Of Tears and Blood
Exploring the Raw Truths of the Creative Process
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Keegan Allen



Sequoia National Park, CA

Keegan Allen is an actor, photographer, and author. He played the role of Toby in the hit series "Pretty Little Liars," and is the author of two best-selling books. After bold performances in feature films such as "King Cobra" and "No Escape"—also known internationally as "Follow Me"—he is now starring as Liam Walker in "Walker," the Texas Ranger reboot on the CW. Join Keegan Allen and host Nicholas Ryan Howard in their hike through the snow, deep in Sequoia National Park.

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A quick note: The episode you are about to hear was recorded when the world was, frankly, quite different. For more context, please refer to the first episode of this podcast, the preface. And, a small disclaimer that this episode contains a few curse words. Nothing crazy, but I thought I’d let you know. Thanks, and enjoy the show.


This is "Of Tears and Blood," where we explore the raw truths of the creative process. I'm Nicholas Ryan Howard.

A calm permeates the forest, draping itself across the trees, rocks, and hillsides. The wind is docile with a delicate repose, only stirring in scattered moments... a gentle giant laying in slumber. Any predators in residence here—bears, foxes, wolverines—all seem to be off duty, and the more fragile woodland creatures are tucked away in their nests and shelters, cozied up on this lazy winter's day. The sky is a flat white, blanketed by stoic clouds which betray no hints of changing their demeanor any time soon.

In short, the perfect conditions to climb a mountain.

Interviewee Bio

Keegan Allen is an actor, photographer, and author. He played the role of Toby in the hit Freeform television series Pretty Little Liars, and is the author of two best-selling books life.love.beauty. and Hollywood: Photos and Stories from Foreverland. After bold performances in feature films such as King Cobra and the acclaimed thriller No Escape—also known internationally as Follow Me—he is now starring as Liam Walker in Walker, the Texas Ranger reboot on the CW alongside Jared Padalecki.

Keegan and I have found ourselves deep in the Sequoias, a place infinitely special to him. It's a place his family has held sacred, a place where he has conquered major fears, and a place where he often turns to for shelter from the chaos of city life.

Our feet repeatedly sink into soft, powdered snow as we take in the vastness of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the sweeping views of rugged wilderness. His energy feels steadfast and reassuring, but yet, somehow, genuinely curious. His camera is always at the ready, the metaphoric third companion on our journey, never not promising memories of this day with each audible click of the shutter. The earthtones of Keegan's camouflage mountain trappings are in jarring contrast to my all-black ensemble… he, more trusting of the day, and I, more familiar with the night. Two beings who appear so different, but at our core, share a bonding similarity… for we both embrace an unwavering commitment to creativity.

Join us now, on our hike through the snow.


Nicholas Ryan Howard: Testing Testing

Keegan Allen:  Testing Testing, Wow. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: That’s it. Allright

Keegan Allen:  Incredible. Currently, right now, we are walking through slush, and mud, and snow. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha

Keegan Allen:  Look at all these by the way. All these piles here

Nicholas Ryan Howard: What is it?

Keegan Allen:  When that big fire came through here. All the forest service came through here. And then they put these little teepees up. I look at it as great firewood. Look at this!

Nicholas Ryan Howard: What is that?

Keegan Allen:  They look like yucca plants. I’ll take a photo and send it to you. (Camera shutter)

Nicholas Ryan Howard: That is a really cool photo.

Keegan Allen:  That is nuts. That’s like something that shouldn’t be here. Now It’s a very alien to this terrain huh. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: I think the secret of taking good photos is follow behind a photographer and every picture he takes, take one. So let me ask you a question. Here’s my question, like, as an actor..

Keegan Allen:  Hm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Who is very in tune with a character

Keegan Allen:  Mmmhmmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And you get a script like that, that’s like, it’s a meal, I mean it’s like, it gives you a lot of stuff, but it’s not what you had envisioned for the character, 

Keegan Allen:  Mm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: What’s your, what’s your reaction to that? Is it like, because you do have ownership, part ownership

Keegan Allen:  Yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right so what happens when you

Keegan Allen:  You think you do, right?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: So what happens

Keegan Allen:  They put that illusion out there, but realistically you have no real control. I think the person that has a lot of the control is the editor, and the director. The actor sometimes, I’ve noticed for me, as being an actor is you are reading someone else’s vision, putting on someone else’s shoes, and trying your best to find a singularity...in, in that moment. In that universe. That, that will trick people into not just believing that that it’s all reality, but being there with you in that reality. And, it’s difficult sometimes when you’re served, sometimes very very quickly, you’re like Hey. They’re like hey you gotta figure this out ah tomorrow. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right.

