Jack Topalian moved with ease in his role as Ali the landlord when he entered the stage decorated as a living room. He was smiling and light-hearted and when the tenants couldn’t pay the rent he didn’t get mad. He joked and engaged in banter with the wife, husband, and the brother-in-law who dropped in for an unexpected visit.
No one could come up with the month’s rent or pay off the previous charges, yet Ali maintained his likeable demeanor. He simply did what a self-respecting landlord would do and he stuck with the agreement. In this case it meant having the wife go upstairs to the bedroom and use her for sexual favors to cover the debt.
Unfortunately for him, his character was killed by the wife’s brother-in-law. So go stories about dysfunctional crime families and the people who associate with them.
Jack’s role in the recent play Unorganized Crime at the Elephant Theater in Hollywood came in the middle of what evolved into an emotionally tense struggle starring the respected Chazz Palminteri, the play’s author Kenny D’Aquila, Elizabeth Rodriguez, and Carmen Argenziano.
“Theater in Los Angeles is ripe for enjoying new and veteran talent and I think it deserves more credit for delivering entertainment,” Jack told me as we talked after the performance. “I like the feedback from the audience. Each night, it’s a different vibe.”
TV and film remains center stage in the area’s entertainment economy and his own project in development is titled Family Honor, a television episodic about LA’s underground. The story’s central character is struggling to move past the bad choices he’s made and turn his life around.
The plot lines are born from his movie Betrayal, a tale about the Armenian and Russian mobs in LA where he was the star and director.
Prepping for the Future
Jack didn’t start his acting career until age 40, although he had modeling experience as a teen and young adult. He and his family are from San Francisco where he got noticed while helping his kids explore acting workshops. Jack with the support of his wife and children moved to Los Angeles to take charge of his career and today he works with some of the most highly regarded coaches in between his roles.
I asked his advice for people who decide to pursue acting in their mid-careers.
“It’s harder for older actors to become leads, but there are opportunities as character actors and in all types of supporting roles. You need to stay focused on your career and you can’t have one foot in and one foot out.”
He was born in Armenia and moved to the U.S. as a ten-year-old. His heritage is a source of pride, yet he likes portraying all types of characters who share universal dreams of a better life.
His prospects are cause for optimism, says Jack. “I look at the glass as half full. I’m very confident. We all have imaginations and most of us choose to ignore and not use them. I like creating storylines, characters, and there are plenty of great stories to take from real life.”
Los Angeles is filled with those stories and Jack Topalian drove into the night, eager to find them, bring them to life and shape them with his ebullient personality.
Visit his website for further reading.