Reese Witherspoon is a speed-reader; it’s a skill that’s come in handy for her in more ways than one. She often reads a book every two days while searching for candidates for Reese’s Book Club, the monthly list she curates highlighting recent works from female authors.
Speed-reading has also been useful in her acting career, both in terms of parsing scripts and memorizing lines. On an episode of Smartless—an interview podcast hosted by fellow actors Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes—Witherspoon broke down her process for memorizing lines.
“It takes me three runs,” she explained. “I have to read it the night before, then during hair and makeup; then, I have to say it alone in a quiet space. And then for the rehearsal, I have to hold [the sides] in my hand.”
The hosts sounded off on their own methods. Bateman and Arnett both said that they can memorize a page of dialogue before beginning rehearsal. Meanwhile, Hayes explained that he needs to “make a choice” about a line before committing it to memory. There’s one thing that all four actors agreed on: Flexibility is vital.
“I worked with this actor once, and he just couldn’t [ad-lib],” Witherspoon recalled. “You gotta just be loose, you know? Because stuff gets really stuck and not funny. After take three, it’s just not funny anymore. And if I didn’t say the last written line—he literally only knew my last word—so if I didn’t say the word, he wouldn’t remember his line. I thought, He’s not listening to me.”
However, Witherspoon said that she doesn’t ad-lib much for her Emmy-nominated performance on Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show” because the series has “such great dialogue.” She added that working with acting greats like Jennifer Aniston and Martin Short elevates any script.
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