Leisure Features

Homegrown: Cameron Gellman

Who hasn’t daydreamed about running off to California and making it in Hollywood? Well, that well-worn fantasy is reality for Cameron Gellman. When he was in high school, the St. Louis native made the move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. Now, he is filming his second season as a lead on Stargirl, a superhero TV show featuring characters from DC Comics. “It feels like it’s been such a long journey, but it also seems like it happened really quickly,” he says. “I’m really soaking it in. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.”

When did you start acting?
My first introduction to acting was at COCA (Center of Creative Arts) when I was around 9 years old. I have always loved sports and the arts. One year I had a baseball injury, so I was able to focus on the creative stuff. I took an acting class. I fell in love with it and started inching my way to Los Angeles.

What is your favorite thing about acting?
It honestly changes all the time. When I first got started, it was the opportunity to tell stories and be imaginative. That’s absolutely still true, but more recently in my career, it’s also been the powerful connection you can make with the people you work with. Acting is an adventure that I find challenging, stimulating and exciting. It’s a really cool art form. It’s not cut and dry, and you keep changing your approach. There’s no ceiling on it.

What inspired you to take the leap and move to Los Angeles?
I wanted to see what was in L.A. and if I could do this professionally. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t really know what I was chasing. I just knew I wanted to leave and figure it out.

How was it starting your career there?
Acting is such an undefined profession. There is no right way to start your career, but there are a million wrong ones. When you’re auditioning, you’re sort of sending out a shout in the darkness, and you don’t know how they are receiving it on the other side. Then after 100 auditions, you get a call that you’ve booked one. How did you do it? How can you do it again? There’s almost a randomness to it.

What do you miss most about St. Louis?
The warmth of the community. Even though it’s a big city, it feels like a small town. When you run into somebody, you know them or their family. I love that. In L.A., I always know when I’ve met someone from St. Louis because there’s sincerity and genuineness to people. I’ve never really gotten to experience the city properly as an adult. Hunter Sansone, my fellow St. Louisan in the Stargirl cast, and I can’t wait to come back and appreciate the stuff we couldn’t when we were teenagers.

Tell me about Stargirl.
It’s been the most memorable project I’ve ever experienced. The show is pretty thrilling to shoot. Superheroes show up for work, and they jump off buildings, fight giant robots and square off against other crazy characters. I’m working with some of the coolest actors I could possibly find myself on set with. I have deep respect and admiration for my senior castmates. Sometimes, it hits me pretty hard that I’m at a place in my career where I’m shooting a scene with someone like Luke Wilson. It’s so rewarding to get to pick their brains and learn from them.

Before Stargirl, were you a superhero fan?
For sure. I love superheroes. I grew up on the Christian Bale Dark Knight series. I was the kid with the Spider-Man pajamas and the superhero birthday parties.

What is like being part of such a huge cultural touchstone like the DC Universe?
It’s pretty surreal. I feel like I’m taking my place among a really iconic roster of characters that are deeply ingrained in pop culture. It’s almost like being knighted. It means a lot to me, especially having been brought into this position by Geoff Johns, who is a gatekeeper in the world of DC. I’ve never had a job that is so crazy, and I’m having so much fun with it. Honestly, it’s a childhood dream come true.

How has it been filming during the pandemic?
Obviously, things were put on pause for a while, but I’m back on set now. I’m getting settled—not that things will become predictable later. We’ve been in a different world since the last time we filmed. It required a different education, even for those of us with a lot of experience. There are safety measures in place, but they don’t disrupt the creative process, which is what I was wondering about. Everyone has been a total team player.

What can people look forward to from you?
People can definitely expect an insane season two of Stargirl. I think I’m just coming into my own as an actor right now. This is the closest in my journey that I’ve felt to understanding the art form, and I feel super empowered to take risks and deepen my work. Beyond that, look out for me repping St. Louis. I’m proud of where I come from and my family and friends who are still there. I hope there is a lot I can do for my hometown as my career progresses. There’s so much I want to create and put out into the world.

Are you interested in other aspects of film and television?
Definitely. On set, you’re around masters at their crafts in each department. Whatever you are interested in, there is someone who is incredible at their job and also is so receptive to talking about what they do. Acting is such a small part of what makes productions possible. The directors we’ve worked with have left a huge impression on me. I’m constantly asking questions because I want to understand the reasoning behind their choices. I’m also interested in writing. It would be great to see how Geoff Johns crafts a season.

What is it like working with a fellow St. Louisan?
I never expected that to happen. We’ve talked about how good people from St. Louis are, and that’s absolutely true of Hunter. Before Stargirl, we’d been in L.A. for the same amount of time and auditioned for some of the same projects, but we kept barely missing each other. It was a really cool surprise to work with someone from my hometown, and a wonderful friendship has come out of the show. He’s my guy to watch St. Louis sports with.

Photo: David Higgs

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