work, then either socializing or more creative work, then going to bed, repeat — get a routine that you love, and if you have to work a survival job for a while while you pursue your dreams, that’s what you have to do. I’ve had to do it for many years. If that’s the case, create a daily routine around that job that keeps you as creative and filled up as possible, that simultaneously makes that survival job the least miserable that is has to be, and if you have that down and master that, you’ll be able to starting heading towards where it is you want to go.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?

Jesus Christ, because — duh — He’s the Son of God. He’s also probably the most famous and influential person of all time, at least in America. It’s said that people would be healed of their ailments just by being in His presence and touching His robe. Who wouldn’t want to meet that person? Who wouldn’t want to experience that much love or truth? It would be life changing.

Best advice ever given?

“Judge not, lest ye yourself be judged.”
“Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you/ treat your neighbor as yourself.”
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Do you support any charity?

Yes, my novel series, ‘Son of Neverland’, is set up to support children’s charities. This passage is taken right from the recitals in the novel —

“10% of the net proceeds from this book will go directly towards supporting children’s hospitals, charities, organizations, institutions, and causes worldwide that are designed to keep children safe, healthy, creative, imaginative, and ultimately make their lives better.”

Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?

Starring in Son of Neverland, and touring the world to promote the film while simultaneously getting ready to make the second one. The second film in the series will be called’ Son of Neverland, and the…” — wait, you’ll have to wait until the second book comes out at the end of 2023/ early 2024 to know : )

What is you favorite song to belt out in the car/for karaoke?

So many, but off the top of my head — ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ by Third Eye Blind, or ‘Aliens Exist’ by Blink 182. I was a teenager in the 2000’s, so it would all come from that era.

What do you think of Social Media?

I really just use Instagram sparingly. It’s really flipped our industry upside down. It’s here to stay, so I’m learning to embrace it. I think it’s a great tool if used right. It’s like your resume to the world. I try not to focus on it, though. I think all the social media stuff and all the numbers work themselves out as long as you follow and focus on your passion, and give it moderate due diligence from a professional perspective. Be careful what you share. Less is more.

Instagram is great for DM’s though, I will admit.

Where we can follow you?

IG at @CalBarnes

If you want to check out The Astrid Experience, you can watch for free at this link


The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Peter & Wendy, by J.M Barrie
The Gospel of John, by John the Apostle.

Quote: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, and whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16


Fight Club
Garden State

Tv Series:

Breaking Bad
Game of Thrones

Favorite Food:

Authentic Mexican rice and beans

Travel Destination: I really want to see Europe, and a lot of the world’s most exclusive islands.

Sports Team: Lakers all day.



Photo Credit: Blake Eiermann for Kelly Balch Images