Keegan Allen:  Or, you know. I have. I’ve always tried to approach things from a perspective of what am I capable of? Because anybody is capable of anything. At anytime, under the right circumstances and truthfully we are all connected as humans by not that many steps away from each other 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hm

Keegan Allen:  So it's like what can I lend in my personal life to what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced, what I might think I’ve experienced, and how I would react in reality. Cause you could say to yourself a million times, if  I exist , if something like this, like this happened quote, unquote 

this, this metaphorically this happened I would react this way. And then it happens, and then you would be like  a totally different experience.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mm

Keegan Allen:  So I think you  finding yourself in a place where the very thing that forces you to create is a ball and chain that holds you back

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Uh huh

Keegan Allen:  And sometimes you just have to power through it and figure it out in a way that does service to you ultimately. That makes you feel like you’re.c.Cause here’s the other part of it. And you probably understand this. When you write a book, you have a copy editor.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah.

Keegan Allen:  And sometimes you do need someone to put rails down in front of you.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: RIght.

Keegan Allen:  And track with you. Cause you could be on a ...you could have a case of the zoomies and go right over something you miss

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right,  Yeah

Keegan Allen:  And it's good to have, you know, that’s why having a great director and a great producer and a great writer and a great stage team 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mm hmm

Keegan Allen:  It really helps in that creative process where you don’t feel like you’re feel so all alone.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right. Yeah, like a , the big joke is like um, your editor is always right.and oftentimes the process is looking at it, and you look at it, and you say “that is wrong, there is no way that’s correct.”

Keegan Allen:  Mmmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: That is insane. What do they know about this? I know about this. I know about this character. They don’t know this character. My editor is not worth a damn and I can’t wait to fire them tomorrow.

Keegan Allen:  You getting something out right now? Haha

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha

Keegan Allen:  You can scream as loud as you want here too. Hahaha

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahaha. And then you wake up the next day, and you’re like “oh that’s actually pretty good.”

Keegan Allen:  Mmmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Is it the same process?Like, do you go home the next day and marinate on it and be like, Oh that was actually an interesting choice, or is it like it depends

Keegan Allen:  Absolutely, no I think you, in the heat of the moment sometimes when you feel like you have all the answers, sometimes you do need to step away.

And that’s the other thing that’s so interesting about being a creative person that has so many people that are not essentially dictating what you do next but really I mean you can’t be an actor just singular by yourself. You have to have a stage, you have to have an audience

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmhmm

Keegan Allen:  You have to have a purpose to perform something.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  There has to be a...there has to be something underlying, even if it’s just for you. It feels like to have someone else there as a safety net , not so you don’t make a fool of yourself, more so that you don’t..so that you’re doing service to what originally you signed up for.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  And yeah, I agree with what you’re saying, I’ve gone through it so many times where I think I know best because I’m the one that’s living it

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  I’m like hey, I’m out there, doing this, you don’t know what it’s like

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha 

Keegan Allen:  Hahahaha, and then I step back and I’m like ...oh, they were right.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah it’s like...I’m laughing right now because what’s coming to me is like I’m super particular right . I write (sigh), I write books because I am the author.

Keegan Allen:  Mmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And yes there’s an editor, but I choose that editor and

Sounds of Birds wings flapping

Keegan Allen:  Wow, oh that is a beautiful...Sorry to...what is that?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: What bird was that?

Keegan Allen:  See if only I was a real ornithologist 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahaha. 

Keegan Allen:  That is a massive woodpecker

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Oh my god that thing was huge

Keegan Allen:  Yeah that was really big

Sounds of being out of breath

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Wow

Keegan Allen:  Wow, that was exciting

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha. Like a like a

Keegan Allen:  Sorry

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Like a jet buzzing the tower

Keegan Allen:  yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: That was a maverick of woodpeckers

Keegan Allen:  Ooh that was a big bird

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Ummm

Keegan Allen:  So if you were an editor?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: So I (hahaha) so I report to myself, right?? I’m the author, but even when 

I’m the author, see here’s what’s interesting, what’s coming to me is like how many authors are involved in what you do , right?

Keegan Allen:  Uh huh

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right, because you have the writer

Keegan Allen:  Uh, huh

Nicholas Ryan Howard: You have the director, showrunners, you have you as the performer, and you have the audience. 

