Corey Bangi can make anywhere his domain. In the glaring mid-winter sun, the senior lot dumpsters where we’d arranged (at his suggestion) to meet takes on a surreal, almost dreamlike quality, but Bangi himself stands grounded among the reflective greens and matte grays, fully in his element.
“You got me at a good time,” he says, by way of greeting. “Audition season starts next week.”
Like our interview location, like the hours he puts into handling his acting career, his academics, his interest in computer science and physics, those nebulous figures of future ambitions – “I’d also like to be an engineer, I guess,” – one on top of the other, Bangi does things by his own terms.
He settles on new objectives like whims, but follows through with each of them with intent. And by the long list of credits he rattles off when prompted, he takes on film with absolute purpose: over a dozen college thesis films, supporting roles in television pilots, and appearances in nationally aired commercials, including one this past summer for Sprite with rapper Vince Staples, from which, he says, the connections he makes and the situations he takes part in, on and offscreen, are the most valuable parts of the experience.
Now on his fifth year at the Orange County School of the Arts, and as a part of the competitive and multifaceted Integrated Arts conservatory, Bangi encounters no shortage of diverse opportunities, from roles in department musicals (he’s just finished a turn last fall as Pugsley Addams in “The Addams Family”) to contact with other industry professionals through teachers and faculty.
As a full-time student and actor, the matter of staying prepared for both isn’t so much a source of pressure for Bangi, but a strategy. This he approaches with diligence – the real challenge lies in never knowing what to expect when going out for auditions.
“Whenever I go in, I try not to have expectations, really,” he said. “I just hope to be successful.”
These he receives through the work and discretion of his agents and managers, who are contacted by casting directors about certain roles and their profiles, and send them lists of their clients who appear to fit the part.
“It troubled me at first,” Bangi said. “But if you’re in this industry you have to be open to being objectively viewed. That doesn’t make it better, but I make sure I personally don’t have a problem with who I am sent out to play.”
Bangi’s experience was built up on a first glimpse into the film acting realm at seven, when he began doing theatre. He started in the industry “through brute force,” when he learned that a friend at his company had been acting in film for some time and, intrigued, he set his mind on doing the same. Signing himself up on casting and audition websites, most of which weren’t particularly legitimate at the time, it took Bangi several periods of trial and error to find the right places to go and start work. But he accredits the opportunities he’s seized since then to the way he started, doing everything himself.
“I feel that it’s important that I’m myself the most I can and that I do it my way,” he said.
With the support of his family and friends behind him, he finds his voice with confidence and pragmatism, presenting himself as he is.
Our conversation draws to a close with this year’s audition season looming ahead, different, this time, fraught with new uncertainties and directions that Bangi’s graduation from high school will bring. For now, though, we choose to focus on the moment.
“Whatever it is, I’m making something meaningful for myself and others,” Bangi said. “I know it sounds super cheesy, but as long as I get a choice and it’s something I love, that’s all that matters.”