When encountering an artist, many expect to hear a beautiful origin story explaining the person’s history and connection to their given field. Were they moved by a sudden lightning bolt of inspiration? Were they inspired by the work of a legendary artist or even just a family member working in the field? Were they compelled to create art as an escape from hardship and trauma?

Salt Lake City-based actor Austin Grant has his own memorable origin story. But his is decidedly less romantic than the typical cliché. During his junior year of high school, Grant and a classmate heard that auditions were being held for the school play. They decided that it would be hilarious to try out. Grant’s family had always cared more about sports than art, and he walked in to the audition with no prior acting experience.

“It was a complete joke,” he explained.

However, this “complete joke” became a surprisingly important moment in Grant’s life. After being awarded a leading role in the production, he made the unexpected discovery that he loved to act, and he decided to pursue performing as a career.

Over the past several years, Grant has been busy working on a diverse array of projects. He has been seen in movies and television shows alongside Academy Award-winning actors. He starred in the stage production “4000 Miles” with Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC), and he has even developed some original work — his short film “Beyond the Shadows” was honored at the Utah Film Awards.

Picking among the many incredible opportunities in his career, Grant cites his time at the Sundance Director’s Lab as a clear highlight. This prestigious annual event selects eight scripts out of thousands of entries for artistic mentoring and development. He was able to act in one of these projects where he received coaching from legendary actor Ed Harris. Harris pushed Grant to give a more natural and emotional performance, and he stopped the scene several times with the same advice: “Just say the lines.” Grant absorbed the pressure of this moment and channeled it into his performance, giving the scene a raw tension and charged energy that had been missing from all the previous takes. After finishing his lines, he choked up in response to the emotional breakthrough.

Grant called moments like this his favorite part of acting. He says that his job is most exciting when he is entirely focused on character work and relating to another actor.

“[These scenes] are so smooth and in the moment and honest and truthful that you don’t really think about it; you’re just living in it,” Grant said. “It’s really powerful as a performer, and that is when the audience is most intrigued.”

Currently, Grant is working on several exciting projects. He happily noted that the past several months have been his busiest as an actor. He is guest starring on a new series for YouTube Red entitled “Youth and Consequences.” He also landed a role in the upcoming television series “Yellowstone,” created by Academy Award-nominated director Taylor Sheridan. And as Grant continues to connect with A-list directors and producers, he’ll be making more and more appearances on the screen. All in all, that’s not half bad for a career that started as a joke.

j.petersen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@JoshPetersen7

Josh Petersen is a staff writer for the Arts Desk at the Chronicle, fulfilling a lifelong dream of having a valid excuse to watch TV all day. He is a sophomore studying English and Psychology.

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