Interview with Powerhouse Commercial Agent Candace Stewart
by Kaytra Parkman
POWERHOUSE: a person or thing of great energy, strength, or power.
That’s exactly what Candace Stewart brings to the table. Her energy is infectious, her strength is inspiring, and her power is what makes her an incredible talent agent. Candace was one of my very first agents when I started pursuing my acting career in back in high school, and she played a key part in my confidence building and career strategy as a new actor. I’ve always looked up to her and was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed for MoonFaze! She’s the epitome of what this platform celebrates, so without further ado, here’s an inside look at Candace’s world of representation!
Congratulations on your move to DDO Artists Agency as an adult commercial agent! How long have you been working in representation, and can you describe the journey that led you to this position?
I have been working in representation for about 10 years. I started right out of college (I went to Cal State Northridge) and graduated with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts Media Management. After I graduated, I interned at a management company for a couple of months and eventually one of the managers there decided to open up his own talent agency... so when he asked me to join I did! I then started representing adults in the commercial department and since then I’ve been an agent representing actors for television, film, commercials or print.
Growing up, was representing talent always the goal, or did that evolve over time from something else? What inspired you about it?
When I was younger I wanted to be a veterinarian, but then I realized it took more than just petting animals. Like, you actually have to deal with surgery and blood, and that stuff is not my thing! But I’ve always been captivated by TV and film, it was sort of my babysitter growing up, and I used to memorize commercials as a kid. When I went to college I still wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to be in entertainment. I never wanted to be an actor, I didn’t have the courage or the talent to do that, but I wanted to be a part of it. I liked the business aspect of it (I liked business in general) so I thought to myself, maybe I can make these people money and so I transitioned into the degree for media management. Even after I graduated I wasn’t entirely sure how to get into that, but I applied for an internship through entertainmentcareers.net and got it! Through interning I learned that being an agent is very exciting… it’s a roller coaster ride. You get the best news followed by the worst, followed by better news, followed by the worst. You get to interact with talent and watch them grow into themselves and their careers and become better actors. It’s great.
I know you’ve represented both kids and adults… what is different in your approach to signing and working with a kid vs. an adult?
Kids are fairly similar in that you find them at showcases or as referred clients usually, but representing kids tends to be more tedious because lots of parents think their kids have talent. Some of those kids… need to fine tune that talent and others are naturally gifted and will just continue getting better. But with kids you have to deal with parents, so you have to look at it as if you’re representing the child, but working with the parents. You have to vet and make sure that you can work with the parents, despite how talented the kid may be.
With adults it’s obviously more direct, they’re responsible for themselves and can take criticism better. With kids you have to always sandwich feedback with a positive spin; you don’t really need to do that with adults. There’s less hand holding and more of a business relationship.
What do you love most about your job and working in Los Angeles?
I’m from LA so I always say it’s the best city ever! I love watching people grow. Seeing potential in talent and fostering that. Finding somebody at a showcase and leading them in the right direction and watching them go from auditions to bookings to seeing their commercial air or their episode premiere on TV, it’s very rewarding.
Since this is a feminist platform, I of course have to ask this question! As a woman, do you feel your journey to get to where you are now has looked different than your male counterparts? If so, how?
I definitely do think it’s different for male agents than it is for female agents, it’s always been a boys club. I’m blessed to be at DDO where there are two female partners and a lot of female agents, it’s interesting and fun and delightful. I feel that it’s different because women can be looked over, that promotions go automatically to the men sometimes. You have to fight harder, work harder, be the best... but if you work too hard and are too direct, you’re the “b*tch” in the office. If you’re a pushover then you are not taken seriously. So finding the balance can definitely be difficult, but once you do find it you’ll be okay.
Do you think being a person of color and/or a woman has informed your experience or approach to this business in any way?
Yes, I feel that being a black female agent is rare. When I started, there was always a surprised reaction like, you’re a woman, you’re young, and you’re black! What can you do for me? It was always interesting meeting and signing with white males in their 50’s and 60’s who were more apprehensive. It’s definitely made me more aware of limitations that have come up in the past and overcoming them by being more relatable, connecting to people and finding common ground. It’s finding the differences and learning how to work around those differences.
From your perspective, do you see Hollywood making strides on diversity and female empowerment?
I am primarily seeing a change for ethnic groups. I’m seeing more breakdowns for Asians; specifically East-Asians or Japanese or Chinese talent. It used to just be a blanket, now they want specifics. I think with advertising agencies, they’ve realized the purchasing power of all the different groups. It started off with commercials primarily being black and white (but mostly white), and then it moved into the Hispanic market because they have a lot of buying power. These agencies look at demographics and the growing markets and play into that. So there are definitely more opportunities out there.
Do you think the commercial world handles casting minority talent differently than the theatrical world?
I think that theatrically a lot of shows are still looking for white leads... you’ll see a TV show that’s casting series regulars and say they’re looking for “all ethnicities”, but the kids that go in are caucasian, and then the supporting roles is where the color is added in. Commercials are a bit different, they’re looking at who is purchasing the product and making sure they’re appealing to the right markets. It’s more niche!
Lastly, is there something you’ve learned from your experiences that you’d like to pass along to young women who are still growing into their power?
Know your worth. Know what you deserve, whether it be your salary or office environment. Whatever it is you’re working towards, put in your time and energy into it and you’ll reap the rewards. Speak up for yourself and your worth. Finding your voice is very important! It took me a while to find my voice, and to learn to negotiate. It’s interesting… I can negotiate for my clients hard and make them money. When it comes time to do it for myself it can be more difficult because it’s personal. But you need to be willing to speak up, and if necessary, move on to the next chapter using what you’ve learned along the way. Find your voice and use it!