Every once in a while, you have to thank the universe for the gifts it gives you. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work on a new untitled project by director, Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace.) However, technically, I wasn’t in front of the camera. I was able to be a stand-in for none other than Kathy Bates. I’m not sure how in the world I got the call at 6:00 in the morning,  let alone how I got called in to be her stand-in. Yet, I was excited to be back in an environment I love and learn from every time I work on a film. I will be eternally grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the observations I made during my three day work week. Honestly, it was like one big master class. I got to watch Kathy Bates, Danny Glover, Michael Shannon & Rachel Weisz work, rehearse, and just be. well, normal human beings. More importantly, I got to be a part of something that will no doubt yield wonderful performances from its cast members. I also learned more about the ins and outs of the process in three days, than I have in a long time. I was there to do a job and contribute to what they needed at the time. That pretty much sums it up about the film industry in general, you do your job for the time allotted and move on. I’m glad that i got the opportunity to work with and learn from four of the most talented actors in the business.

In the past few days I’ve felt torn. As an actor, I draw from my experiences both emotionally and physically. We all do that as actors. The difference however, comes with the fact that my muscle memory, my emotional memory, and the fibers of my being are inwardly different. By all appearances, I seem like your “normal” actor, but those fibers in my being would beg to differ. Born three months premature at one pound, ten ounces, with a mild form of cerebral palsy, I’ve had to deal with physical limitations that appear minor, and triumphs that would be considered obscure because “everyone can do that, right?” As a kid, even learning to skip was a huge achievement for me. Learning how to walk again at 13 was a mountain. From a sense memory standpoint, there are things I can bring to the role of someone who deals with limited mobility or physical pain that is unique.

The problem is, everyone can bring something to the table.  Part of me understands the critics, the people who say that they should have cast someone who “understands” Hawkings’ plight with ALS, but that would be, frankly, irrational. Eddie Redmayne did research, met with Hawking, and portrayed him to the best of his abilities. With that, he was awarded the Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG Award, and ultimately, the Oscar. Hopefully Hawkings’ story, coupled with Redmayne’s portrayal, plants a seed. Maybe people will become curious and educate themselves about issues like ALS, Maybe they’ll look at Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance for Still Alice and become aware of early-onset Alzheimer’s’ disease. It’s an actor’s job to bring truth to a situation to the best of their abilities.

I do believe though, that actors from all walks of life need to be seen, not just portrayed and represented. Their voices need to be heard. We as actors are supposed to bring truth to the screen, so let’s do that.

It’s the best day of the year! Oscar day! Will host Neil Patrick Harris deliver a fantastic show? Probably. As far as predictions go, this year is a tough one. There were amazing movies of all different subjects and genres. As far as acting performances, there are some surprises in those races. Who knows, Bradley Cooper might come up from behind and take the statue away from Eddie Redmayne or Michael Keaton for Best Actor. However, if I was a betting woman, I would think that it’s Keaton’s year. The same goes for the Best Actress. I mean, where did Marion Cotillard’s nomination come from? I don’t think she was on anyone’s prediction list. However, I think it’s safe to say Julianne Moore has waited long enough to take home an Oscar. I hope she has picked a place to put her much-deserved accolade for her awesome performance in Still Alice. The other categories of Best Supporting Actor and Actress are pretty much givens as well. J.K. Simmons, prepare your speech now for Best Supporting Actor. I think this year’s surprises will come with the Best Picture winner (Selma or American Sniper could be surprises), director, and writing, simply because the races are more interesting. The fun will come with Neil Patrick Harris and his impeccable hosting abilities. Watch on ABC tonight @ 7:00!

Selma director, Ava DuVernay, and her lead actor David Oyelowo (who portrayed  Martin Luther King, Jr.) got seriously overlooked this morning as the Oscar nominations were announced. Even though Selma received a Best Picture nomination, it failed to get recognized for its directing and acting efforts. Also on the acting front, Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Amy Adams (who won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy) weren’t able to secure nominations. Clearly, Jennifer Aniston and her team have been campaigning for an Oscar nomination for a while. She’s received a SAG Award nomination, and it’s clear that whomever is in charge of her publicity, wants her to win. I think it’s safe to say that both Amy Adams and Jennifer Aniston lost their spots to Marion Cotillard this year, for a film I wasn’t even aware of called Two Days, One Night.