Keegan Allen:  And you have the studio too

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And the studio

Keegan Allen:  The studio is the big swinging dick of the whole thing . You can have all of the people on that team agree, and then the studio will come in and go , “yeah I don’t see it” and it’s nixed. It’s nixed so fast that you don’t even have a second to have any retort at all. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmhhmm

Keegan Allen:  Um yeah . so you have all these people and uh it’s tough, it’s tough. You have a billion, you have a billion authors and one storyteller (haha)

Nicholas Ryan Howard: and I think there’s a, there’s an author that um that is, that plays an interesting wildcard role which is the audience , right?

Keegan Allen:  Mmm. Mmmhmmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: So, so there’s a, there’s a  um authorship in the consciousness of the audience as well. 

Keegan Allen:  Mmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: The audience does have a voice, right?

Keegan Allen:  Mmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: You can see what’s trending, you can see what’s popular, you can 

Keegan Allen:  Yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Create

Keegan Allen:  Now more than ever

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right

Keegan Allen:  Twitter. People come ...they can be faceless, nameless, anonymous and fully let you have it 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah, yeah

Keegan Allen:  Or, celebrate and protect

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Uh huh

Keegan Allen:  So, so you get this. You get this almost like. It’s very lucky when things... when every gear turns correctly.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Uh huh

Keegan Allen:  And audience then joins that that cog 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmhmm

Keegan Allen:  They put their cog in and everything spins. And you know honestly, they talk about an audience being a  viewer. I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for the audience. A lot of my re-occurring work as an actor has been because of the fanbases. Has been because there is a majority of people that has been like, you know what, I’m ok with this person

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  And They let,  they let the studios know. They went online and championed “in” 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmhmm

Keegan Allen:  What they wanted. So yeah it’s a very powerful, sometimes it;s the anonymous viewer that’s the one person can change, can change everything 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And what does that feel like, like when , when you read the script and see a left turn. And do you have like, what do you feel for the audience, that you know it was going to like

Keegan Allen:  Gosh man there was you know  I.... There’s been a couple  of that those times, where I read something and I was just so excited but just so frightened about trying to spoonfeed something that feels like a nuclear bomb to somebody. And by that somebody I mean you know viewers, millions of viewers and what that hive mind can turn into. And I’ve been part of the hive mind on the other side of this

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  where someone has I’ve never thought of something and I read something and I’m like Oh! Now suddenly I’m part of this army?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Uh huh

Keegan Allen:  And I believe as well. So. Yeah. It feels sometimes really scary. And also because being an actor, mostly it deals vulnerabilities and like being the like minority of the population that’s ok with being vulnerable outward. You know. This is pretty.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha

Keegan Allen:  Hahaha

Nicholas Ryan Howard: I had to stop because this is like breathtaking 

Keegan Allen:  Yeah dude it is really so pretty. I love this, this view here. I wonder if I can picture stop. Actually no, I’m going to put this on. (Camera shutter sounds then unintelligible word). Over the last two years you know I’ve really kind of stepped back and wanted to kind of find a bit more of myself though... I guess like things that scared me. I didn’t understand why I was so afraid of them

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Ok

Keegan Allen:  and trying to find myself so that I can..it’s weird...it’s like you find as an artist I find that what I’m what works for me is that I need to find myself before I can eliminate myself. It’s like an audiophile will put speakers into a room and they’ll pay the most money so that the speakers will disappear. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right

Keegan Allen:  Because they want to just hear the music

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Uh huh

Keegan Allen:  And I just want to hear the music of myself. I don’t want to know. I need to know, but I need to know who I am before I can before I can experience that. And I think you know being part of that that show and being in the spotlight for at such a young age, just running head on into something. I didn't’ really take the time to go like ok, so I have you know a fear of the forest that I need to go through. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  As I’m walking through the forest

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Haha

Keegan Allen:  And I want to explore that. And I want to explore photography. And I want to explore all these other things.(Camera shutter) Auditioning and you’re put into a room. It’s very static. Sometimes -  very cold. THe atmosphere is very uninviting. And even if the ..the casting directors or producers or directors or whoever's in there wants you to do well, the completion of what it is to succeed in it is like as ethereal as if I’d try to explain what something looked like to you that you ‘ve never seen. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  You’re trying to find a character with all these people that have different viewpoints and it’s like the age old thing that like we can see the same thing but it will look totally different to each of us

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  So you are walking into this room trying to paint out your version of something and hopefully it lands in to what their buckets, originally wanted, or you show them something new, or you show them someone that they want to work with or it can be as very simple or very complex but it’s like  such a game a chance. For a long time that really turned me off to the whole system

