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Over the weekend I returned to my role as an iconic TV character: Captain Kirk. The two shows at Spaghetti Warehouse in Houston were only my third and fourth times in the uniform.  I am only beginning to shape and create my version of what made William Shatner famous more than forty years ago.

As Kirk in Houston and as Sherlock Holmes in the Dallas edition of Celebrity Mystery Theater, I have the pleasure of working with some of the best impersonators in the business. This is a collection of artists at the top of their respective games. David Born is a gifted talent and plays Lt. Colombo in addition to performing a spot-on impersonation of Robin Williams elsewhere. Jade Roberts is a top-notch Stallone impersonator and you can see him this fall as Sly in THE STARVING GAMES. Phil Parsons is a talented comedian who plays both Austin Powers and Dr. Evil with equal brilliance.  Fritz Dickmann is a marvelous Sherlock Holmes and an accomplished stage actor. Among the female cast members, Janie Minick looks remarkably like a mature Elizabeth Taylor, and she’s delighted audiences as the Hollywood legend for years. Kristy Casey’s exceptional version of Marilyn Monroe earned her national attention in People magazine. The show’s producer Bobbie Winslow is superbly funny and fashionable as Fran Drescher in both shows. Sheryl Croix is delightful as Julia Child as she captures the eccentricities and voice cadences of the late chef, author, and TV personality. Karen Kelley not only sounds like Cher when she speaks, she also sings like Cher as she performs a comedic version of I GOT YOU BABE with Austin Powers and other Cher classics during the show.

I first joined the Dallas cast in 2011 after a colleague and character actor recommended me to the producer. It was much like I imagine landing on another planet would feel. After years of working on camera almost exclusively, performing in a live show once a month was a huge change of pace. But the opportunity opened a door to a brand new source of income as an actor and a chance to work with and learn from veterans like the ones I mentioned earlier.

Any actor looking for ways to get more (paid) work should consider what opportunities may exist to work as an impersonator. It won’t happen overnight and you will have to put more than a little effort into it, including doing the necessary research to develop your version of the character. I watched the entire first season of Star Trek to get ready for my gig as Captain Kirk, then came up with a list of 10 things I have learned about this type of work while in the company of top impersonators since 2011.

1. You don’t need to look like the celebrity right now. Wardrobe choices, makeup, and facial expressions can help with the transformation.

2.  Without a spoken performance, you’re really a lookalike rather than an impersonator.

3. The more you know about the real person and his or her roles, the more it will enhance your performance and your interaction with fans while in character.

4. Exaggerated characteristics will always be more entertaining than subdued ones. Make your choices larger than life.

5. The impersonation can change and get updated over time to reflect the celebrity’s life and career.

6. Impersonators can capitalize on high profile news events related to their celebrity, such as film releases, marriage, and arrests.

7. Creating new material, such as a musical performance, can enhance the appeal of the impersonation and give a fresh feel.

8. Rates for gigs seem to vary dramatically, and impersonators can set their own rates if booking gigs on their own.

9. If your look is convincing, you may fool more than a few people into thinking you ARE the celebrity, and celebrity treatment could follow.

10. Working as a celebrity impersonator could lead to meeting the actual celebrity, or better yet, working alongside your celebrity as a stand-in on set or a body double on a movie poster.

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