"It started because — it's pretty simple," Briedis begins to explain by phone. "I was interested in creating a parody Twitter account. I had two that [previously] failed, and then I created this one because, at the time, I was getting progressively annoyed by friends' social media behavior, and I wanted to satirize it."
And, so, #blessed was born. Before becoming a personal trainer at Equinox, a writer and an Internet sensation (within the Broadway community, at least), Briedis was, in fact, an actor. He obtained his Equity card on the national tour of The Boy Friend, directed by Julie Andrews — the first and last Equity contract he ever signed.
In a blog post titled "@AndrewBriedis," in which he reveals the person behind the personality (and the path he took to 20.6K followers on Twitter), he offers followers a glimpse into his past — why he never finished college at the Hartt School to pursue theatre, how his mother's death during his time in high school set him on a new life path and why he found solace in writing and creation.
"When it came to acting, I never really had the unique skills that drive actors to get up in the morning — and those qualities have always fascinated me," he writes in his blog. "Maybe that's why two years into flirting with the idea of becoming a writer I was compelled to create a parody Twitter account about the people I had been surrounded by for the greater part of my life. I've never been on Broadway. I no longer pursue acting. I'm a personal trainer at Equinox. Annoying Actor Friend could be viewed as an elaborate ruse, but I wouldn't say that I 'pulled one over' on the Broadway community. I just loved writing about them.
"My name is Andrew Briedis, and I am Annoying Actor Friend. It's understandable that it might be strange to discover that I am not an actor anymore (I do still pay my Equity dues so I can vote in elections), but I believe that for any of this to work, I needed to have a lack of emotional connection to the subject matter to be able to objectively analyze it. This experiment has, and will always, be about impartial social commentary on a very specific kind of culture." Click here to read the entire blog post on his website.
Over the last three years — aside from the viral tweets about "annoying" actor behavior and recapping the NBC musical drama "Smash" — Briedis (as @Actor_Friend) sparked conversation amongst the community.In November 2013, he released a portion of his first book, "#SOBLESSED," that explained the history of Broadway touring productions and the recent decline in salary and working conditions suffered by touring actors, due to the new Short Arrangement Touring Agreement (SETA).
As industry members became educated on the subject and continued to share the post, Actors' Equity Association announced they would devote an entire member meeting to the subject of touring contracts.
Almost a year later in September 2014, Actor Friend created another movement with the Twitter storm of #Dim4Joan tweets following the death of actress, comedian and theatre lover Joan Rivers when The Broadway League announced that they would not dim the marquees to honor Rivers.
After the hashtag reached trending status, theatre owners began to announce that they would dim their marquees, and the League followed — releasing an official statement saying that all Broadway theatres would dim their marquees to honor Rivers.
"The #Dim4Joan [movement] is probably the proudest moment, as far as what can happen in a very short amount of time on social media to evoke something positive," Briedis tells Playbilll.com. Another proud moment "would be generating conversation and engagement among Equity members about concerns within [the union] — or, rather, to talk about what they want from their union."
His most recent blog post, RIP: Workshops. WTF is a Lab?, caught fire this weekend, with performers such as Tony winner Kelli O'Hara, Leslie Odom, Jr., Phillipa Soo, Steven Pasquale, Joshua Henry and Julia Murney tweeting it out to and asking their followers to educate themselves.
"And, if there was funny thing [I was proud of]," he says, "I really loved that 'Room Where It Happened' tweet. That was a big accomplishment for me, especially since I don't know Hamilton at all." (For the record, Briedis has yet to see the blockbuster musical and will not listen to a bit of its score before buying a ticket.)
I wonder if Lin-Manuel's mom introduces herself as, "the womb where it happened.""You might be wondering, 'Why reveal your identity now?'" he writes in his blog. "While it's no mistake that this was all carefully planned months ago with such close proximity to the release date of my second book, (there's actually a mostly honest 20,000 word semi-autobiography that defines my identity hidden in its 'choose-your-own-adventure' format) the real reason I felt it was time to end the anonymous aspect of Annoying Actor Friend is because I believe that has run its course. Everything I have ever done as this character has been founded upon calculated social media experimentation — and when the timing is right, those experiments take flight. I could feel a cultural shift within social media during the past year not unlike the one that drove me to create the account in the first place, and it led me to believe that for me, this is the right time. Annoying Actor Friend takes a surprising amount of focus to run, and I'd like to redirect my attention to elevating other things I have written (and the many more things I want to write) but I look forward to finding a way to reinvent it. While some people might be upset because they strongly think that the reason my activism works is due to the power in my anonymity, to that I say, 'If this community needs an 'anonymous crusader' to ignite and drive conversation, then there is a much bigger problem.'
— AnnoyingActorFriend (@Actor_Friend) November 4, 2015
"Ultimately, it was always imperative to me that everyone eventually knew who I am (and more importantly who I am not) so I can show that you don't need to be what people expect (or want) you to be, to get something done for yourself. There has never been a more accessible time in history to make your own thing than right now, and you can do it without anyone telling you, 'no.' Most importantly: You don't need to live your childhood dream, if you're led to another one."
For more, visit his website at AnnoyingActorFriend.com/Andrew-Briedis.