We now live in a world where the majority of acting (and music for that matter or “insert here”) has been relegated to being solely a popularity contest. A recent article came out stating that Hollywood was now casting 7% based on talent and the rest based on “how popular you are” on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the like. Don’t get me wrong, the entertainment business has always been about money but before social media, you would have to admit that, for the most part, anyone who was big on TV, Film, Theater, Radio had to actually be talented and work their “craft” before they could be taken seriously. I mean, there were no Kardashians because there was no outlet for them. Music? forget it… you played your instruments, you sang your songs… people wrote “songs” with melodies and inspiring lyrics not “beats” with repetitive samples… We had Jimmy Hendrix and Billy Joel NOT Kanye West and Auto Tune… but I digress.
This blog is about acting. I’m so tired of hearing, “less is more”, “just be”, “don’t DO anything”, “throw the line away”, “just say what’s on the page”, “just listen and respond.” There can be no other art form that is taken less seriously than acting. I can’t think of one. I mean, painters and sculptors aren’t told to “just paint”…. singers (for the most part) aren’t told to “just sing the notes on the page”… dancers aren’t told to “don’t over do it.”
As an actor who has also taught the “craft,” or at least attempted to, over the course of fifteen years to various ages, I realize that only about 7-10% of actors are actually good at what they do and only 2% are actually great (and I might be exaggerating). However, it becomes increasingly infuriating to hear other instructors and actors talk in a manner that relegates what I studied the better part of my teens and twenties to “just learn the lines and listen.” Would you all please give me a break?!? What happened to an actor preparing, creating a character and building a role? Where are you, Stanislavsky, Uta… anyone???
Nope. Let’s just take an hour a week class and a few crash weekend courses taught by a casting director and all call ourselves actors, shall we!?! Why not? I mean, I’m sure that’s what Meryl Streep did? Gary Oldman? Al Pacino? Daniel Day Lewis? Yup. That’s what they do… just learn those lines and listen like hell! Character choices? Being interesting? Unique? Larger than life? Nah… let’s all just be normal pedestrian people. Cuz that’s what I want to see when I go to the movies, theater and watch TV. Just a bunch of normal people talking to each other in a normal way. Sign me up for that.
As a comic actor, I really want to play a bunch of fart jokes, witty repartee, pop culture references and work with people who think they’re funny just bounce around doing two hours of college humor. Perfect! Steve Martin? Peter Sellars? Martin Short? Who are they? That’s what they did, right?
Are any of the actors I mentioned, any less “real” because they make bold character choices? Are they “unbelievable” OR are there actually real people out there in our “normal” daily lives who are indeed larger than life, crazy, fascinating, different, bold, over the top? I have met a lot of people like that in my life. They have scared me, made me walk on the other side of the street, made me want to leave the room, annoyed me, made me angry because they were loud, opinionated, weird, maniacal, fantastical, physically awkward, unintelligible and more… BUT, they were ALL interesting and fascinating and sometimes, they were the only people that I wanted to talk to or hang with.
As an actor, that’s who I want to create! Yes, will they seem over the top at times? Of course. Doesn’t the weirdo who talks with a raspy voice, hunches over and talks to himself in the subway seem “over the top?” However, to him, he’s as normal as you and I. He doesn’t know. To him, it’s all REALITY! I’m not speaking about having to “pretend” to be someone else? I’m talking about finding those big bold differences and finding them within YOU. Stretching yourself and your emotional boundaries, your vocal boundaries, your physical boundaries and embodying those characteristics to become this other being… that comes from within. To bring those characteristics to life in a truthful and believable way.
That’s who I want to give an audience when they pay $8.50-$150.00 to come and see me perform. I want to give them an interesting story told by interesting characters who are not normal everyday people. Why would I want to write or create normalcy?!? If we, as actors, want to be taken seriously and really make an impact with our work, make it memorable… we need to stop believing in, “just say it” and “just be” and actually come to the realization that, perhaps… “I may not be where I need to be as an artist.” Maybe I need to break down and get back to learning, practicing and expanding because, the hard part is not the “theory of everything” it’s the “execution of everything.” It’s difficult to do what our great actors do… it’s draining and exhausting. But, it’s a responsibility that they gladly take up.
There’s a reason why our business is saturated with “actors.” The reason is because the majority of what the lay person is watching IS easy. Anyone can do it. Anyone can memorize those lines and deliver a “normal” performance and look “pretty” and “handsome” doing it. A few of my recent projects were filled with it. If that’s all that we do, then yes, anyone that is intelligent, well spoken and put together can be an actor. There are so many of those. I won’t name names. However, there are not many of the ones that I mentioned prior. Think about it.
Even after 25 years of study and professional work. I’m still learning and growing as an actor and as a writer! BUT, I strive to create something memorable with every story that I tell. That’s all I ever want to do. I want to be the 2%. Otherwise, why do it? What’s the point?
So, if you disagree with my opinion or think I’m pretentious, that’s totally cool. But if you do agree, here’s hoping the person who disagrees gets out of the way for the rest of us so that perhaps, one day, the “craft of acting” is taken seriously.
Thanks for reading and I apologize if I offended anyone but, it is my blog, after all. 🙂