Yacoub leaves school, expands acting career through television

The line was “Your dad’s pretty funny!” and then a laugh.

Aneasa Yacoub (’18) walked into the audition room for FOX’s show, “Lethal Weapon,” and saw a cameraman, a director and someone sitting there with a notepad, ready to write down every move she made. She was starting to feel nauseous, something she usually never felt. She tried not to overthink her performance; she wanted to naturally respond and react.

Meanwhile, girls in the waiting room rambled on about the shows and movies they’ve been in while Yacoub was a novice among their ranks.

Regardless, Yacoub stood there and said “Your dad’s pretty funny!” laughed and left. She tried not to think about it anymore.

Soon after, she found out they booked her.  Matter of fact, they booked her for her laugh.

“It’s the simplest thing,” Yacoub said. “You try to think, ‘Oh, how do I be perfect?’ so that they book me, but sometimes there’s nothing to do about it. So, I’m just going to go in and do it and leave it there. Because otherwise the moment after [the audition] you’re going to drive yourself crazy.”

Yacoub had been acting in theater for most of her life, but it was television, movies and Hollywood that she fell in love with. It was never a question to her that she was meant for the industry.

“I can’t watch movies because I start overanalyzing [the acting],” Yacoub said. “There will be like the most dramatic scene and they’ll be bawling their eyes out and I’ll be like ‘Wow, I wonder what they were thinking to bawl their eyes out like that’.”

So, one day while Yacoub was watching TV, her mom sent her headshots to dozens of local agencies. From there, she started to book part-time modeling gigs and commercials in San Diego and Los Angeles.

She was beginning to get a taste of the industry, but being a part-time model wasn’t enough; it wasn’t quite the dream she wanted to chase.

She then switched to a bigger agency in LA and starting taking on more high profile auditions for more well-known productions. Yacoub landed an audition (and eventually, a callback) for the Netflix original show “One Day at a Time” as the lead character early on in her career almost two years ago.

Her manager first sent a brief breakdown of the role: the where, when and who of the show.

She had to craft a storyline for her character and then went line by line, sentence by sentence through the script. Yacoub used any free time she had to rehearse, spending her three-hour drive up to LA relaying lines back and forth with her mom.

She even researched the producer and director, trying to get a glimpse at what they wanted.

In the end, the role went to another actress: one more experienced than Yacoub.

“She deserved it,” Yacoub said. “I saw what she did and saw her credits. I want to work just as hard if not harder and I think that goes with the fact that everyone has room to grow for everybody in the industry.”

As her passion for the craft grew, Yacoub dedicated more time to the long, tedious commutes and impromptu audition preps. She found herself trying to balance acting workshops with annoyed presentation partners at school.

Soon, her sporadic acting trips translated into lost participation points in classes. Sometimes, her school week would be Monday through Friday and another week just Monday and Friday.

Eventually, the constant divide in her attention between her growing career and education became a struggle that stunted the growth on each end. Something had to give.

“I have friends in LA who are acting full time and they’re already on shows and movies because they’ve put 110 percent into their careers,” Yacoub said. “You can’t really reach the level you want to reach if you’re confined to school. There’s others working harder by reading books, analyzing plays, going to workshops, going to more auditions, and networking. I can’t do all of that because I’m here.”

The chance at a normal teen life was something she consequently has lost in the crossfire. Yacoub was on a different path than her high school friends.

She had to explain that she couldn’t be out as late as she wanted because she had scripts to memorize and an early morning to prepare for. Eventually, she could slowly see relationships drift apart as her friends stopped asking her to hang out.

Yacoub couldn’t make most school lunches, meaning she had to drop clubs. She couldn’t make most Fridays either, meaning she was a varsity cheerleader who didn’t make a single game.

Yacoub had to fast-forward her life if she wanted to make it in the industry. The quick-paced, ever-changing aspect of acting meant she had to move on from her teen life and embrace her new lifestyle.

So, Yacoub finally decided to opt out of the traditional high school experience. She eventually passed  the high school exit exam and earned an equivalence to her diploma, but still continues to pursue her education through homeschooling.

The exit exam is tailored to teenagers like Yacoub who want to pursue a career at a young age, ultimately giving her a leg up against older actors vying for young roles. The decision opened doors for her lifestyle and avenues for her professionalism in the industry.

“I can work as an adult, which means working longer hours and shorter breaks,” Yacoub said. “It works out because if I had an intense scene, and suddenly the minor law said I needed a break, then that’s it, I had to stop. Now, I’m a young actress and the minor laws don’t apply to me.”

Yacoub dove head-first into her career, trading in a traditional path for a passion. She couldn’t imagine doing anything else; this industry was all she wanted, meaning her new lifestyle was moreso bittersweet.

Every day was a new challenge.

For Yacoub, this meant having to record herself reciting lines so she could respond and practice in the car after her mom stopped driving her to auditions.

This meant having to Skype her manager last minute to outline and go through scripts at midnight, running on caffeine. This meant having no “off days.”

This meant having to hear no after no, working endlessly to hear just that one long awaited yes.

“If you don’t have the passion to learn the craft, it’s going to be very difficult to advance in the industry so it’s kind of banking on your mentality,” Yacoub said. “Sometimes, I don’t think I’m doing enough. I’m like, ‘What movies can I watch?’ ‘Where can I study?’ You just need to trust the process, be patient, and trust that you’re doing everything that you can.”