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Leo Oliva: An Actors Notes On Crossing the Threshold

Threshold (noun); the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested.

We sat down with working actor Leo Oliva as he explains the term “crossing the threshold.”

A fun way to visualize a threshold, is like the sound barrier. Think of a fighter jet as it flies, gaining speed, pushing until there is a loud crack, rumble, and visual vibration. From the ground, we witness all of it, but inside the jet, it’s silent, peaceful even. In creative endeavors like acting, we normally don’t know we’ve broken through one until after the fact.

Just the other day I found myself in a rabbit hole on YouTube watching fighter pilots break the sound barrier. It reminded me of my career and how at every moment when I crossed a threshold, I experienced the same thing. There was a lot of turbulence in the moments leading up to the barrier, i.e., nerves, overwhelming amounts of work, auditions, or inflections in life. Each time I’ve crossed a barrier, my career has sped up even faster.

Elusive as a threshold is, if we are diligent, and consistently working on ourselves, we can build momentum and go from one to the next without much time or wasted energy in between.

Can you explain an actor’s threshold?

For some of us, it’s finishing a conservatory, getting our first audition, others it’s the SAG-AFTRA membership card, and yet another is receiving the round of applause when you wrap on set. As creatives focused on our craft, in an industry with few roadmaps, we are more often than not unknowingly working towards these undefined thresholds.

In taking the time to look back, I recognize that everything I have been doing up to this moment, lead to this moment. Only in retrospect can I see all the threshold’s I have crossed over in my career, can I see the milestones, and how the consistent work and training has provided me the next opening. I recommend doing this for anyone who feels lost in their trajectory. Take a second to look back at all the milestones you’ve crossed. From your first acting class to your first audition and finally, to where you are now. Be proud of those. Give yourself the credit for putting in the work to get you here.

It is rare to be an overnight success. How long have you been working as an actor?

I consider my career to have already spanned fourteen years of hard work. Some of the years have not always been the most fun or rewarding, but when I look back at all of it, I notice it has all been worth it, if not, necessary.

Recently, as an actor, I realized I had crossed through a new threshold. Over the course of the last year, I’ve finally found the representation that understands and recognizes my value as a multi-hyphenate who can not only act, but write and produce as well. Because of that, I have gone from being a self-producing Guest Star actor with a few projects under my belt, to a Series Lead being considered for more series and feature leads. I’ve had the opportunity to be seen by amazing casting offices, producers, and directors, for roles that are informing me that I have crossed yet another undefined threshold.

All the countless auditions, rejections and dusting myself off preparing for the next big moment has prepared me, to book that one role that will lead me to my next threshold, and ultimately to my end goal.

We are super intrigued. What is the end goal?

My current goal is to book that role which will be the defining moment in my career and pave the way for all other characters I’ll be playing. Working with the likes of David Fincher, Clint Eastwood, and Deni Villenueve is a milestone I’m working towards, and I feel that I am super close.

Having already had the opportunity to audition for some of the above-mentioned names, I know I’m on their radar and in the zone, the zone I’ve been aiming at.

I’ve always admired the meticulous creativity of Fincher, the grit and efficiency of Clint, and the large-scale attention to detail of Deni. That’s not to say there aren’t other creatives I’d like to work with like Alejandro G. Iñaritu, Anthony Hopkins, and Kathryn Bigelow.

The best part is, I feel like I have crossed the threshold, I am super close to working with them, on a role that will define my future as an actor, and that feels comforting, almost peaceful.

What advice can you give other actors hoping to cross the threshold?

Keep at it. No matter what, work on yourself every day and stay the course. Every one percent you improve your craft, your network, your skills, leads to a massive change over time. Never think that any move is too little of a move. With consistency, all the small adjustments lead to big gains in the end, and big gains help us achieve our big dream.

Also, don’t forget to look back and give yourself the kudos you deserve. In this industry, there normally aren’t many defined paths or road signs to guide us. Looking back and taking account of our accomplishments is what lets us know we are on the right path. Take the time to acknowledge and praise your wins along the way. It will empower you.

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