No, I don’t want to hear about the recent breakthrough you made in your incredible acting class. You know, the one that “changed your life.”
Actors, as a breed, have a reputation of being a bit, well, self-involved. There are some good reasons for it, to be certain. We have to think about ourselves a lot. We have to measure and evaluate our feelings, gauge our marketability, bring our innermost sensitivities into the open air for all to see. No other art more fully relies on the exploration of the self—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—to create. Still, that doesn’t excuse you from playing nice with others, from being polite and showing a genuine interest in the people and places around you.
Self-involved actors are missing out on the very material they need to grow their craft. Actors must synthesize what they see in the world, pulling inspiration from daily life and repurposing it into dynamic performances on stage or screen. That doesn’t mean just focusing on dramatic events or exciting people. Small, mundane, but truthful details can transform a character. Without the influences of “real life,” an actor quickly becomes a boring performer, as well as a boring person.
Marlon Brando said, “An actor’s a guy who, if you ain’t talking about him, he ain’t listening.” Don’t be that guy.
Jackie Apodaca is an associate professor and the head of performance at Southern Oregon University.