I recently read Bryan Cranston’s ‘A Life in Parts’. The dude knows his stuff (obviously). Go read the book!
Here are a few of the great pieces of advice for actors that I pulled out for future pondering:
When you first start out in the business, you have to expend a lot of energy. Hustling isn’t complicated. How much energy you put out dictates how much heat you generate.
You can teach someone how to drive a car or throw a fastball, but it’s hard to teach someone to let go.
The best teacher is experience.
Finding love is about being open, letting someone see you as you really are – not some fascimile of what you think someone wants.
He cries, he laughs, he kills, he hits all the emotional notes. If he didn’t hit his mark, it was worthless. He wasn’t lit properly. Or he was out of focus.
It was important for the actor to speak loudly enough so the sound could pick up what he was saying but softly enough to maintain intimacy if intimacy was required… private but detectable.
On camera, when you walk into a room in your own home, you must know where the light switch is. You can’t need to look. Or else it’s a lie, which is like giving the audience a pinch of poison… if your character has a longtime girlfriend and you’re tentative or formal with her, touching her as if she’s someone you just met Another pinch.
Wallace Stevens wrote, “The imperfect is our paradise.”
This whole business is a confidence game. If you believe it, they’ll believe it. If you don’t believe it, neither will they… I don’t feel entirely comfortable hiring someone who doesn’t emit confidence… Confidence is king… actors need to have an arrogance about them. Not in public or in their private lives, but when they work. Actors have to have that drive, that instinct that says: this role is mine.
When I started getting a lot of guest-star roles, I’d make postcards and send them to casting directors to alert them. Watch Bryan Cranston in Matlock this week! Don’t miss Bryan Cranston’s guest turn as Tom Logan in Baywatch! Tune in to Amazon Women on the Moon for a special treat: Bryan Cranston stars as Paramedic #3. I knew 99 percent wouldn’t watch, but they would see my name. They would see my face. And they would get the message, even if only on a subliminal level. This guy works a lot.
You’re acting. You have to have some boundaries. You have to look out for your fellow actors. When someone gets hurt on the set, it spoils everything. The fun you’re having, creating – if someone gets hurt, it all goes away.
Jerry (Seinfeld) had a rule about jokes: If you’re in the group, you can make the joke. If you’re not in the group, steer clear.
It’s more important to have a dream than to achieve a dream.
If you want to be a successful actor, mental toughness is essential. Lay your whole self-worth on getting the role, on the illusion of validaton, before long you’re left angry, resentful, and jealous. You’re doomed.
I focus on process rather than outcome. I wasn’t going to the audition to get anything: a job or money or validation. I wasn’t going to compete with the other guys. I was going to give something. I wasn’t there to get a job. I was there to do a job. Simple as that… my job was to focus on character. My job was to be interesting. My job was to be compelling. Take some chances. Serve the text. Enjoy the process.
And this wasn’t some semantic sleight of hand, it wasn’t some subtle form of barter or gamesmanship. There was to be no predicting or manipulating, no thinking of the outcome. Outcome was irrelevant. I couldn’t afford any longer to approach my work as a means to an end.
Once I made the switch, I was no longer a supplicant. I had power in any room I walked into. Which meant I could relax. I was free.
I learned to take control of the room. If I felt the scene called for the two characters to be standing, I might ask the casting director to please get up.
I’d learned that if a character wasn’t in the script, I had to infer it or imagine it. I had to take it on myself to build it.
An actor needs a core quality or essence for a character. Everything rises from there.
Character is both formed and revealed when we are tested, when we are forced to make decisions under pressure. That test can either make us stronger or it can highlight our weaknesses and crack us into pieces.
Difficult (actors) and creatively engaged (actors) are not the same. Having an engaged, invested cast and crew comes through on a molecular level.
As an actor, you have to be able to endure repetition without losing emotion or energy. You’re hysterical? Do it again. You’re experiencing the most piercing loss? Do it again. And again. How to be honest and true and feel all of those feelings on command? Then repeat? You just do. To get through, to communicate, to move your audience regardless of the problems, that’s the job.
How he decides on a role (weighted in this order): Story first, then Text, then Role, then Director, then Cast/Misc, then Time. Of course, every now and then, an offer comes up that’s too good to refuse.
It’s okay to be afraid. Being afraid can actually be a sign you’re doing something worthwhile. If I’m considering a role and it makes me nervous, but I can’t stop thinking about it – that’s often a good indication I’m onto something important.
I think you run a tremendous risk of getting complacent if you don’t keep looking for changes. You should never be too at ease on stage. Get too rehearsed, too relaxed, you lose focus and slip into autopilot, and then you’re not listening… some actors panic; some assimilate mistakes and correct course. If you’re paying attention, if you’re present, more often than not you can rise to the occasion… you have to be open and present and willing to adapt. If you tell me a play is locked at opening night and there’s no room for exploration or change, I’d say I’m probably not the best actor for your play… every performance needs to have its intimacy, its difference.