Actors must understand: you spend all that time preparing so that you can let that preparation go. This sounds like a simple concept, but can take time for an actor to actually master. The attitude of “yeah whatever man” in terms of script analysis or emotional preparation irritates me to no end with actors (and listen, no worries here about my studio and my students because none of them are this type; they wouldn’t be studying with me at NAS if they were). Because the truth of the matter is that all the actors that you love – those guys and gals are preparing. I mean, PREPARING, yo!
Like, Robert Downey Jr. – not necessarily an actor whom I thought I’d be mentioning in MY FIRST EVER BLOG (um, yikes?) – how many times do you think he read My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin to prepare for his role in Chaplin? If you guessed hundreds, you’re right. And if this dude is doing that much work… well, how much work do you think the other great ones are doing?
If we buy into the Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell) hypothesis of 10,000 practice hours to make someone a genius in their field, how the heck are actors going to get there without doing tons of preparation?
So back to doing the prep to eventually let it go. Cate Blanchett put it along the lines of making sure the strings don’t get all tangled up. And, well, she’s pretty good. Actors have to become good at saying goodbye. This is true about the treacherous emotional highwires they have to walk. And it’s true about all the big and small decisions they make about a script, a character, a scene. You do the work to let it go.
And, holy smokes, when an actor really does the work and then they really let it go…. well that’s when the magic happens. That’s when your work finds wings.
More on all this later.
Love the actors in your life more.