Nicholas Ryan Howard: yeah

Keegan Allen:  Because it felt flawed. It didn’t feel creative. It felt like there was too much against the creativity and there was not enough for the like personality of each character. You didn’t really get like that much to work with. Did that make any sense?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: It does. I mean what’s conjuring in my brain right now is this visual of like the people thater in the room , there’s the director, showrunner, producers, casting, and huh, when you said that there’s buckets, I imagine that each of them have their own bucket

Keegan Allen:  Uh huh

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And you’re like just trying to find one particular hoop show that will land in all of the buckets

Keegan Allen:  Yeah. It’s a carny game

Nicholas Ryan Howard: It’s a carnival game

Keegan Allen:  Yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And that sounds like a massive challenge 

Keegan Allen:  Mmm mhmmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: That it sounds like now you are embracing the like other version of it which is put a blindfold on and turn backwards and throw it

Keegan Allen:  Correct

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Throw it back over your head

Keegan Allen:  Yes

Nicholas Ryan Howard: If it hits you’re like….I’m fucking made to do this

Keegan Allen:  Yes 

Nicholas Ryan Howard:Llook at how easy that was

Keegan Allen:  correct. You nailed exactly what I was going to say. It’s that it shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t be. Because carnival games are set to lose. Like you can’t win them.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Wow. Yeah.

Keegan Allen:  You only win them when you’re not trying to win. (laughs) Every carnival game i’ve ever won was because I was not trying to win. I was just trying to have fun. Anyway. This is where I saw a bear one time. It was so cool. Don’t worry we’re fine. They’re sleeping. Um. And I used to come here and shoot guns with my dad.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: I’m not afraid because I look like a bear.

Keegan Allen:  Amazing. I know right. They’d just be like “hey dude. Sup dude?” Yeah look at that.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Let’s find a place to sit for a minute.

Keegan Allen: Yeah. I’m into that. Yeah yeah yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: I need a break

Keegan Allen:  It’s so crazy coming back over here with you now in 2020 and I came up here as a kid so many times and just all of the time. And I just sat here and looked out. Like.. wondered where I’d be in ten years and I’m back here in the same place. Isn’t that wild? But I just feel different when I’m here. Wow. Those two stumps may have our name on them. Oh yeah look at that. It says Nick and Keegan right here. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: heh heh heh


Welcome back to the show.

As Keegan and I traverse the mountainside, the air has become thinner, and breathing has become more difficult. The irony isn't lost on us, that as with most endeavors, the higher one ascends, the more challenging the journey often becomes. Let's jump back in, as we delve deeper into the woods, both externally, and internally.


Keegan Allen:  God

Nicholas Ryan Howard: This is so beautiful.

Keegan Allen:  Special

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Heh

Keegan Allen:  So special

Sounds of breathing

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right right right. Ready to rock. 

Keegan Allen:  Hell yeah. Alright. Are we going?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: You’ve got some snow on your beard.

Keegan Allen:  I do. Amazing. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahaha

Keegan Allen:  Ha. I love it.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: It’ll melt and it’ll be a nice refreshing treat. 

Keegan Allen:  A little dew drop treat

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hehehe. Alright. I have a quick question for you. Talking about that like, overcoming that fear in the audition room

Keegan Allen:  Hmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Like, is fear an essential or import part of the process? Is it necessary? And is it helpful in any way

Keegan Allen:  In my experience, with anything I think fear is an ultimate friend and foe. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Ok

Keegan Allen:  Fear. Fear is just something that just pushes you either away from what you want or toward it. And uh, I feel like in the creative process, for me, is as in any form of creativity, fear is always is always present in some way, shape, or form. Um. And it could be like a small small bit but I’m not talking about excitement. I mean sometimes I’m like.. scared...I was...I used to think..I used to know I was doing it, I was doing a play in new york and I thought I was fearful of going onstage, but it was just excitement. And I didn’t know how to digest that at the time. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  But fear is always part of life. Uh. And creativity. At least at least it’s always been a ...it’s been that easy for me. And...and when (sigh)...it frustrates me when other artists or actors or musicians or people that I look up to -  tell me that they’re fearless...that they have no fear.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: God, I’m with you.

Keegan Allen:  God that me feel so...It feels like I’m not part of the club.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right

Keegan Allen:  And it’s not fair because I know for a fact that’s not true.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: yeah

Keegan Allen:  It’s... They’re not. I mean unless they’re like machines then that’s fine...but they’re not...and they’re human and they’re lying because their egos are getting involved and being like “i’m not gonna let you on on what my process is because it’ll, it’ll I’m then my value goes down as an artist. And I don’t think a lot of people talk about that they’re scared of doing things. And sometimes those things are successful and sometimes they’re not. But yeah. (Sigh). It drives me crazy.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha. I mean I’ve always found without fail that like on the other side of that fear is the things you’re looking for or maybe not the things you’re looking for but the thing that you needed. Right in that moment. And um, and it feels like you’re discrediting the courage involved in taking a risk to do this particular thing that is out of the ordinary.

