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 fireside in a cozy cabin in Sequoia National Park.

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Just a quick note: The episode you are about to hear was recorded at another time, back when the world was so very different. For more context, please refer to the first episode of this podcast, the preface. And, I thought you should know that this episode contains a few curse words. Tequila will do that. 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.

Flames float across the kindling and melt into the air above. Encompassed in a weathered fireplace that has seen its fair share of winters, these flickering lights—this graceful interplay of kinetic forces—they radiate a bold and nourishing heat. The soft crackles of the firewood accompany the soothing sounds of distilled spirits splashing into the bottoms of crystalline glasses; a smoky, delicious treat that Keegan and I have gifted ourselves after having traversed the snowy Sequoia mountainsides.

Interviewee Bio

In part one of our conversation, we got to know Keegan Allen the actor, who famously starred in the hit television series Pretty Little Liars, who now plays Liam Walker in Walker, the Texas Ranger reboot on the CW and who took bold turns in feature films such as King Cobra and No Escape—also known as Follow Me for international audiences. But, despite his reputation as a performer, he is most assuredly a photographer at his core. Two best-selling books, life.love.beauty. and Hollywood: Photos and Stories from Foreverland, showcase his visual acumen, and he has shot many actors, models, and public figures for both private and public exhibition, as well as for magazines and publications. Before Keegan departs to begin shooting the Walker, he has invited me to spend some time with him here in the forest.

Tonight, we find ourselves squirreled away in a wooden cabin, nowhere near the hustle, and nowhere near the bustle of the entertainment industry. Though very much a Hollywood insider, when the director calls cut and the cameras stop rolling, something shifts, and Keegan craves the hillsides, the mountains, and the ponderosas. It's fascinating to me that he has learned to navigate the unpredictable wild that is Hollywood, and yet, in his off time, he throws himself into a different wilderness, a literal wilderness. And, truth be told, as someone who himself has seen first hand how vicious Hollywood can be, I'm not sure which world is more dangerous.

But for now, we are safe. We settle into our armchairs, we gaze upon the dance of the flames, we clink our glasses in a toast, and we begin the second part of our conversation.

Please join us.

Grab a glass of your favorite drink, nestle into your comfiest chair, and come warm yourself by the fire. We're grateful for your company.


Nicholas Ryan Howard: Cheers

Keegan Allen: Cheers. What a great studio

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahahaha

Keegan Allen: Cheers

Keegan Allen: Couldn’t get better, like, right by the fire, it’s like amazing

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Alright so something I did want to talk to you about. You know, are you a performer that’s a photographer or a photographer that’s a performer?

Keegan Allen: I’m just a guy that likes to take pictures at the end of the day. I’m just a person that really like something sparked in me at a very very young age that my communication was through images

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mm

Keegan Allen: I loved to be included and the way I felt the most rewarded by myself. Like I could be alone in a room doing nothing at all but looking at my photos because they brought me comfort. I loved atmospheric photography. I loved looking at a photo and feeling something from it. And sometimes I would find that within myself. That was a big thing for me growing up...Is I would go to school with my book of photos. And I would go up to people and be like, can I show you my photos? Like for real, I was like, it was like my instagram, I’d go up to people and be like hey can I show you my photos? They'd be like oh that’s cool. I’d be like yeah what does that mean to you, what does that look like to you? They’d be like I don’t know, it looks like this or that. And I’d be so fixated on what they thought it was too because everybody had a different answer for what they thought or what they experienced from it. Photography is like, it is like, it’s like a fine wine, or like a great cuban cigar, or a um a great bottle of scotch, it’s something that with time it gets so much better.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmm

Keegan Allen: That’s why I think I’m fixated on always making sure that not only I have the correct gear, the correct camera with me...and people are always say the same - like the best camera is the one you have with you.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahahah

Keegan Allen: That’s very true, but you tell a story with the gear that you choose. My favorite thing on earth, ok, of all time, and you’re gonna be like what??? 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahah

Keegan Allen: This is so out of left field. My favorite thing to do - I get sucked into watching camera review videos.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmmhmm

