When Actors Get Angry

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Ever have a moment of insanity? An uncharacteristic outburst? A derogatory diatribe? A fit of rage? A tear? A tantrum? A ‘too-far-over-the-line’? Just once? For a fleeting moment? When you lost all civility – for whatever reason – and anger kidnapped your soul? I have. And if you’re honest with yourself, you know your answer.

I’m deeply ashamed of the times I let rage carry me away like a rip-tide current. Instead of smartly swimming to safety I caused a splashing furor that in each case drowned my sensibility, maturity and reputation. I won’t divulge the whens and wheres. I will admit that thankfully the unflattering occurrences of my words whipping at others happened more in my youth and early adulthood than presently. But that does not make me immune to a rare infection of a disorder that often results in an injured relationship (emotionally, not physically).

Why this purge of past putrid? Why divulge? Because, warranted or not, you’ve been listening to me. And that’s scary; for me. I’m not a sage. No genius. No marvel. Hence why on the first page of ACTING: Make It Your Business I write, “Everything I say is right. Everything I say is wrong.” But since you’re here with me – listening — let me remind you what you already know; temper your temper.

Immediate reactionary anger serves no one well; not even a soldier in combat. True he/she may save his/her own life. But whatever their action of anger in reaction to the stimuli that brought rage someone or something was destroyed. Even if it was an enemy combatant or the soldier’s soul in remorse for taking a life; there’s a loss that someone must mourn.

When we let anger consume us in its fireball of furry we lessen our worth to the world.
Actors encounter many obstacles in their career. Rejection. Job-insecurity. Job-market shrinkage. Overwhelming growth in numbers of peer-competition. Paltry paychecks.
Performance politics. Argumentative associates. Like the barricades in Les Miserables these career momentum-stoppers grow to unsightly behemoth barriers that are difficult to traverse and pass successfully. And each time an actor encounters a new barrier along the journey frustrations build. Rational sensibility begins to simmer and boil like water heated upon a stove-top in a covered pot. As the pressure for release of trapped steam rises inside the silver steel saucepan the lid rattles, pulses and jimmies. There’s a promise of an explosive overflow. Just as a chef controls the temperature, reducing the heat under a covered-pot near boil, so too must you take control of the rise to mounting pressure that can cause you a messy overflow. Act with reason while acting your craft before reacting with rage.

A fellow thespian taps your shoulder to give you a note on your performance? Thank them kindly, then softly remind that notes from fellow actors onstage may be good with intent but are bad form in execution. (Restrain your urge to pin them on the floor putting tweezers to their nose hair.)

A director rebuffs your reading? Don’t chide, deride or Diva-dive-bomb. Calmly ask for guidance. Discuss the differences.

Think you were jilted on a job opportunity by your representation? Engage with reason and bring treason to rage.

And if you’re seduced by the passionate wailing siren of rage; reflect and apologize. I have and probably will again. There’s no shame in being humane. There’s absence of glory for being inhumane.

My Best,

Paul Russell's career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. He is the author of "ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor." For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.