Keegan Allen:  Mmmhmmm. Yeah, it’s all risk. It’s risk with sometimes no reward. There's no reward sometimes. And I think that’s a lot of my fear. I...I have found that my biggest fears are linked to very ...the most... the most basic instinctual roots in my life. Like very, very simple fears that turn into completely like almost like the most complex web and then you get to the root of it and you’re like oh? That’s what...that’s that fear.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  I mean we’ve gone through this over the years of me calling you and being like “Nick you don’t understand how deep and complex this web of fear is”

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right

Keegan Allen:  And you’re like alright..let’s go through or let’s deduce through or let's delineate between what the fear you’re encountering is and what you’re experiencing and what that leads to and all this stuff and when we get down to the basics. You dig down deep enough and you find this little tiny spring and it’s this basic fear of like “I’m scared of being alone. I’m scared of..of not being good enough. I’m scared ...” I mean everyone experiences it on some level and if you don’t, then you’re a robot. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  There's just no way. I mean even if you’re not a creative person..I’ve found I’ve found  a lot uh, I’ve found a lot of people have opened up to me that are not in the creative realm...I mean everybody’s a creator in their own way and right but I mean as far as artists that are like “hey I’m gonna go make something and that’s my career!” Um a lot of people that are in different walks of life and different career paths have the same fears that sometimes take the wheel a little bit too abruptly and stop them from doing something they really wanted to do and pushed them down a path so long that they never revisit it. SO yeah I think fear has a huge role in ...in creation and  and.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Can you tell me what you meant by friend or foe?

Keegan Allen:  Yeah. Fear drives sometimes... drives me in a prog...in a way that gives me progression and has an authority over me of like “I don;t want to fail at this because if I fail at this... the failure... the seed that i am planting as failure is the fruit that I have to eat tomorrow. And I do not wanna eat that tomorrow.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  I’d rather (birds wings flapping) Oh that’s the same place. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah we keep bothering him,he’s like

Keegan Allen:  This poor bird is like dude what is this going on right here

Nicholas Ryan Howard: We just interrupted his meditation

Keegan Allen:  He was in a deep state. Fear drives the wheel with authority sometimes, letting me know that as much as I’m stifled, as much as I don’t feel productive, as much as I’m not in the mood or whatever...it’s like the mentor but I don’t want but I need.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Haha ok

Keegan Allen:  Yelling at me and telling me hey if you don’t do this, no one's gonna do it for you. And I’ve realized a lot of things that I really want to do also there’s another side of it ...of like the angels and demons on your shoulder...not in a religious sense, just in a realistic sense of there’s a good and a bad form of fear. There's a fear that drives us in a positive way, and there's a fear that drives us in a brutal way.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah.

Keegan Allen:  And uh, that brutal fear is, is in the banal man. That’s where it’s the spookiest. That’s where you get yourself into these grooves and then you look up and five years have gone by and you didn’t do what you wanted to do because you were too scared.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right. Right. What does fear normally say?

Keegan Allen:  Oh man, that’s the, that’s the like crack in the fear

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Oh yeah?

Keegan Allen:  In the deepest pit of all of us that voice of like “you'll..it’ll never be good enough. It’’ll never live up to what you...what you wanted it to be.”

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah.

Keegan Allen:  Look at this little creek. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: It’s a little stream.

Keegan Allen:  It’s a little spring (sounds of water running) ...Yeah.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: I love that sound

Keegan Allen:  Yeah me too. It’s almost like asmr for people who are listening. I feel like we should go dunk our heads in the stream so that people that are driving in their cars on the 405 or are sitting in a taxi or an uber in New York or in the middle of Kansas City can experience the splendors. What were we talking about? Banality?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Ok, so I have a...a...here’s my next question like: that fear, that like, darkest dark side of that fear...that fucking voice. That voice that tells you (sigh) the things... that tells you “you’re not good enough…”

Keegan Allen:  Mmhmmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: “you can’t do this”...

Keegan Allen:  uh huh

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Whatever it may say…

Keegan Allen:  Mmhmmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: What’s the secret? How do you get past that voice? Is it...And is it, like... the phrase that again that triggers me is conquering your inner fear.