Keegan Allen: Of all the damn things I could do with my time

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmhmm

Keegan Allen: I will watch a camera review video. Fifty of them. Sixty of them. A week. Sometimes I watch the same ones over and over again.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmhmm

Keegan Allen: And they bring out... Showcasing a piece of gear...they bring out like these amazing photos that they’re not really that keen on and they’re just like oh the dynamic range is really really great here, it looks like it’s...let’s take a look at this photo - and I’m just like so enamored with what people are just snapshotting to show off camera qualities. That it...It’s like mind blowing. It’s like such an inspirational experience

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: And then also when I’ve met people all over the world, you know, the fans, or people that are into photography - they show me their photography. That turns on a whole new realm for me to dive into because it’s...it’s like I would never know to do...to shoot something a certain way until I saw it shot. You know what I mean?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah.

Keegan Allen: And it...it’s like it makes look at things differently and I’m like wow - how could I make this look like this? It’s so fun for me to pick up a camera and go outside or even stay inside and take a photo. And even if it’s a terrible photo - you can show that same photo to someone else and they’re going to have a completely different response. So photography is is like another language.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: But one that anyone with visual alacrity can understand. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Something that you said that just like moved me which was like you said, ‘when I was alone in my room I had my photos.’ There is that part of the creative processor part of like developing your craft that really is alone in your room. 

Keegan Allen: Mmmhmm. Yeah. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And it’s amazing to hear that like you got such great from your photos and your photography. It sounds like it was an oasis.

Keegan Allen: Yeah...a box of glowing slides underneath the bed that sometimes if I wanted to like feel good. It’s like a Hallmark movie for myself that is a like totally...it’s like a guilty pleasure but in the same way I don’t feel guilty because I feel like in the most imperfect circumstances, the most perfect circumstances arise. And ultimately I don’t do photography for anybody else. I do it because I...it’s for me. At the end of the journey of taking a photo or going out like when we went on a walk and I was like taking photos, like I absolutely would share them with you - you were my muse today.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahaha

Keegan Allen: My...the subject of my photography

Nicholas Ryan Howard: haha

Keegan Allen: Wouldn’t be the first time...um...but ultimately...those are for me and it’s interesting now because Instagram has effectively made everybody into a fine art photographer and I mean that. Like, there is someone that in the middle of nowhere that is taking photos and sharing them on a grand scale that be viewed by anybody anytime...such an interesting realm of communication. They are sharing something that will affect someone else, and it’s a form of communication that is just so interesting. To me, it all boils down to a slow boil of communication.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmmhmm

(Sounds of a crackling fire)

Keegan Allen: And sometimes it’s me communicating with myself. This is going to sound really heady and like really lofty, but if you do anything with painting or photography or writing even, sometimes it’s like your inner person kind of communicating with you and you don’t even know it. I look back on photos sometimes that I took in my early teens, in my adolescence, my teen angst years

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmmhmm

Keegan Allen: And it was like how did not I not sit down and go like ‘What? Why didn’t I listen to myself?’ 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmnhmmm

Um..like there’s a reason why I responded to this tree in this angle and the way that it’s shot. It’s just so crazy. It’s like a communication with yourself. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah.

Keegan Allen: And sometimes we never listen to that voice. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: The way you describe it, it’s like the creative process is that inner person

Keegan Allen: mmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Is that how you look at it - it’s like there’s this other creative being inside of you? Or is it more...is it external? To put it another way, like some people are like ‘I’m not a creator, I get it from God. 

Keegan Allen: Yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: He speaks through me’ Some people are like, ‘No It’s all me. I am the...I am the ego. I am the creator. I made this. It sounds like you frame it as like there’s this other person inside of you.

Keegan Allen: Yes. I don’t know know what it is, but I do know that I’m like pushed constantly to do it. And...

Mmm..mmhmmm...Is it an internal push or an external push. Does it feel like something out there is pushing you or is it like something inside of you is pushing yourself?

