Taking Advantage of a “Career Lull”: Using My Words

What do I have in common with Steve Martin, Tina Fey, James Franco, and Andrew McCarthy? We’re actors who are also writers. You read that correctly, Andrew McCarthy is, in fact, a writer. He’s an award-winning travel writer. Check out some of his stuff on National Geographic Traveler. Now, I’m not talking about actors who all of the sudden want to “write” their memoirs, and get a ghost writer to do it for them. I’m talking about people with actual skills, who do their own writing. As a matter of fact, Tina Fey and Steve Martin actually STARTED OUT as WRITERS. I’m guessing they did it while they were pursuing acting as well, due to the fact that they are in both realms of the industry. Granted, there are those actors who have also written screenplays or stage plays, and blogs,  but that’s a different type of article all together.

I started acting when I was around the age of 8, maybe 9.  But I started making up stories as soon as I could talk. I even had an imaginary friend when I was 5 who I would tell my stories to. Her name was Jinglelyn, and again, I was 5. When I actually learned to read and write, writing took a back seat to performing onstage. I had found my passion for storytelling on stage. And I loved it. It’s my first love. Telling stories, no matter what shape or form, is what I love.

What I find funny now, is the fact that my parents kept giving me journals on my birthdays or Christmas, and I never really used them. I wasn’t really a “dear diary” type of girl anyways. It seemed sort of silly to recount my day on paper. I started writing short stories and plays, and when I got to high school, I helped start up the creative writing club at my all-girls, Catholic high school. I wrote stories, parts of novels I was working on, and seriously wanted to become a writer and an actor when I grew up. I was involved in anything creative. I sang in choirs, acted in the school plays and wrote stories. My English teacher even gave me a writing award my junior year of high school.  When I got to college, I majored in English because I love the element of story-telling, plot and characters. I thought it would help in the acting realm because I was able to learn about the different things that make up a good story. It was sort of like four years of script-analysis. I acted throughout college, even directed. My senior year of college, I got my first headshots and auditioned at my first major theater convention, which led to moving to NYC to study at Circle in the Square Theater School.

Within these past six years, I have been acting and putting writing on the back burner. I got my union cards and even pursued stand-up.  The closest I came to writing, before starting this blog, was stand-up comedy, which I still love because you can create your own material.  I started this blog because I wanted to get back into writing, and I wanted to write something from the perspective of an actor who was going through the ups and downs in their career. Not someone who is washed-up and giving advice. I’m still in the trenches and being in a  career “lull,” I have been writing about what I love. Movies I love, movies I loathe, anything and everything that has to do with the industry, with a unique perspective. It seems like I’m in good company of those who came before me. If you use all of your talents, it can lead to something. What that is, I don’t know. But I am pursuing my writing and my acting. So I guess I can add a back-slash to my job description. I’m a writer/actor. And I’m so glad you are reading my blog. Thanks.

Auditions: The Uncommon Job Interview & Why They Are So Stressful

Auditioning is stressful for both the actors in front of the table, and those who are trying to make the decisions behind it. I rarely go into auditions calmly, and if I am calm, it worries me. Some people are really really good at auditioning, but not necessarily acting. And most actors I know say that they are really bad at auditioning. They are also some of the best actors I have worked with.  Casting directors have a job to do and we as actors need to realize that fact. They have a limited amount of time to pick from the pool of actors who audition for them, and narrow that down to the final few until they have a cast. It doesn’t matter what the project is. It could range from a commercial, to a film or television series, to a stage production. Casting directors HAVE to find a cast. Wow. Talk about stress.

Sometimes, I have walked into a room and felt the disappointment in the air, because I come to the conclusion automatically, that I know I’m not who they are looking for. I can see it on their faces. I can hear it in their tone of voice. It’s as if they are saying, “Why is she here?” “Why is she wasting our time?” Apparently, I’ve heard, that until the character walks into the room, they are unconvinced that they are going to find anyone to fill a particular part. Sometimes, I’m really confident when I go into an audition. But, to be honest, I size up my “competition” before I go in the room and end up psyching myself out because all these things run through my mind like, “I’m not thin/pretty/normal enough” or “I seem really out of place.” I have two minutes to “impress” these people behind the table, but sometimes I can sense, that even before I’ve opened my mouth to speak, I’ve been tossed aside.

It’s odd that in the “real world” a job interview takes into consideration your previous experience, skill set, and whether or not you’re truly qualified for the job. In the acting world, it can come down to simply, “I didn’t fit the character description.” I’ve come to the conclusion that the pressure that the casting people feel due to the time crunch, and the stress that I bring on myself about the audition, just makes it an all around stressful situation.

Here’s what I am planning to do to curb my stresses. I’ve been asking myself questions to calm myself down. Michael McKean has a great quote about auditioning. He states, “What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t give you the job? Guess what: You already don’t have the job. The worst has happened! Pressure’s off, so have fun. The main reason we wanted to do this is that it look like it would be fun, right?” Right. I have to remember what made me enjoy acting in the first place. That thing that made the fire in my stomach ignite, is that acting is creative. It’s fun. It should never stop being fun. But we as actors have been so consumed with “nailing our audition” that we have lost sight of why we became actors in the first place. I want to serve the material. I have been asking, “How can I serve your project?” in my mind before an audition, rather than “Are you going to like me?” How can I best help out the people behind the table? Well, the easy answer is, I can be what they want. Yet, of all the audition success stories, they seem to include one key point: The actors were showing who they were. They were showing their best qualities. Sometimes, you just have to bring yourself to your work, and utilize the qualities you already possess. So in the end, we’re not really “acting” at all. We’re us. And that’s okay. I’m going to showcase the best of myself. Take it or leave it. So what if I’m not thin/pretty/normal enough? I’m me. Boom. Stressful situation avoided. Bring on the fun!

When the Funny Get Serious: Gigs You Wouldn’t Expect From Comedy’s Best

In 2011, Stephen Colbert made his New York Philharmonic debut as Harry in Company opposite fellow fun-man Neil Patrick Harris. Who knew that one of America’s most popular fake news anchors could sing? Well, he can. And he did. But production used the best of comedy chops. He did a guest spot on Law & Order: Criminal Intent  in season 3 episode 16 entitled “The Saint” and he was serious. He plays a document authenticator who will do anything to keep his mom (played by industry vet Lois Smith) happy.

Funnyman, Jim Gaffigan, has appeared on Law & Order: Criminal Intent as well as Law & Order twice each and an episode of Law & Order: SVU. I guess he can do drama really well too.

Fellow Bostonian, and someone whom I worked with on Rescue Me, Denis Leary, actually has a long list of credits that highlight his serious side. Most recently, he starred alongside Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in The Amazing Spiderman playing Stone’s father, Captain Stacy.

We all know that Adam Sandler can be funny. But who knew he could be serious at the same time. If you haven’t seen Punch Drunk Love, watch it. It’s probably Sandler’s best performance.

Jim Carrey won a Golden Globe for showing his serious side in The Truman Show. But you may not be familiar with The Majestic. Check out this scene:

This just goes to show you that actors are actors. They can be funny, they can be serious. They can just, be. Don’t under-estimate comedians. Oftentimes, they are some seriously serious people in real life and they can bring that to the stage or screen just as effortlessly as they do comedy.