I’m working on my third book right now. My writing partner and I are interviewing working actors. Some are name actors. Others are those whose faces you all recognize but perhaps whose names you wouldn’t know at first. Working actors, just the same. Some have come to “working actor” status through the theatre, others through a hot commercial campaign, still others through a slow rise through the ranks from co-star to guest-star to series regular.
As I’m transcribing the interviews, however, I’m finding one major theme throughout: authenticity.
No matter their background or level of accomplishment as actors, the people we’re interviewing all come around to the fact that it was an authentic moment during an audition, a class, a meeting that somehow provided a career breakthrough. They all seem to have had two lives as actors: the one after that truly authentic moment and all the years of struggle to be what Hollywood was looking for that came before that moment.
So, what does it mean to have authenticity as an actor and how can something so simple as being who you truly are impact your career so positively?
Actors spend so much of their lives being other people, stretching their range of emotions and reactions, keeping their instrument well-tuned and ready for anything. And then they spend so much more of their lives trying to develop a hard shell through which they cannot be hurt in this mythically harsh town that authenticity becomes viewed as a vulnerability. And that’s one thing actors never want showing: the soft underbelly of their craft and their very souls.
I realize I’m describing a paradox that’s tough to live, but as I’m hearing these working actors talk about their ability to just “go in as me” and win role after role, I know it must certainly be possible to strike that balance.
It seems the constant analysis of a talent buyer’s wants or needs is at the root of this issue. When actors try to figure out what the casting directors want, they set themselves up to fail. So often, what we want is for you to show us you’re right for the role. We haven’t come up with a formula and then see actor after actor, dismissing every one who doesn’t match up accordingly. Instead, we have a range of ideas of what might work in a particular role for a certain project and we are inviting you into the room to put your spin on it. We want you to show us what makes that role yours.
Besides, if you’ve come in having done homework on what sort of actor the CD may prefer, how can you also be the kind of actor that the director prefers? Or the producers? The ad execs? And if you tried to come in for an audition with all of those preferences in mind simultaneously, where on Earth is the room for spontaneity? For remembering your lines? For breathing life into the role for those moments you’re in the room? There comes a time when you simply must stop trying to be anything because it’s what they’re looking for and just be who you are, doing the role the way you’ve interpreted it. That way, you’re open for adjustments and direction, you’re showing the room your potential and your take on the material, and most importantly, you don’t leave the room wondering what you could’ve done differently in order to win the role.
You instead leave the room knowing you did what working actors everywhere have learned how to do: be yourself. Your authentic self. That way, it’s never personal when you do not book a role. It wasn’t anything you did or didn’t do in your audition. It’s simply a matter of what they needed at that time: You? Not you? Whatever! When it’s you they need, they’ll know what to expect, once you show them you’re consistently, authentically you.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000112.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.