Keegan Allen:  Mmhmm mmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Is it? Is it conquering? Is it slaying your fears? Is it defeating your fear or is it negotiation?

Keegan Allen:  Mmmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: What is the approach that you like to take.

Keegan Allen:  Uh huh. I look at it like as if I’m having fun then I’ve proven my point to whatever that voice is that it was wrong.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Aww...that’s good.

Keegan Allen:  You know, if I , if I’m having a blast...so it could be the voice tells me you’re not good enough to be a jazz pianist. And I’m like, hey you know what? Maybe I’m not. If I sit down at the piano for a couple of hours a day and I pick up on a song by Bill Evans that I really love like Peace or I start listening to John Coltraine and I go oh I’m just gonna play a little bit along here, and I get into a groove or a flow and I’m in it...then my fear is like...”oh...like oops.”

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha

Keegan Allen:   And then that’s it, and it’s done and you move on. And then it doesn’t quite exist as hard the next time. Then the next time I bring that as evidence to the table, so to speak, in the negotiation, in the talk, in the debate...whatever it is with that fear. And I go yeah. But, like when I created Life. Love. Beauty. When I went and got my journals and all my pictures and all my stuff and I went to one of the biggest editors in the world at St. Martin’s Press and I sat in the Flat Iron building with all these extremely creative people that I look up to so much, and just had the the upmost reverence for...the projects that they’ve greenlit, the books that I’d read that they had that really were conceptions with them and the author at some point...they were the ones that were almost like these deities to me. And I went to them and my fear was like…”I’m not...this is insane - I’m not good enough to bring any of this stuff forward.” And then I sat down with all my stuff and was like: God I’m having so much fun. Like, this is fun for me.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah yeah yeah

Keegan Allen:  I’m having a blast, and suddenly those fears of not being good enough are like , like no one's gonna read this. It just went away because I had so much fun. That’s I mean, that’s just , and I know that sounds really weird and almost like a weak answer in a way, like clearly you can not vanquish fear by fun alone...but I feel like as in some points in my life I have.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah.

Keegan Allen:  That like, my fear of going into the woods was absolutely going into to the woods was absolutely vanquished because I started to have a lot of fun...in the woods.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  Walking around the forest. Finding the pleasant, uh, the pleasant nature of nature. Finding that recharge. I just eventually was having so much fun I forgot I was afraid.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah. It’s like you always (sigh) the fear is always what you’re telling yourself about the situation and...

Keegan Allen:  Yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And the buildup...and when you’re there...the experience is always different.

Keegan Allen:  Correct

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Like the truth is ...but it’s the simple thing. The simple truth is when you’re in that room and when you’re showing them your work that you're proud of and that you've had powerful experiences creating. Sharing that is a joyous part of the process and a fun part of the process.

Keegan Allen:  Yeah because you’re not spending any energy on the what ifs, you’re spending all the energy on the creation of it. You don’t have any...there's no investment in the outcome of what your life is going to look like with this job. It’s all about like, “aww man. I had so much fun doing this thing today. Period.” And that’s that. And me saying all this now. I’m like why can’t I take my own advice sometimes.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha. Right, right, right, right.

Keegan Allen:  I’m sure that it’s very difficult for someone who is ...so for me sometimes I’ve found myself and before I ever did anything in  my career...I was just a student that had you know a huge mountain to climb in front of me of like what am I gonna do with my life. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do. I mean I was selling cars. I was a salesman. I was working in as at a furniture store. I didn’t have any kind of clear vision. And I, my father had a really..I mean talk about far...he had a really different view of the entertainment industry that really um rubbed off on me in a way, that I would walk around with a chip on my shoulder before anything even happened. And be like, well this is you know, this is a difficult business, clearly. And instead of the art behind it, there was all this ..his lifetime of whatever it was fears, regrets, upset, his goals were never reached, and I realized that a lot of its ...because if you put out an expectation and you don’t reach it, that’s way more heartbreaking then being like hey I wonder what’s gonna happen. And there’s like...I’m not saying not to set goals, but like to put out there that you’re enjoying the process of it is... we talked about this earlier. The journey sometimes is the worst part.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Heh. Yeah.

