Stephen Collins doesn’t consider himself a great actor.
He’ll tell you he’s a good actor, and maybe even better than most, but he lacks a key ingredient — he’s kept every job he’s ever had.
“I’ve never been fired, and I don’t consider that a great accomplishment,” Collins said.
Collins, best known for playing quintessential TV dad Eric Camden on the long-running WB series “7th Heaven,” said great actors sometimes get fired because they have to play parts their own way. Collins is far too accommodating for that, he said last week at the Skirvin Hilton in Oklahoma City.
Collins was in town to speak at Heritage Hall’s high school graduation last week. Heritage Hall headmaster Guy Bramble attended Amherst College with Collins, and pitched the gig to him at their 40th reunion.
The failure of great people is an insight Collins wanted to share in his speech, he said.
“I wish there had been a course in high school or college on failure and how not to take it personally,” Collins said. “It’s not to be avoided, not to be feared and not to be distracted by.”
That kind of failure is common in the entertainment industry, where the environment is often shifting. The times have changed on network television since “7th Heaven” ended its 11-season run in 2007, Collins said. The audience may still be there for a family-centric program, but programmers and writers aren’t as interested.
“Writers want to make everything edgier and darker and weirder,” Collins said.
Now, Collins is still hoping for the late-career highlight of being fired from an acting job, but he’s also keeping busy in other areas.
Collins also is a guitarist and songwriter, a novelist and a playwright. He’s released two albums and two novels and is currently working on a third novel.
“I love writing,” Collins said, his eyes closing with a deep excitement. “I just really love it.”
Writing provides a distraction to wondering when the next acting job will come along, he said.
“When I started writing, I really didn’t care if the phone would ring,” he said.
Developing skills in a number of different areas has helped him become a jack of at least a few trades — a lesson Collins learned early in his acting career.
One of his first films was Billy Wilder’s “Fedora” in the late ’70s, and he played a younger version of Oscar-winner William Holden’s character. They never interacted on the set, but one day, Holden invited Collins to his expansive hotel suite.
Holden told him that Wilder liked him, and felt he would have a successful career. Holden had just one piece of advice.
“He said, ‘Outside interests. You’ve got to have outside interests,’ ” Collins said.
For Collins, those interests range from playing live music events to educating his nearly 3,000 Twitter followers on proper grammar. Tweeting from @_StephenCollins, he routinely offers grammar quizzes and grotesquely twisted sentences for followers to correct, and he’ll hear from anxious fans when he fails to keep them coming.
Chalk it up to the 9th grade English teacher mind who resides alongside the kindly father and rock musician personas. Collins may not think of himself as a great actor, but make no mistake — his grammar is impeccable.