So last week I saw a breakdown for a film with several roles that were perfect for me. I’ve done a lot of workshops in my day, so I checked to see if I had met the casting director. I hadn’t. So I decided to see if she was doing any workshops any time soon, and lo and behold, she was doing one that night!
Normally the Actor’s Key is booked weeks in advance, but they just so happened to have a spot open up, so I got in! I had a great dramatic scene in “my back pocket,” and while it had been quite a while since I had looked over it, I decided to use it.
I had an audition at 2:00 that afternoon, so I had to focus on that first. When it was time to prep for the workshop, I was feeling unprepared and disconnected with the material and doubting my decision to even go.
But I sat down for 20 minutes before it started and thought very specifically about my relationship with each character mentioned in the scene, picked some very clear images for everything being discussed, and chose a very specific “moment before.”
I went in there, put all my focus on the reader instead of on my lines, and just “let thoughts happen.”
(Those of you who study with Lesly Kahn know what I mean when I say “thoughts.” For those of you who don’t, it’s basically being so totally in the moment that you are reacting as the character to what the other person is saying. Essentially you are having in-the-moment, real-time “thoughts” that this character would have about whatever was just said or done.)
The last time I had done that scene in a workshop I had totally steered the direction of it: stood up where it said to stand up, knew where I was going to get louder, etc. This time I didn’t follow stage direction. I sorta felt like I wasn’t really doing much of anything. Except tears were streaming down my face by the end of it. I just decided to let whatever happens, happen in the moment. I dared to suck! And it worked!
Towards the very end of my read, I could see the casting director nodding her head, and right when the scene ended, she said, “Phenomenal.”
Well, considering she had been keeping all the other actors before me in there for 15 minutes, I figured surely she would give me some direction and have me do it again. But she just said, “Instant callback.”
Still, I was thinking she was going to give me some redirection… Nope. She said, “I wrote down my e-mail on your evaluation sheet. Have your agent or manager e-mail me tomorrow. I want you to read for one of the leads in this film I’m casting. Seriously great work. I am so glad to be meeting you.” Then she looked at the reader, and said, “Now, have I been saying that to anyone else?” And the reader said, “Hah. No.”
So there you have it. Just think thoughts. Just “dare to suck.”
I’m not writing this to brag about how brilliant I was. I have a long, long way to go and a whole heck of a lot more to learn – as an actor and a human. This was merely a breakthrough moment for me that I wanted to share.
I remember one time Lesly asked us, “How often in your acting do you have completely 100% organic, connected, brilliant, in the moment moments?” or something along those lines. And pretty much everyone was like, “Maaaybe 5% of the time.”
Well, this was one of those rare “5%” moments (which I hope become less rare!)
I am a control freak. I love to control everything. I like to be perfectly memorized, well planned out, blah blah blah… And Lesly usually tells me I did a “fine, polished read.” But she doesn’t usually say it was “phenomenal.”
I am starting to realize that maybe the less I try to control my acting, the better it will be. I’m not going to get anywhere in this town with a fine read. I have to be phenomenal. Every. Time.
‘No matter what, it has to be real, because the camera will always see if you’re not thinking thoughts… the camera notices when you’ve checked out. The camera can see into your soul.” – Al Pacino