Keegan Allen: There’s a inner magnet that pulls me...to like a calling somewhere away. It was almost like being indoctrinated. You get this sense, and I remember being clear as day nine years old and my dad had left out his camera and I looked at it and I was just...it was this weird feeling this kinetic grab. And everything around me then felt boring and useless. And this thing was like what is this? Why is this so interesting to me? And it was a thing of beauty and function. And I could have looked at anything else like that. And been like wow, this copper pot looks amazing and beautiful and functional. I want to make copper pots for  life.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahaha

Keegan Allen: But that that didn’t happen. It was like the glass, the flow, everything around it, and the gear. The gear pulled me in and then what was like the cherry on top was my dad took a photo of me in this shaft of light eating an iced cream cone, but I remember it wasn’t anything that great...just like a picture of me standing in a shaft of light. But then he goes wait till you see it developed and you’re going to think it’s priceless, you’re going to flip out. It’s so great. And then a week went by and he developed this and I couldn’t believe that that was me, and that was the light, and that was what was happening.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: I don’t. I did not remember it in this beatific way. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmhmm

Keegan Allen: That he had taken this photo. And that was it. I was like how did you manipulate time and space to make it look that way? Please teach me your ways. Why is it? What is this? And he was like well this, this is contrast. Well this, this is an F-Stop, this controls the shallow of the depth of field. This controls how much light hits the film. You know and the film is also sensitive to certain amounts of light. And all that stuff just  it was like, part of my brain just like cogged and it was oh I get it all, I want it. I need as much information about this as possible and became manic about learning as much as I could about it. I was like, and I’d go to camera repair shops and I’d sit, and I’d watch them and they’d be like what do you want. And I’d be like I just want to see this Cannon E1 or see this Fuji, or what kind of film do you guys, and I’d pick their brain and be so into it. Just to get as much information as I could, in the shortest amount of time possible, so that I could consider myself a photographer.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Okay, okay. And what’s the moment where you felt ‘I am a photographer.’

Keegan Allen: I was...it was right before my tenth birthday. It was in Pennsylvannia. I was outside of the house. It was a really hot, humid day; I mean so humid that my shirt was like sticking to me. And I remember where my dad let me borrow the camera - and it was a really nice camera too, it was a Rangefinder camera. And our neighbor at the time was training his pigeons - just totally normal in this neighborhood.

NicKeegan Allen: hahah

Keegan Allen: But he was training pigeons to race, so they were flying around him.  And he had a starter pistol that he would fire, which was a blank, and then he had a flag, and he would be moving it up and down around it, and it was really interesting to watch. And I had the camera. And I was like oh yeah, that’s right, I remember. The light meter - arrows need to touch- and that means the light is perfect. And that it will capture that moment. I remember picking it up and it was so humid, and I remember the camera so big in my hands...now it’s so tiny in my hands. Oh, I remember the camera was, like, big. It was like holding up a box. And I looked through the viewfinder, and the humidity had fogged up the viewfinder, and the lens was fogged. And So  I remember wiping it, because I was like all drenched. And I picked it up and took that photo, and I was like I wonder how that’s going to turn out .

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmhmm

Keegan Allen: Oh I can’t wait now.  And I remember like my parents were like every photo you take is like a dollar, so like you better like not waste the photo.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: yeah

Keegan Allen: And i’m like okay, so I really got to make sure I do this right. At that time I remember I took like two photos that day. So I was like damn, I have like thirty more exposures I have to do before I can see what this photo looks like. And I cared so much about these photos of my neighbor, training his pigeons. And I remember going and getting them developed and pulling up that contact sheet. And seeing it exactly how I wanted it to look.The full.  And the contrast. And the film. It felt like it was bigger than me. It felt like I didn’t do it. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah. Yeah.

Keegan Allen: I was like so thrilled that it didn’t feel like it was something that I did. That..That was what did it. Like, it was like, heroin man. Like I chase that dragon for a lifetime now. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: And maybe I’ve taken like, realistically, like maybe I’ve taken like six great pictures that I can consider like oh my god I’m so proud of these. Six. and I know Every single photo. That where  I’m like,  these are the photos. That’s what it is. It’s like I saw that, like I couldn’t believe that I took that photo. I couldn’t believe that it was mine. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: It’s so interesting because the moments in my, my creativity, where I’ve felt the most proud of my creations were often the times when I felt just like this nebulous intangible thing that like sometimes you just show up in the right way, and put yourself in the right position. And the only intuition is like pushing that button ..