Keegan Allen: Okay

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Oh yeah

Keegan Allen:  Yeah. Like. they’re like you said “enjoy the journey, it’s the best chapter, It’s a great time in your life cause you’re gonna look back on it. Well sometimes it’s not that way. It’s really difficult and it doesn't ever get, like, easier. Success just warrants new avenues of stress sometimes, and fatigue and you...you have to learn how to do different...the same things in different ways. And innovate and recreate yourself and rejuvenate certain parts of yourself and as you age you become less proficient in one thing and more proficient in another. Your understandings change. All these things shift. And I saw that happen in my father’s, um, in his autumn years

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  And as an artist...and he was amazing...when he was in his zone..man you couldn’t look away from him... when he was on stage. I saw him onstage do the jumping fool and he was so spectacular. He had just...he disappeared as my dad. I couldn't see him as the man that I saw at home. He was gone. He completely disappeared into this character. And I knew that I wanted to be an actor after I saw that performance but I knew after I saw that that any time that he was speaking poorly about the business or his career or any kind of venom toward whatever his goals were that he didn;t realize...whatever it was...I looked at it as more of a a challenge to find joy

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  And I still am trying to find joy in it

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  Cause there are times when I really have so much fun and that fear is gone.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah 

Keegan Allen:  In those times.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah. Um. I’m gonna I ask you a question. Something that like really intrigued me in what you just said. There's this stigma right so if you're open to going there with this...you said that with that level of success with that level of fame comes its own challenges...new challenges. And I think theres this misunderstanding that when you reach a certain leve -  whether you be an actor or a painter or a poet or a craftsman, whatever it may be, when you reach a certain level of your performance or your craft that it's like ok, you've hit, somehow you've hit some milestone and now it should be easy

Keegan Allen:  Heh. Right

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Or put it another way, now you've hit the moment where you're blessed and now it’s not hard for you anymore. Like we just assume it’s not hard for Keegan.

Keegan Allen:  Mmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right. 

Keegan Allen:  Mmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Because why would it be why should it be? but the truth is quite different.

Keegan Allen:  Heh. It gets harder

Nicholas Ryan Howard: It gets harder.

Keegan Allen:  Hahaha Because you have to maintain. It’s like working out. Like if you want. For example this is a good way to kind of piece it together that I saw firsthand. I was really addicted to eating ramen for most of 2015 and 2016 and got to 227 pounds.,,,just to give you an idea I’m 162 pounds right now. I’ve been going to the gym everyday to keep myself in shape. I don’t eat any refined sugars or processed foods. But back then I was eating tons of cupcakes at cupcake ATMs in the middle of the night

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha

Keegan Allen:  I was eating pastries in the morning. Sugary lattes... all kinds of stuff just cause I enjoyed it. There's a... there's a moment where you think ok I lost all that weight I’m now at a functioning... I’m a piece of steel...I’m a calisthenic god ...I can lift my bodyweight ...double my bodyweight...I can bench press. That’s all fine and dandy. If you stop going to the gym for one week...you have to maintain that. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right

Keegan Allen:  And that’s those are muscles you never maintained for long periods of time - and it’s exhausting. Consistency is exhausting and nobody ever understands that especially within the business. Well if you’re working too much - well we never see you you’re working too much. Family, friends...other actors - oh my god you’re always working. And you’re like yeah, and I’m so happy about it, but sometimes you’re miserable. You know him I won’t bring up his name

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  But he’s working every day and there are days when he's just completely miserable because he feels like his life’s being robbed from him , but he’s doing really well, very successful career...doing exactly what he wants, but the maintenance of his personal life is gone. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  But it’s like you have to maintain that and the moment you lose that, it’s very hard to pick that back up again.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Right

Keegan Allen:  It’s not just like eating a cookie and going off your diet. It’s like starting from less than square one. So yeah ...it’s it’s harder when you are in the blessed position

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah and I hear you- and also like what’s coming forward for me right now is like I think there's this misunderstanding about why we do it. Like why do you do it, right? And like why do I sit in a dark candle lit room night after night writing epic tales or writing poetry or creating a podcast like this? Right, like...

Keegan Allen:  Mmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: I don’t do it because I want to, I don't do it because it’s like this conscious choice. I do it because I have to

Keegan Allen:  I have to. Yeah I was just gonna say that.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Is that your experience?

Keegan Allen:  I was like hope like you were gonna say why do you do it, and I was going to say because I have to

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Haha

Keegan Allen:  There's not a, there’s not one part of me that would give it up

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  As much struggle and strain and stifled terrible moments and just full blown depression and loss (sigh) the feeling of loss on a daily basis when you get so close to a project or when you get a project and it doesn't work out exactly as you've planned or you have to move away and shoot something in another country or another state  and your life’s uprooted. I would never give any of this up

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  Cause you’re given this ...this life and for some reason this sort of abuse resonates with you. Hahaha

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahahaha

Keegan Allen:  I’m just kidding . It’s not abuse of when it’s...it’s really hard to go into a flow with anything um but when you get there it is..there's nothing else like it

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen:  It’s like navigating down this slippery mountain that we're going down right now. 

