I am saddened when I meet young, talented actors who have spent their childhoods working and achieving success, and all too soon they are no longer “booking” jobs. What happened? Along with the necessity to continue their acting, voice, and movement training, they must stay engaged in the world around them. Too often they neglect to find inspiration in the world around them in pursuit of the holy grail of a “job”—be it a film role, a guest spot, or a series regular job.
As an actor, you have a serious responsibility to communicate part of a story and to bring it to life for an audience by revealing the point of view of your character through behavior as well as text. In order to do that, you must have a larger view of the world and your place in it, as well as the drive to tell an emotional story. You may say to yourself, “How can I be inspired by my one line on NCIS?” You have to expose yourself to more than just show business. Immerse yourself in all the arts: painting, literature, music, dance, etc. Visit LACMA or the Met on a regular basis, and learn the joys of being quiet and contemplating art at a leisurely pace. Shut off your iPhones, iPads, and other devices and allow your senses to be surrounded by the world of the subway, bus, or city street. Visit beaches and forests, read poetry, paint, take photographs, and do anything that allows you to explore your creativity while being immersed in the riches of cultures, past and present. Look at the world as a visitor or an anthropologist. It is so easy to get caught in the minutiae of daily life and lose perspective that your one line is part of a bigger story that reflects the culture of the U.S. in 2013 through the eyes of a Hollywood writer.
Make a pact with yourself that you will always devote a portion of your day to reading a great book, visiting The Getty, or attending a concert or opera. Download the “This American Life” podcast and research how people view their lives in their own words. These are acts that will nurture you as an artist and keep your spirit alive as you race around in traffic, sit for hours in waiting rooms, and face the inevitable rejection. Actors who are evolving and growing as human beings and nurture themselves as artists inspire all of us to be our best selves. When meeting the young James Franco and the young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I was impressed that they always came with a book in the waiting room. They didn’t socialize or spend time texting but were quietly reading something of value.
Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” deals with the exhibitionism of our culture. One of the points she makes is that the most creative people need to spend time by themselves. Actors often have a great need to socialize. Rehearsals and classes are inherently social activities and satisfy that urge. The real “homework” of the actor—absorbing the script by reading it multiple times; researching the author, time period, and references in the script; reading first hand accounts that relate to your character’s experience—is time spent alone. And it’s just as important to allow yourself time to daydream on your given circumstances. Fueled by understanding of the culture through the arts and politics, you can find your way into the life of your character. Investing in this process of discovery is what will inspire you as an artist to be your most authentic self with something of value to share with the world.
Donna Morong is a respected casting director with more than 25 years in the business. She spent 15 years at The Walt Disney Company ultimately becoming senior vice president of motion picture casting in the feature film division, where she cast films such as “The Princess Diaries,” “Shanghai Knights," “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Deuce Bigolo,” “Annapolis,” and “Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen.” In 2008, she won an Artios Award for casting Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” for Miramax, which earned an Academy Award Nomination for Amy Ryan. Her ability to spot talent helped launch many successful careers including Heath Ledger, Jennifer Garner, Chris Pine, Rachel McAdams, Anne Hathaway, and Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Ms. Morong began her career in casting in New York City working on original Broadway productions including “Hurly Burly,” “Biloxi Blues,” and “Brighton Beach Memoirs." She cast productions for Yale Repertory and Second Stage, while concurrently running a successful studio for young actors on Theatre Row.
After her career at Disney, Morong decided to launch her own casting company where she has been working on independent and studio films in Europe and the U.S. Her dream as a teenager of building a studio of like-minded artists is being realized with the opening of the Aquila Morong Studio in Hollywood. She is passionate about nurturing actors’ talent and uses her years as a casting director, as well as her training, to aid the actor in realizing their talents through technique and training.