On becoming a professional screenplay writer, Anthony (Tony) McBride has journeyed a long way to find out that in order to make it in Hollywood as a writer takes much more than having a script.
But while the journey has been a challenge, it has been enthusiastically embraced by Tony, with great networks and professional associations that have granted him the next steps towards realizing his dream of being a professional screenwriter.
Born in Philadelphia, PA as the son of a postal worker. Tony was raised by a single parent in the lower middle-class neighborhood of West Oak Lane with one sister. From an early age, Tony had an interest in performing, having participated in his local church choir, taking up musical instruments of clarinet and saxophone, and playing numerous sports during his school years.
After college, Tony worked in sales for numerous companies. Tony frequently found himself unemployed and, one day while job searching, stumbled on an advertisement for background actors for a new movie to be shot in Philadelphia. The new movie was "National Treasure" starring Nicholas Cage and sparked a passion for entertainment. This new passion led Tony to seek more work as a background actor. Tony worked on the show "Hack" which was shot in Philadelphia. Tony eventually got an agent in Philadelphia.
Tony put entertainment on hold to follow another calling that emerged after the 9/11 tragedy: military service. Tony joined the U.S. Army in 2006 as a military intelligence analyst and later received a commission as an Intelligence Officer. Tony served in the military for six years.
Upon leaving the military, Tony decided to move to Los Angeles where he pursued acting. Tony took acting classes at places such as TVI, Ivana Chubbuck Studios, The Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute and UCLA Extension.
While taking acting classes, Tony took classes in Entertainment Studies at UCLA. One of the classes was a Story Analysis class which sparked a deeper passion in storytelling and screenwriting. Tony began taking classes in screenwriting which led to the development of several feature scripts and television pilots.
I caught up recently with Tony to find out more about his artistry as a screenwriter.
“I’m writing my story so that others might see fragments of themselves.”
— Lena Waithe
Robert Walker) Tony, in getting ready for this interview with you I read that you moved here to Los Angeles in 2012. Was that to be closer to the industry for your writing and acting?
Tony McBride) Absolutely. I started acting in Philadelphia and felt that Los Angeles was a lot closer and more beneficial for my entertainment career with Hollywood being in Los Angeles. It was definitely a lot closer professionally and logistically since I was living in El Paso, Texas while in the U.S. Army.
RW) Is there a particular genre of story you pursue as a writer, or would you say it's more of a story that just hooks you to write about that could be in any genre?
TM) Well, I really like the big budget movies like Avengers, Avatar, Star Wars, etc. I think the story telling is fundamentally sound and resonates with mass audiences which is where I want to be as a professional. A lot of these stories center around the unlikely hero who is called to serve and save his people (kind of like serving in the military). This theme really shows sacrifice which is the core of all things good about humanity which resonates with me and is reflected in my stories.
RW) What's your favorite two movies of all time and why?
TM) 1. Saving Private Ryan: This is one of my favorites because it shows the extent to which people will go to serve their country and save the life of another person, even at the risk of their own.
As a former Army officer, this is the core of what I stood for when I served.
2. Avengers - Endgame: This is one of my favorites because it also shows the sacrifice that some humans will make for others, even at the risk of their own lives. It also shows how some can rise above their own wounds in the service of others. Humanity at its best.
One rule of screenwriting: does the reader want to turn the page?”
— Leslie Dixon
RW) What's your top two TV series and why?
TM) 1. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: This is one of my favorite shows because it shows how a “fish out of water” protagonist can embrace fear and difference to thrive in a place that he thought where he didn’t belong.
2. The Cosby Show (showing my age here): This show displayed a successful Black family during a time (80’s and 90’s) where there was a lot of crime in the community. I grew up in a financially challenged household during a time when the economy was in turmoil, so this show really inspired me to be the best and that it’s achievable.
RW) How long have you been writing, what was your first scripted story about?
TM) I’ve been screenwriting (officially) since 2015 although I did some writing when I was studying acting for film. So, I opened the laptop and started typing my first script “The Capita” in 2015. The Capital is about a black guy who gets a job at an up-and-coming financial service firm and is caught up in a crime scandal. I still believe in the story, but being my first script, there’s a lot of rewriting to be done. I’ll probably just shoot it myself when I get the clout and resources.
RW) I know that you are a former Army Intelligence Officer - thank you for your service - how long
Were you in the armed services and what inspiration has serving given you in your writing?
TM) The U.S. Army was the bravest—and craziest (I almost got myself killed-ha, ha)—that I’ve done to date—other than pursuing a career in Hollywood. I served a total of six years as an enlisted soldier and an officer. My time in the military made me an unlikely hero who was thrust into a situation where I was called to possibly give my life for my nation and people which directly relates to the protagonists in my movies. It also showed me that all of my heroes aren’t just Black but vary in different races and classes.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
— Maya Angelou
RW) Are you working on a particular project now that you are pursuing without giving away too much detail?
TM) I just finished a four-quadrant fantasy film titled “The Myrtles” which is an Avatar/Harry Potter influenced big budget fantasy film. It follows an unlikely person who is called to save his people.
It has themes of classism and racism with big action set pieces. It’s ranked among the top 20% on Coverfly as it is getting some industry traction.
RW) What's your short-term goal and then your long-term goal for 2023 as a writer?
TM) A) My short-term goal is to finish this superhero spoof script and to get literary representation. I really want to work with someone who understands me as a writer and what I want to accomplish in the entertainment industry.
B) My long-term goals are to become a successful working screenwriter actively selling scripts and working for the studios. I want to write the next Black Panther or Avengers.
RW) You are an actor as well I was reading. What are some of the projects you have worked on as an actor?
TM) Well, all of my acting experience was classwork for the most part. The only paid work was as a background actor. However, I studied at places such as The Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute which is home to Scarlett Johansson and Al Pacino. I also studied at the Ivana Chubbuck Studios and UCLA Extension which exposed me to more intense training. My actor training was instrumental in teaching me how to write for actors—which is crucial for a screenwriter. Taking acting classes also forced me to read a lot of plays and screenplays which strengthened my dramatic analytical abilities.
That’s my advice with dealing with writer’s block. Follow the fun. If you aren’t having fun, you are doing it wrong.”
— Jordan Peele
RW) What came first for you in your entertainment career pursuits - did you catch the "acting bug" or the "writing bug" first?
TM) The acting bug was what I caught first. I came in as a background actor who worked around the “professional” side of the industry where I was encouraged to learn all aspects of content creation. One of the aspects was screenwriting.
RW) If there is a producer or director who reads this interview, where could they find you on social media to follow you and possibly reach out to you?
TM) You can pretty much find me on most major social media outlets: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
RW) From your experiences thus far in this business, if you were asked to give the
commencement speech at UCLA, where you attended school, what would your words of inspiration or insight be for those to follow you as screenplay writers?
TM) I would give the same words that most screenwriters give: Keep Writing, Never Give Up and Don’t Be an Asshole…
Thank you Anthony for this interview, and for your service to this country. We look forward to seeing one of your scripts as a film or a series one day on the big and small screen.