Keegan Allen: mmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Then sometimes magic can happen. 

Keegan Allen: With photography I find that it..it’s like...for every hundred photos I take I might get like one or two where I’m like that was worth taking the camera out, but then the ninety-eight, I need to throw them out. I can’t look at them. Digital hoarding is at an all time high for me, because I’ll be like well I can’t really throw them out because I could always you know, like,  look back on them, maybe it’ll be worth my time later on to look through this. But you know sometimes when I really hit the nail on the head with a photo or a composition or was in the right place at the right time. And I get the settings right. And it will be like damn I didn’t do this. I did, but, it doesn’t feel like it’s mine. That’s the best feeling sometimes, because then I can kind of justify everything.

As I’m throwing logs into the fire. Actually I should throw a couple in as we’re going to get deep into this conversation.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahaha

Keegan Allen: (sigh) These will be, these will be good...a good raging fire here.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: This tequila is delicious by the way.

Keegan Allen: It’s good right?

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yes.

Keegan Allen: Alright, the fire should be starting. Okay.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: So here’s my questioNicholas Ryan Howard: Is these two concepts that are total opposites...putting in the work and getting lucky. And I’m going to ask this question. And I ask it from a place of total curiosity. Are you a person that got lucky or are you a person that put in the work? There’s a couple of industries that you were fascinated with and you pursued them, and you got to a place where you were able to do that craft professionally and on the public stage. I think there’s this preconceived notion that there’s like, anyone who hits that level got lucky. The thoughts can often be like, oh i can do that too, if I can get lucky enough to. But that said, you were talking about asking classes, you  were talking about the insane amount of time you’ve spent studying people and working your craft with photography, my question is: how much is luck, how much is putting in the work?

Keegan Allen: Luck to me has always been where opportunity meets preparation. And is executed because you did the work. I always looked at what I really wanted to be, and I was like, that’s just who I am. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Ok

Keegan Allen: And it’s coming. And there was not one doubt in my mind that I would be able to have a career in what I really wanted to be which was an artist. I’m not trying to be pretentious in saying like ‘I’m an artist,’ and like that I put in no work and I just got lucky. What happened was that I put in years and years of schooling, years and years of going to different schools, different conservatories, different universities, taking classes, specialized classes, extension classes, night classes, getting diplomas that literally would just warm us right now that I could just burn in this fire that mean nothing…

Nicholas Ryan Howard: hahaha

Keegan Allen: Years of my life that I will like never get back, but very, very fun times. Um, and I put in all this work and there was just a golden ring that came by and I was like, oh, I did all the work. And grabbed it. But I was ready for it. I was ready. I was like man, if there’s an opportunity, I have the work that I put in to offer it. So, when people say like, oh well like he just got lucky. Yeah, there’s definitely those moments. In every walk of life. There’s boxers that get lucky that get that one knockout punch. There’s golfers that got lucky and they, they hit the hole in one. And then never, and their like, handicaps are like 30 handicap for the next time they play, or the boxer gets knocked out the next time. 


Welcome back.

It is around this point that the tequila has done as much heavy lifting as the fire in keeping us warm. We're in a good place—not quite in the realm of overindulgence, but certainly knocking its door. As I speak, I can hear it in my voice… the gentle slurs, the lazy diction… and across from me, Keegan is similarly succumbing to the bliss that comes from a pleasant fire, a view of gently falling snow, and sips of a spicy 100 proof nectar. Like the woodland creatures outside the cabin door, perhaps we too are at our most vulnerable when we're the most comfortable. Will the wolves come for us, as we venture into topics rarely discussed publicly, and we further let our guard down? Perhaps. But we still press on, still unified in our mission to explore the raw truths of the creative process. Together we choose to venture into the darkness, in search of the glimmers of light that guide our way.