We’re at the point of scrambling down right now

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah that’s like a fascinating coincidence that we are in the most challenging terrain of this whole walk while having a conversation about the most challenging terrain

Keegan Allen:  It does really run hand in hand

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Heh

Keegan Allen:  I mean like yeah definitely I’ve sat back and been like why do I do this? Why does anybody even do this? Like what is it about being a creative?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: (Snow sound) Oof

Keegan Allen:  You actually - you did it! You fell graceful though

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Heh! It’s years of snowboarding

Keegan Allen:  I’m really impressed

Nicholas Ryan Howard: No no I’m well trained

Keegan Allen:  Are you ok?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Oh yeah yeah

Keegan Allen:  It looked like a soft nice fall

Nicholas Ryan Howard: I mean I’m very well trained - like tuck your elbows in, clench your fists so you don’t sprain your wrists

Keegan Allen:  It’s a whole safety

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And land on your bottom

Keegan Allen:  Did you just plan to do that to see what it felt like? Haha

Nicholas Ryan Howard: totally

Keegan Allen:  Hahahaha. But I do .. I do... I do um. We talk at length about all this stuff on so many different occasions. There's so much that goes into each of our, our avenues of creativity. Aw fuck here we go. Might as well just fuckin’ sit on our ass and slide down.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha

Keegan Allen:  This is another doozy, this is, that’s a, there’s a good metaphor in here too. You think as you’re climbing up a brutal hill that coming down it will be easier

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Hahaha

Keegan Allen:  And that’s the time that you fall.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: ...As I again And land on my ass

Keegan Allen:  Oh let me help.. .oh you got it

Nicholas Ryan Howard: It’s nice, soft cushiony snow. You have to fall at least once so I don't feel insecure

Keegan Allen:  Oh dude I’ll make you feel a lot better...I’ve fallen in the most mundane situations around the house. Like pratfall, like real falls to where if there was another person around,  they would pick up their phone like they’re oh I’m gonna call...are you gonna have to go to the ER? 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Heh

Keegan Allen:  Just on flatland because I’m such a klutz. Oh were going through a forest here. Look how we did it. We did this right. It’s all dark soon. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Perfect

Keegan Allen:  We really did the timing on this correct

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Oh man

Keegan Allen:  I’m surprised. We did a really good hike there.


As night crept upon us and as the wind began to awaken from its daytime slumber, we found ourselves safely back at our cabin shelter. The forest was true to its word; no storm had come for us, and we expressed gratitude for the safe journey up a mountain and back down again as we kicked the snow from our boots and hung our wet layers by the fire to dry.

Our bodies may have been exhausted, but our spirits were soaring. We felt there was more ground to cover, but our next journey would not be to the top of a mountain. Rather, it would be to the bottom of a bottle of tequila. You’re invited to join Keegan and I for Part Two of our conversation where we explore the tears of joy, the tears of sadness, the blood of pain, and the blood of passion that he has poured into his art and his creations.

See you for the next episode.


A huge thank you to my guest, Keegan Allen. And a very special thanks to Joanie Allen.

Before you go, I have a question for you. Are you feeling stuck creatively? Do you feel trapped and can’t seem to break through into the realms that you dream of? If so… I get it. I really do. We’ve all been there.

But… maybe I can help. Here’s what I suggest. Drop me a line by going to oftearsandblood.com/sharing. Feel free to vent, express yourself, or ask questions directly to me, and I’ll do my best to get back to you with some guidance, or words of support. It is always my pleasure to be of service to those in need.

Again, that link is oftearsandblood.com/sharing. I hope to hear from you soon.

And now, some acknowledgements:

Music is by Glitbiter. You can hear more, including the full theme song to this show, at Glitbiter.com

Cover art portrait by Madena Koybaeva. To see more of her work, follow @madena.art on Instagram.

The producers for this episode have been Perri Cohn and Rosa Nadine Xochimilco Gevaux.

Special thanks to Infected Logic, and also to SabineTek. The interview you heard was recorded using their SmartMike+ wireless microphones.

Sound engineering by Karen Yee.

For more about the show, please visit OfTearsAndBLood.com, or follow @OfTearsAndBlood on social media.

You can learn more about me by following @NicholasRyanH on social media, or by going to NicholasRyanH.com. 

Thank you again for listening, and thank you if you’re spreading the word about the show. Every time you tell a friend about it, it means so much to me, you have no idea.

This has been "Of Tears and Blood." Created by Nicholas Ryan Howard.