by Deborah Rieselman
When alumnus Eric Tepe appeared in his first national commercial, he nabbed the ultimate time slot — Super Bowl, Feb. 5, 2012. Those who watched the game may have caught a glimpse of him sitting on an invisible couch, part of the Toyota commercial about “reinventing” things. The company will use the commercial (available below) many more times, he says.
The funny thing is that Tepe is not a drama grad, but a three-major grad from the College of Business — finance, accounting and marketing in ’06. He also had an impressive career, which he dropped in October 2011 to move to L.A. to model and act. “I was a cliché,” he confesses. “I moved out with nothing.”
No close friends there. No contract for a new job. But he did have a passion for a creative dream, something that his successful professional career at LPK, an international brand design agency, inspired.
He started at LPK in Cincinnati as a financial analyst, then moved into account management to apply a little more creativity. When that felt insufficient, he “started writing for brand on the side,” he says, “because I still had the itch to be closer to the creative aspect.” Next he signed with a local modeling agent and began acting, all the while continuing his musicianship — writing songs and playing in a band in smaller shows.
But that still wasn’t enough, so he talked to his agent about moving out west. The agent put him in touch with a West Coast agency. On a visit last summer, the L.A. agency said it would sign him after he moved, but he had nothing in writing.
“I was a little nervous about coming, he admits. “It was something of a leap. So I connected with friends of friends. Your network gets big really quickly out here.”
Even more nervous were his parents. All they could focus on was the fact he was leaving a genuine career. “When you looked at it on paper, it didn’t make sense to quit your job and move to have nothing,” he concedes.
But his parents got over it pretty quickly as they were partially to blame. “Mom is an artist, and dad is an accountant,” Tepe adds. “I kind of fell off the middle of their fence.”
Within a few weeks of his move, things started looking quite bright when he filmed the big Toyota commercial, which the company planned to place on the Super Bowl. In the commercial, Tepe is one of the components of the “man couch” (10 seconds in) — second from the left.
“That first audition was cool,” he says. “But I’m stepping into reality now. I audition nearly every week, but that’s the only commercial I’ve booked. I'm coming down to earth real fast.”
To stay afloat until the modeling/acting takes off, Tepe is freelance writing for LPK. He’s also looking into PR or advertising writing, as well as getting involved in the production side of filming.
“Models can’t count on acting as their sole income unless you get a really big commercial,” he says. “But I’m learning a lot about how to audition.”