Keegan Allen: That was always how I’ve been about photography, and when I did Hollywood, we all have specific perspectives of our surroundings. And we grow up and we forget that like you can walk into a room that you’ve been in a hundred times and you can turn the lights off without looking at the switch. That’s how I felt about Hollywood. I was walking down the streets of Hollywood as a college student, as a high school student, as a kid, and I wanted to walk the streets of Hollywood and showcase people’s souls.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: And...there’s so much sadness. And I was just so enamored by people that were just down on their luck or up on their luck or whatever it was, and gthey were standing on Hollywood Boulevard. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: At the epicenter of the like center of the universe to entertainment world. I’m going to go and pave the streets with my name. I’m going to do this. I’m going to dress up like superman. I’m going to dress up like this person or that person. I’m going to be a different person than who I truly am. I’m going to make people happy and smile. I’m going to bring joy. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmhmm

Keegan Allen: And I loved being able to get just close enough to get them, not the characters. And I remember so many so many photos in that book that really just hit me, like where I was ...I’d take it...and I didn’t even have to see the photo. I knew what it was going to look like. And I’d like walk away and like start crying. Because I was just like so affected by like being that close to someone that I didn’t know but yet i knew them. I was like, like, I knew them. I knew who they were. Because it was like - we felt very connected. It almost felt like me. It felt like me two steps in another direction. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Every photo in that book, it feels like you are in a moment, bringing out their essence, and capturing their soul as opposed to being exploitive. It’s so easy to capture anything in any format that’s exploitive, and that book is magnificent in my opinion because every photo of people from every walk of life doesn’t have a malicious intention behind it. It’s all designed to like bring out something in a person. 

Keegan Allen: Yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: It’s a rarity for somebody to approach subject matter from a place of ‘I want to bring out this part of people,’ as opposed to ‘I want to get something out of them’ that will result in something.

Keegan Allen: mmhmm

Nicholas Ryan Howard: What is the part inside of you that is looking to bring something out of someone? Where does that come from?

Keegan Allen: I know where it comes from. I always had really bad friends growing up. Um, and it’s something that I’m just now understanding, because I have great friends. And I had chosen to, like ,systematically kind of distance myself further and further from friends that were not really friends. That were, they were people that didn’t help me evolve. They really held me back in bad ways, that when I look back on it I’m like wow, I can’t believe I allowed this person so close in my life. Growing up in Hollywood and having bad friends around me, they would look at it like ‘this shithole, this fucking piece of shit. Hey you fucking bum, get a fucking job, you’re not Prince, you’re not Michael Jackson, then get the fuck out of here with your fucking gloves, your sparkly gloves.’ And that bothered me because I didn’t see that. I saw a bunch of people that just wanted to be appreciated. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmm, yeah.

Keegan Allen: And it fucking pissed me off, it just bothered the shit out of me. And it got to the point where I remember being in college and skateboarding through Hollywood with another group of people and they were like ‘this place is so terrible, like everybody just is miserable and, like, they’re all just scammers.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t really see that. I just see a bunch of people that have a dream...and they’re all...they’re all us. Like we’re no different.’ And so, I knew that I didn’t want anything from people except for them to for a moment, not even for like that long, just for a moment, to remove the block that we all put up. Just for one moment to show me who they are. To show me, like, who they are as if I was like a sibling or  a parent or family member or someone that was connected to them. There’s something so special about being in that group because at any time there are new members and there are old members and there’s a community of people that are like I’m just...I just want to be appreciated. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: There’s a validity that comes from somebody behind a camera pointing it at you. You feel valid, you feel seen. Even if only for a brief moment, there is something transcendental about a photographer taking your picture. It really is that moment of somebody sees me or somebody appreciates me that is really this magical experience, and you have this uncanny ability to in a moment say, ‘can I take your picture?’ You do it in a way that’s like...it’s kind and it’s gentle and it’s sweet and like even in a few words, it instills this feeling of trust that like this person wants to create something with me...not create something of me. 

