It is often said that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. However, getting that job that doesn’t feel like a job can itself be a lot of work. Actor Don Stark has been very successful in his four-decade long career in film and television, but acknowledges that this is not something that happened over night. “Unless you’re all in, there’s too much disappointment, too many obstacles to go up against,” Stark says of the entertainment industry. “If you love it – even though it’s really hard – then you can sustain yourself mentally, emotionally, and psychologically through the rejection of it because there’s nothing else in the world that you want to do.”
Stark’s experience with acting began in high school when he tried his hand at performing during an impromptu visit to drama class. From there, he inched away from his jock roots and immersed himself in the world of theater, performing in shows such as Dark of the Moon, Guys and Dolls, and Fiddler on the Roof. He would then go on to Cal State Northridge where he declared a business major before ultimately deciding to switch over to theater. “The ladies were much more attractive in the theater department,” laughs Stark. “And I never looked back.”
Stark then made the move to Los Angeles and found that he was really only being considered for teenage roles, despite the fact that he was in his late 20’s. He decided to go back to his home state of New York for a few years and get more theater work under his belt. He eventually returned to LA and began getting a steady stream of roles. “I’ve been fortunate,” says Stark. “It’s been a long, long road.” However, there have been some setbacks – such as not being notified in time for a callback for the role of Juan Epstein on Welcome Back, Kotter. But, by having roles on everything from HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm to VH1’s Hit the Floor, Stark has solidified himself as a top-tier character actor.
His longest-running role came in 1998 when he landed the part of Bob Pinciotti on That ’70s Show. The series lasted for eight seasons and followed a group of teenagers in late 1970’s Wisconsin. Stark attributes the show’s success to the relatability of the characters as well as the chemistry of the cast. “They’re all very close. Danny [Masterson,] Ashton [Kutcher,] and Wilmer [Valderrama] are still very close. Danny and Ashton are doing a series together. And, Mila [Kunis] and Ashton are married!” says Don of his former cast. “The chemistry happened early on and it was great.”
Today, Stark is working on a variety of projects. He just completed filming on Walk to Vegas, a movie that follows the semi-factual story of a bet regarding whether a man can walk to Las Vegas in seven days. Stark is also working on the Seeso series There’s…Johnny! which is a comedy that offers a fictional account of behind-the-scenes happenings at The Johnny Carson Show. While he has accomplished a great deal as an actor, Stark recognizes that success in show business isn’t possible if your heart is not in it. “If you love it, then go for it. But, if you don’t, don’t bother because you’re not going to be happy,” explains Stark. “Just keep working, that’s what actors do. I don’t know what the next job will be; but I’m looking forward to the next chance to go play.”