By Samantha Brandbergh
When Rider graduate Travis Przybylski was younger and watched Law and Order with his mother, he never thought he would earn a guest role on the television crime drama just a few years after graduating college.
On Oct. 18, Przybylski, ’15, made his television debut on screens across America in a Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) episode about a teen girl named Mandy who goes missing after vicious cyberbullying attacks.
In the episode, Przybylski played Daniel Ross, a friend of Mandy’s. He was featured in a scene in which he was interrogated by main characters Kelli Giddish, who plays Detective Amanda Rollins, and Peter Scanavino, who plays Detective Dominick Carisi.
Last summer, Przybylski signed with his agent, Penny Luedtke, who has helped him secure auditions for other television shows such as Madam Secretary and Shades of Blue, as well as theater productions.
It was a Monday when Przybylski almost got lost on his way to the audition on Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, New York. He eventually found his way and read through his lines with a casting assistant.
“I got the character description. I just remember reading ‘the athletic jock,’ so my ego was a little stroked,” he said with a laugh. “I know they said they wanted [Daniel] to be the cocky one, so I made choices in that regard.”
Przybylski said he was in the audition room for “about a minute,” and felt positive about the choices he made.
Just four hours later, he got an email stating he got the part.
“I was pretty thrilled — it’s my first TV thing — I was excited to get into that,” he said. “My mom was thrilled, obviously. My family was super supportive, asking me when it was going to air.”
While Przybylski knew he only had a few lines in the episode, his friends and family seemed more excited than he was.
“It was very humbling to see the support that came my way,” he said. “In my head, I was like, ‘This is a cool first credit to have.’”
Przybylski spent the next few days getting photos taken and getting fitted for the clothes he would be wearing during the episode.
He spent his downtime on set in the “Honey Wagon” — a trailer with many small rooms.
With this being his first time on a set, Przybylski described his time in New York City as “crazy.”
“For your close-up, the camera will be a foot away from your face and you just have to act like it’s not there,” he said.
Thankfully, Przybylski took a class at Rider for film technique with professor of theater Miriam Mills, so he had an idea of what to expect.
“The class is for students who already had a strong background in acting,” Mills said. “They learn to adapt their acting techniques for the camera. The students learn how to behave in a television studio, how to look at the camera, how to tone down the work so that it works for the camera [and] how they need to use their eyes rather than their whole body.”
Przybylski described acting for television a much more natural process than theater.
“On stage you have to have a heightened sense about you. You have to command the stage. You have to play to the back row,” he said. “For television and film, especially for the close-ups, if you do the same thing you would do on stage, it would look absurd.”
While Przybylski said he has the whole Rider performing arts faculty to thank for his success, Mills is “chief among them.”
“Taking [the course called] Acting for the Camera at Rider was huge because it gives the opportunity to get in front of the camera,” he said. “[Mills] told us what to expect, and the whole class was [aimed to help] us know what it was like on that side of the entertainment industry.”
Mills said that taking a film technique class is “absolutely essential” for theater majors.
“It’s vitally important to learn how to expand your repertoire,” she said, adding that audtions now are typically submitted by video.
While Przybylski was able to talk with the other guest stars in between scenes, he also had a brief interaction with main star Mariska Hargitay, who plays Detective Olivia Benson. She made a point to introduce herself to all the guest stars for the episode.
Although he wasn’t in the episode, Ice-T, who plays Detective Fin Tutuola, managed to make Przybylski feel “cool” while getting his hair and makeup done.
“[He] walked in and sat across the room from me,” he said. “We saw each other in the mirror and gave each other a ‘bro nod.’ I was like, ‘I’m officially the coolest person in the world right now.’”
Printed in the 10/25/17 edition.