Keegan Allen: RIght. I really love showing people the way that they’re the most beautiful. I love looking at someone and being like ‘that person’s like amazing.’ Regardless of what they are going through or whatever, like in this moment, i ‘see’ them and I’m like I have to take this photo. I have to show them. Like in some way, shape, or form. I have to show how amazing they are.  I really wanted to take the time to show the beauty in everybody’s eyes. And how, when people would look at me, there was trust. There was love. There was so much love. It was like a love fest shooting that book because I was operating at a frequency, eventually I got into this frequency where I wouldn’t get any ‘no’s’. I mean I had like toward the beginning every..some people were just like ‘no you can’t take my picture.’ Then I realized I was coming on, from completely the wrong point of view and that most of it had to do with a simple question of like ‘how are YOU feeling? Like, how are you FEELING?”

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmm

Keegan Allen: “How are you doing? What’s going on?” And you get some wacky stories. Like crazy stuff. But I always remembered that as long as I wasn’t in danger, it was just an interesting moment. An expereince. And uh, everybody, once they realized that I genuinely cared, they let me into their life so intimately, that I was jarred by it. And like I said I would take some photos sometimes and I would walk away, and I would like, almost like, and it sounds really dramatic, but it’s true, I would walk away and start shaking. Or I’d walk away and feel like over, like so much love. Or I’d walk away and like start weeping. And it’s beautiful to be able to see past all of the like filth, and first, and like craziness of Hollywood. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: I think a lot of people miss that. They miss, they like, they don’t see how beautiful it is and I have a fear that one day it will be gone. I really do. I think that this is an era that we’re in, that in twenty or thirty years that just none of that will exist like this. It just will not be like this at all. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: And people will pine for it. And I’m not saying it’s some family friendly walk through the park, I mean Hollywood is weird. But there is a beauty to that weirdness. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: I have four questions.

Keegan Allen: great

(Sound of cracking fire)

Nicholas Ryan Howard: What are the tears of sadness that you’ve shed pursuing your craft?

Keegan Allen: Yeah, I mean, I’ll be real with you man, I like, I cry a lot. You know this. I cry a lot. I feel like quitting all the time. I mean there’s never a day that goes by where you’re like ‘is this right?’ And then you’re like ‘wait, no, it is right.’ And then you’re like...and then something happens and it throws you off course, and then you’re like ‘well if it was right then this wouldn’t happen.’ Here’s a great example of this. It’s like when I was starting out as an actor, and I was going to acting school, I had a really difficult time with a certain scene that we were using as a showcase. And I was having a really hard time. I had a really difficult teacher that was really pushing me in a very strong way, and uh, I didn’t agree with the choices of the character. I thought that it was supposed to be played a different way, and I was really frustrated and I went home and I was like ‘I don’t even want to be an actor anymore, because if I’m doing all this stuff, and then I still have to get an agent and I still have to get a manager, and I still have to do like all this other shit, and I’m worried about this one scene. This is fucking bullshit. I don’t want to do this anymore.’ And I remember like really being upset, like to the point where I was like, I’m not going to do this. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: But like the next day I woke up and I was like, ‘oh shit. I care so much. I care so much that I’m so deeply affected by this little thing...like of course I need to do this. If I didn’t care so much about this scene, this one little tiny scene, like what that is, then I wouldn’t be an actor. If I didn’t care about it this much. If I wasn’t this heated, this angry, this much filled with just “aaaaagggggghhhhh” energy, then like yeah, I wouldn’t be an actor. But I care so much. I have to go and do this scene. I have to finish this. I have to do this.’ It drove me. It’s driven me in every single project. Even when I have disagreements, with you know, management or directors or producers or anyone. I rarely have disagreements wiht people over creative stuff but it really like opens up my mind that like oh I care so deeply about the work.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmm.

Keegan Allen: I care about the outcome so much that it instills in me, like ok, the tears make it real. If that makes sense. And I used to look at it, as like a way of like, as a negative thing, and now I look at it as oh ok I care. And it’s not always negative tears. Sometimes, its really, really happy.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah. So that leads into the next question which is the tears of joy. 