Another point that people have been making in various other blogs about this year is the fact that all of the nominees are in fact, white. Apparently, the average Oscar voter is 63 years old, white, and male. So there’s that…Also, what’s up with no nomination for the Lego movie?

jamesgarner

Ask anyone of my generation or younger, and they’ll probably tell you that James Garner is “the guy from The Notebook.”  My response to that  is, “WHAT?!”  Seriously though, today we lost another great: actor, James Garner passed away at the age of 86. To many, he wasn’t just that guy from The Notebook. He was Bret Maverick, and Jim Rockford. He was the unlikely movie star  with two purple hearts  from the Korean War. He appeared on Broadway, once, in a non-speaking role in The Caine Mutiny Court Martial where he learned and honed his craft.  In the 50s and 60s, westerns were big on television, and James Garner turned the character of Bret Maverick into an icon. He found television success again in the 70s as another icon, Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files. Even with his numerous  television successes, including an Emmy for The Rockford Files, he managed to find fame on the big screen too. He starred in  The Great Escape, and  received a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1986 for Murphy’s Romance. In 1994, he starred in the film version of Maverick, with Mel Gibson stepping into the shoes of the famous gambler, and Garner as Marshall Zane Cooper. In his later years, he starred in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and yes, The Notebook. He was a versatile actor who needs to be recognized for his impressive career. Rest in Peace James Garner, you were my mom’s favorite actor.                                                              You were more than the guy from The Notebook: You were a Maverick.

This is a clip from Garner’s famed series, Maverick, with Clint Eastwood looking for some trouble:

The Oscars are tomorrow night. If the Independent Spirit Awards from tonight are any indication, this Oscar race is going to be one to watch. Given the fact that the competition for Supporting Actor is pretty much a given (Congratulations to Jared Leto ahead of time. He just won an Independent Spirit Award. If he doesn’t win, I’ll be really surprised.) Also, congrats to Lupita Nyong’o, unless they give Jennifer Lawrence two Oscars in a row. She’s 23. She’s got time. Cate Blanchett will probably take home the Best Actress Oscar, unless Sandra Bullock comes up from behind. But who knows? This year seems to be a little up in the air for Best Actor and Actress. If the results from the Golden Globes sway voters at all, Amy Adams and Leonardo DiCaprio could take home Oscars instead. Matthew McConaughey is pretty much battling it out with Leo. Chiwetel deserves Best Actor in my humble opinion. Frozen will win Best Original Song (duh.) And Gravity director, Alfonso Cuaron has been sweeping the awards for Director. Then again, since Steve McQueen just won for 12 Years tonight at the Independent Spirit Awards, he could win as well. Best Picture is anyone’s game, but my money is on 12 Years a Slave. But who can tell? American Hustle might be a stealthy one and take the top prize. 

Improvisation has always been an essential tool for an actor whether you are in a comedy or a drama. Known for films that only have an outline instead of a set script, Christopher Guest has helped revolutionize the movie-going experience with the “mockumentary” film. Movies like Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting for Guffman, all use a core group of actors known for their improvisational skills. Actors like Bob Balaban, Michael McKean,  Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard,  and even Christopher Guest himself, all have  made regular appearances in these films. Their improvisations skills have been put to use in both comedic and dramatic films. One of the most interesting films of Christopher Guest’s is For Your Consideration. Ironically, there was Oscar buzz for Catherine O’Hara’s performance in which she plays an actress vying for an statue of her own. Honestly, I think this movie SHOULD have gotten an Oscar for O’Hara and the movie itself. Catherine O’Hara’s abilities as an actor of both dramatic and comedic caliber are so high that even the apparent face-lift that her character, Marilyn Hack, has, was not done with use of makeup or special effects. As an actor, she had the ability to use her physicality and enhance the performance in an honest way.  Take a look at the clip:

Put this DVD in your queue and watch the pure genius of the cast as they improvise their way through one of the funniest films to parody the film industry. There is more truth to this comedy about drama than in actual documentaries about the industry. I would love to be in a movie like the ones that Christopher Guest produces and directs. I think they are intelligent, funny and pure entertainment. I love seeing skilled actors at work.

Richard Jenkins and Haaz Sleiman in “The Visitor” (2007)

There are certain actors I have a deep seeded need to work with. I want to learn as much as I can from them. Richard Jenkins is one of those actors. He’s “that guy”  you’ve been seeing in movies and television shows for years.  You definitely know his face, but not necessarily his name. His IMDB resume dates all the way back to 1975. Yet, it wasn’t until he starred in the 2007 indie film The Visitor, that the world, and the Oscars, took notice. He received his first nomination for the first leading role of his career. When talking about his experience while filming The Visitor, he states, “I would say ‘I’ll go back to my trailer now’, and they’d say, ‘No, no, you’re in the next scene. It’s one of those things that I didn’t know if I would ever get an opportunity to try. I’ve been waiting my entire professional life for this experience.”

Some actors wait their entire careers to have the “leading man” or “leading lady” experience. Some people never get there. I’m a character actor myself, so who knows when, or if, I’ll get there in the feature film realm. I’m glad that Jenkins has gotten the recognition he deserves. And you know what? Right after his success with The Visitor, he went right back to doing character work. And personally, it just goes to show me, as an actor, that it is ultimately about he work. It’s not about who has the biggest part, or the most lines. It’s about the work, and what you can bring to it as an actor. In this film, he brings his “A” game. He gives it everything that he’s got, and it shows. His years of experience as a character actor just might have prepared him for his moment in the sun. He’s fantastic in the film. I have always been a huge admirer of his work and I am glad he finally got his moment to shine:

So, Mr. Richard Jenkins, if you are reading this, from one character actor to another: Bravo! And I want to work with you.