Rockit Ranch Productions CEO and Founder Billy Dec spends his nights and weekends at the center of Chicago’s night life. His omnipresent fedoras and clean-cut Nikes pop up at every exclusive event in town, even weekly on shows like Windy City Live. But Dec has a major hobby aside from nightlife: he’s also an actor, equipped with a coach and everything.
If you’ve been keeping up with Fox’s new hit Empire, you’ve actually seen him. He played Alan Lester, manager of Delphine (played by Estelle), on last week’s episode. It’s not his first gig, nor will it be his last. He made a few appearances on Friends in the mid 2000s (you’d recognize him as the guy next to Ross on the airplane in “The One in Vegas: Part 1") and will appear in the upcoming Entourage film, slated to hit theaters in 2015. We caught up with Dec to discuss his affinity for the silver screen.
How did this Empire gig come about?
Well, I have been acting and auditioning for the last 8 to 9 years. And the director saw me on Criminal Minds in October when it aired. He knew he was coming to Chicago to shoot this episode, and reached out and talked to me about this part. And it just so happened that the writer—who I had to get the sign-off from—saw my reel on the Internet and liked it.
So how did you get started in acting?
I’ve always been comfortable in front of cameras, but it wasn’t until 2004 that a friend of mine, David Schwimmer, put me on Friends as a gift. I’d passed the bar exam and he said, “Come out to L.A., I have a gift for you.” Every year after that, I was on Friends.
From there, I just started jumping in films and TV shows that friends of mine were in, like Entourage and different movies, and I started liking it. Then I started taking lessons at the Piven Theatre Workshop in Evanston.
You mention Schwimmer giving you the start, but you are surrounded by so many stars and people in your line of work. How much does your own personal professional life help you as an actor on the side?
One of the things I contribute to even having a shot at this is literally my many, many years being a security guy at night clubs and bars, back when I made $6 an hour staring at customers, wishing one day I could be like them.
It was a huge character study, doing a non-stop 10-hour shift, four nights of week, for years and years. And being a security guy, you’re trying to figure out the wants, needs and desires before they actually project themselves. So I was reading people early on.
Do you ever see yourself making a real run at acting?
In my world, I kind of think I am giving it a real run, by having a coach that I go to once a week. I still audition and fail like crazy, and I’m starting to make my own movies. Rockit Ranch is still my first love and is my whole focus, but part of Rockit Ranch was always to created elevated entertainment experiences for people. If I can do that with film, that’s all in line with my goals.