Keegan Allen: The tears of sadness and the tears of joy are so different, but yet there’s like such a fine little piece of thread that separates them. I have felt so many days dude. I’ve just like...you know this I’ve probably called you about this stuff a million times.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: heh

Keegan Allen: There’s just so many days of ‘I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. It’s not right.’ Even with all the successes that I’ve done and I’ve had, and I’ve accomplished things that I’m proud of - and then I’m like - but I don’t want to do it anymore. I can’t. I can’t go on. I can’t do another...I can’t do it again. Those days are terrible. And they’re….everybody has them.  Anybody who is a creator or an artist or someone that like makes something with their heart and soul - they’re going to have terrible fucking - terrible days. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: And then out of those terrible days, those really low lows, you get - like a day of inspiration. Or you have a moment with someone that like they just bring out who you are. And then you’re like ‘fuck yeah, dude!’ Like joy is back.’ I’m back. I’m here. I’m an artist. I’m a creator. I can do it.’ And those days - those are the tears of joy. When you’ve accomplished it. When you set out on the journey and you make that last step over that finish line. And you give yourself that goal that you’ve reached. Or you get the one accolade from someone that you really appreciate and look up to that they, they, they see you. They see YOU. Those...those are the tears of joy. You share these beautiful moments as an artist with the people that you love the most. You share these moments of...they’ve seen you..your friends and family that have supported you. They have seen you at your lowest, so the tears of joy sometimes come out from them, the people around you that love you and support you, just supporting you and being like ‘I told you so.’ And those moments are the those joyful moments of being like ‘I got your back.You’re good. You can do this.’ 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah

Keegan Allen: yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: So the blood that’s shed...the blood of pain and the blood of passion. Let’s start with the blood of pain. Is there a moment that you can recall where it just felt too painful?

Keegan Allen: Mmm. Lots of times. I’ve always found myself in deep caverns, where I’m like, ‘how I fucking get...I was just walking in the sunlight. I just felt great about choosing this career. Why am I back into this like hole? Like what is hap...what happened? Like how did this happen?’ And then you realize that it’s like self-inflicted mostly. Like there’s a reason why and sometimes like the most wonderful things come out the pain and the blood. And like loss. Loss is a big one. A family member passed away once and I couldn’t go to any funeral or anything because I was working. And I remember being like, ‘is it wrong that I’m like so miserable right now at work because I’m supposed to be grieving.’ But, it’s part of the business. You have to show up. You have to show up and do your job. But yeah loss is a big one too. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Okay

Keegan Allen: Yeah. Denial of something.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Mmmhmm

Keegan Allen: When you’re so adamant, and you’ve worked so hard to get something and it just slips right through your fingers. That’s a bloody, that’s a bloody feeling. The business side is blood.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmm. Mmmhmm

Keegan Allen: The business side of, as an artist, as an actor, is blood. Like it’s always blood. There will be blood in business.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmhmm

Keegan Allen: And I think that, obviously it’s great that that that  we have a career in a business-oriented world, but it’s difficult because that business side is not for fragile artists. Or stepping into a like pit of like sharks and eels and all kinds of - and they’re wading through it, like ‘I’m a creative individual.’ Like your’re... It’s so fucked up. There’s so much blood. And it might not be even your own. It’s tough. Like, it’s a tough business. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Yeah, so, the question becomes, in a business that can be so bloody...

Keegan Allen: so bloody

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Where does your passion come from? Tell me about the blood of passion. 

Keegan Allen: The blood of passion comes from striving to do something in the small amount of time that we’re on Earth - that absolutely is so small. It, it’s like the blink of an eye, the lifespans of human beings, for real. And even our lifespans, there’s smaller amount of when we’re capable of doing certain things as artists. I felt like when I was younger, my blood of passion was writing out these, these adolescent nuances of things where I couldn’t even be inside my body. I was just like what is going on. Like why am I feeling this way? And like I’d get my heart broken immediately, like I’d walk out in the street and my heart would break, be broken, because I was so fragile. And I used to hate myself for that. I used to be like why am I so sensitive? Like I’m supposed to be a man. I need to be A MAN. I need to have my masculine energy. I shouldn’t have, I shouldnt’ have my heart break. But, over time, that heart break, or that sadness, or that sorrow, or that inability to fit in, or whatever it was that drove me, it took over in a great way, and that blood was then energizing, because I was like ‘man, I can do this.’ And I’d, even if I had bad days, I could, uh, I could use those bad days...as inspiration for good days. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: yeah

