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Interview

1 Way Actors Can Become a Director’s Best Friend

1 Way Actors Can Become a Director’s Best Friend
Photo Source: Will Hart/NBC

You know him best as the fan-favorite father and husband-turned-spy Tom Keen on NBC’s “The Blacklist,” but Ryan Eggold has also been whetting his creative appetite behind the camera as the writer, director, editor, and producer of indie rom-com “Literally, Right Before Aaron.” He came by Backstage HQ Sept. 29 to discuss the ins and outs of working on his debut feature film and honing the special skills listed on his résumé: “dancer, professional origami artist, and rainbow-catcher.”

‘Literally, Right Before Aaron’ is inspired by Eggold’s own life.
“A couple of years ago, I wrote a short film called ‘Literally, Right Before Aaron’ that came out of an experience I was having—a breakup of a relationship in my own life. And I needed to get a few things out on the page and made this short and really had a great time. People saw it and really connected to it.... I found out that it was really relatable, which was really cool to discover.”

He was in postproduction for ‘Literally’ while filming ‘The Blacklist.’
“It was hard. In my case, I was shooting the end of Season 3 and then starting Season 4 [of ‘The Blacklist’] at certain points…. [Postproduction] carried into Season 4 shooting. So it was a limited window, but there’s always more you can do before you get to set. [With movies, people] think about being on set and shooting, but it’s so much about preparing for being there so that when you get to set you can try and execute everything you’ve set up.”

READ: Actor-Director Ryan Eggold’s Audition Advice + Behind-the-Scenes of ‘The Blacklist’

His tips for first-day-shooting jitters: ‘Don’t blow it!’
“Don’t ruin everything. [It’s] just millions of dollars resting on your shoulders—no, I’m kidding! I would say just keep your ears open, just listen and pay attention and have fun. And don’t take it too seriously and don’t stress yourself out. Just try to let go a little bit and do what you know how to do.”

As a director, he aims for fluid and natural.
“I did steal a lot from a lot of really great people. So I guess my [directorial] style is ‘thief.’ I tried to steal from Mike Nichols; I tried to steal from Woody Allen; I tried to steal from Noah Baumbach. I tried to steal from a lot of guys that I really appreciate. And gals—Nora Ephron is amazing.... I know that I have a natural proclivity for that very intimate, close, handheld kind of thing. It allows you to get in there with the camera and be fluid and not so static or too designed.”

On how you can make a director’s job easier as an actor.
“It’s always nice when a director says to you, ‘You make my job easier.’ It’s great. There’s so many challenges in production, so anything you can do is helpful. Obviously, be prepared, but that goes without saying.... But be open. I know sometimes as a younger actor, you can kind of get stuck on, ‘This is how I’m going to play it and this is how it has to be and I know best.’ But it’s helpful and can be rewarding to be open to trying to play a scene a different way.”

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