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Secret Agent Man

Have a Merry Christmas

Have a Merry Christmas
I was at Samuel French the other day, laughing at all the bad advice books, when I overheard two actors having a conversation. They were talking about their plans for the holidays. The first guy was going home to see his family. He wanted to kick back and take a week off from the industry. His friend had a different idea. He was going to stick around so he could use his downtime to make career plans for the new year.

Now here's the million-dollar question. All things being equal, who would I rather represent? You're probably thinking the Type A actor who's going to spend the holidays focusing on his career. Well, you're wrong. He sounds like Scrooge to me. There's no way I'd sign that guy. Christmas isn't about headshots and a new demo reel.

Look, I'm the first to tell you that acting might be the hardest career in the world. If you want to be a lawyer, the path is crystal clear. You go to college, study hard, get your degree, buy some nice suits, and the odds are you'll get a job. The rest is up to you and how many hours you put in. That kind of logic can be applied to several rewarding careers, but acting is a different breed of cat. Success isn't always based on talent and hard work. You need to be lucky and have great timing. You have to be at the right place at the right time. There are a million little gremlins you can't control that can make or break your chances of succeeding.

Based on those harsh facts, I don't blame you for thinking I'd want to work with the Type A actor who never stops pushing. But that guy is too focused for his own good. He's ignoring the rest of his life. He doesn't realize that great acting comes from who you are as an individual.

I just saw Sam Rockwell in "Conviction." I didn't really care for the movie, but as always Rockwell was terrific. Now let's say Ed Norton had played the same part. His performance would've been just as good but probably very different. Why? Because these are two talented men who bring their own life experience to every role they play. That's what makes them so damn good.

So as the year winds down, I want all of you to hit the brakes on your acting careers. Trust me. Show business will still be here after Dick Clark rings in the new year. Till then, focus on nurturing yourself as a human being who exists outside of this industry. Do the things that make you happy. Go have some fun. Find the bliss in your life—and when you do, share it with someone else.

The holidays are also the perfect time to do some soul-searching. Have you had a falling out with an old friend? Fix it. Is there something you've always wanted to say to someone? Say it. Have you been thinking about doing some volunteer work? Do it.

A lot of know-it-alls will tell you that the key to success is to spend 100 percent of your time pursuing your goals. To me that sounds like a recipe for disaster. I'm thinking it's more like 50-50. You need to have balance in your life. Don't believe me? Look at it this way: Acting is a very delicate art form that's based on your personal life experience. So how can you be a great actor if you have no life?

Everyone at Secret Agent Man headquarters would like to wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

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