Keegan Allen: And the togetherness of like creating these books was because I knew that out there there was at least one other person...I kept always like envisioning it to be one person, not a million people, one person, that would understand me. And that’s all I cared about...was like that one person will read this and be like, ‘oh I get it.’ And I would be ‘Like yes! Brother or sister, yay, we are in this together!’ What I realized very quickly is that I was so not alone, and uh, that blood really was passion. That, that, like creative drive. It was almost like fire...and to get the opportunity as an actor to do a bunch of different roles that were so intricate or different or tough...it just was...It was wonderful to be part of certain projects - and then also be able to bring my camera along. And Hollywood was a very bloody, passion book.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmm

Keegan Allen: Because I didn’t know how it would be received. And I didn’t know if people would get it. And a lot of people got it. People understood it. And, and it opened up a lot of avenues of creativity and thinking and talking. And the blood that drives our passions. It like pumps in us eternally. It never really goes away. Like, it’s a steam train with an unlimited supply. And uh, you’re the only person that can cut it off. I’ve realized like, I’m the only person that can stop that...

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmhmm

Keegan Allen: stop that train.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: Well I believe this brings us to the end of our time.

Keegan Allen: Yeah, our fire is out. It was great. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: um

Keegan Allen: I loved it man.

Nicholas Ryan Howard: You know, thank you so much for being so candid. The intention of this work is so that people who may be in the process of shedding their tears of sadness, and they’re in their process of shedding their blood of pain...I think your vulnerability and being so candid about that part of this crazy thing that we call the creative experience, or the creative process...I think it’s going to help people realize that they’re not alone. 

Keegan Allen: Yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: That others have certainly gone through this and that out of those tears of sadness and out of that blood of pain can come that joy and that passion. 

Keegan Allen: yeah

Nicholas Ryan Howard: And so I just want to thank you so much for really going there and being honest and open so that others can understand that they’re not alone. 

Keegan Allen: Yeah, they’re not. The last thing I’d want to say is, if I was listening to this podcast, back when I was like just starting out, and like had no idea what I wanted to do but I knew that I wanted to create something 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: mmhmm

Keegan Allen: I would want there to be something out there like this where I could hear that like, yes, you can do it. But it’s at the sacrifice of like...what are you willing to sacrifice? What is it really that you’re willing to sacrifice? And that sounds like a terrifying statement to make because your mind goes to all these places. The reality is that you’re giving yourself to this creation. You’re part of this thing. And just because it’s like you’re not famous, and just because you’re not like understood, or appreciated in the way that you think that you need to be to validate, doesn’t mean that you’re not an artist. If you care about what you’re putting out there and you have passion, even if one person shows up, and they’re, like, moved by it, you’ve done your job. If you’re not being paid for it, that doesn’t make you a loser. You are bringing something. Youre...You’re including you in this project of your life. And that was something that always really irked me when I was growing up, is if I’m not paid, then I’m not doing it and I’m not good enough. And some of my favorite work I’ve ever done was because I’m not paid. I’m just doing it. I’m enjoying my life. I’m enjoying my photography. I’m running around.. I’m in the flow. I’m in the Zen. And I don’t need that to validate me. Sometimes at the end of the day, I just need me to validate me. If you’re listening to this and you’re - you don’t know where to go - just go to yourself...and you’ll find your answers. 

Nicholas Ryan Howard: yeah yeah


Hypnotic orange embers flicker like pulsing star fields. Our fire is out. Our bottle is empty. The forest stillness hints at a peaceful slumber to come, which I give permission to cradle me. For I know the morn will come early, and then I'm back on the road. While I'd love another drink by the fire, another lumberjack-worthy meal and another afternoon feeling the texture of powdery snow beneath my feet, I'm determined to press on in my quest to speak with additional incredible souls, at interesting times, in fascinating places. So, for now I have to say goodbye to my dear friend, and venture on, questing into the unknown.

But before I go… can I admit something to you? It's scary, not knowing where I'll end up next. That much is true. But I have to say it's comforting, knowing you're along for the ride. Thanks for being here with me.


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.