Forget the so-called “competition.” Focus on a stronger you! The first step is finding a reputable class. The proof is in the pudding. Are those actors working? Auditing is essential to see if it’s the right fit for you.
If you end up in a class in which the teacher makes you feel “less than” or horrible about yourself, or believes that making you cry about your personal life is key to good acting—find another class. People don’t treat you like that on set. Actors should be given wings, not weights.
If you’re asked to get naked, in the guise of it being good for your vulnerability, please run. Being naked in public has nothing to do with craft or growth as an actor.
You must feel safe enough in class to explore, to ask questions without being made to feel stupid. Class should be about you, not the teacher. You’re there to grow, not to please or praise the teacher. Ego is the great killer of creativity.
If you’re interested in TV and film, find a class that encourages working on screenplays, pilots, and sides. Plays are wonderfully important, but TV and film material can be a bit more difficult. Characters are often not as fleshed out as in plays.
Use your past to create a character, and you are forced to draw on a finite set of experiences. Use your imagination, and you draw from an infinite well of experiences. Revisiting our own pain can cause several things to happen in a scene: anticipation, resistance, and focusing on life events and not the life of the character. On set, take after take, revisiting old pain will often shut you down emotionally. The memories are just too painful to re-experience. Or the repetition of an experience desensitizes you to the pain, and you now eagerly search for the next tragedy. Search for tragedy, and it finds you. We all have emotions. How we access them is the key. It is not necessary to be a tragic human being to be an artist. It is necessary to be healthy in mind and body.
Commit to having a vast amount of discipline (set yourself apart by working on your craft longer and harder than the next guy), perseverance (walk into every audition room prepped and ready), and fortitude (if you didn’t book this time, there’s always another audition). Choose excellence. Vow to practice it consistently, and excellence becomes habit.
In your journey, there may be one character you play or one line you utter that will touch someone’s life in a profound way. People whose names you will never know. What a gift that is. What a gift you are.
Warner Loughlin coaches Oscar, Emmy, and Tony winners and nominees, including Amy Adams, Ryan Reynolds, Zooey Deschanel, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Matt Bomer. www.warnerloughlin.com.