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.

Apparently, Die Hard action-star Bruce Willis, will be making his Broadway debut in the stage adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. The best-selling 1987 novel was already adapted for the screen with Kathy Bates and Jame Caan, so I’m wondering how they will adapt it, yet again, for the stage. Actress, Elizabeth Marvel (House of Cards) will step into the role of Annie Wilkes, which was originally portrayed by Bates and earned her an Academy Award. Personally,I think it would be interesting if Kathy Bates were given the chance to play her famed character onstage. I honestly think that even after twenty-five years, Bates could pull it off. Who knows? It’s still early in the process, so there might be a chance for her to win a Tony for the same role in which she won an Oscar. But, I’m interested to see what Marvel does with the role. The characters of Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes have become so iconic within the horror/thriller genre that I think an audience may have a tough time seeing anyone else but James Caan and Kathy Bates in those roles. The good news is, that many film-goers may not be aware of, that Willis has Off-Broadway stage experience. It’ll be very interesting to see him “back on the boards” after nearly thirty years. However, I don’t want to be too quick to assume its fate yet. We’ll just have to wait and see until the curtain goes up in the fall.

MichaelShannon2

He got an Oscar nod for Revolutionary Road, starred in everything from big budget blockbusters like Man of Steel, to indie films like Take Shelter, and still finds time to get back to his theatrical roots onstage in NYC. Michael Shannon has been one of my favorite actors since I saw him in 2006’s adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play Bug. Like most actors, I have a list. My fellow actors will know it well. It’s a mental list comprised of people we dream of working with. We want to act with talented people. We want to spar with them, connect with them, act our hearts out with them. Well, he’s one of those actors. He’s on my list. Boy he’s one of those actors that just makes me go, “I want to study more. I want to get even better. I want to get to be as good as him/her.” His subtly in  Revolutionary Road was so good, that there were moments where I forgot he was playing a character.  He has a range that is hard to match nowadays and is someone who knows when to get back on the boards (the stage) and stretch his acting muscles to keep them sharp.

Everyone has someone who they want to work with. I love working with interesting actors who make me want to strive to be better. As a character actress, I love watching other character actors. I love wanting to push myself to not necessarily be like the actor I admire, but emulate the kind of intricate characteristics that make up the people they play. Michael Shannon’s performances are complex and it’s those complexities that make him a fantastic actor.  Michael Shannon, if you ever read this, I want to work with you. Seriously. We need to make this happen.

 

AHS1There’s a repertory theater company that’s one of the best in country. It’s available in your living room every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX. American Horror Story is the brain-child of Glee and Nip/Tuck creator, Ryan Murphy. Starring Oscar winner Jessica Lange, who has also garnered Emmys, Golden Globes & SAG awards for her performances on the show, she drives the ship. The thing that distinguishes American Horror Story from other shows currently on television at the moment is that each season tells a different story. Therefore, you can start watching the show from any season, and not be left behind. This also proves to be a challenge and a delight for the actors involved. They are able to play multiple characters because each season varies. For example, Sarah Paulson, one of the series regulars, played a minor character in the first season’s story, a major character in the second, and she currently has quite a substantial supporting role in the third season. It is in this way that it is like a theatrical company.  Everyone has the chance to strength their acting muscles by playing different characters, and sometimes they’ll have a tiny part instead of a large one. Aiding the characters are also great writers. The writing on AHS is one of the best I’ve seen on a television series since Breaking Bad. Well, if you haven’t checked it out, you totally should. From a haunted house, to an insane asylum, and now a witch coven, American Horror Story just keeps getting better and better. Plus, this season, Jessica Lange gets some serious backup with Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates. There’s also a cameo from the white witch herself, Stevie Nicks.

Kathy Bates & Quinton Aaron in “The Blind Side” (2009)

The other night, I was watching  The Blind Side  for the first time expecting myself to be fully engrossed in the story that helped Sandra Bullock win an Academy Award for Best Actress. While I enjoyed the movie, it wasn’t until Kathy Bates came on the screen that I had one of Oprah’s “Ah Ha” moments. To put it plainly, Kathy Bates makes every project she appears in so much better. I saw Revolutionary Road back when it had first come out in theaters, and it was the most depressing movie I had ever  seen in my life. One of the only redeeming qualities of the film (besides the fact that Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were amazing despite the subject and tone of the project) was that it had Kathy Bates to liven it up. With Michael Shannon playing her son, the two of them brought their unique talents to the screen in amazing performances.

The thing that I love about films and TV shows is the fact that we are able to capture moments that are able to be relived at any time. Kathy Bates has had some fantastic moments captured on screen in her career, and even though she has an Oscar for Misery, I think the general public should be made more aware of her wonderful talent. Quite simply, her gusto and light she brings with every role has helped us enjoy movies like  Titanic, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Midnight in Paris. There is a reason that she won both the comedy and drama Blockbuster Entertainment Awards for Favorite Supporting Actress in the same year (1998) for The Waterboy and Primary Colors. She is fantastic at what she does as an actor, and makes no apologies for being just who she is as a person. She has always been someone I admire as an actor, and she is on my dream list of people I’d love to work with for that reason. She is a character actress. She’s a an actress. And she makes every movie she’s in 1000 times better.

Bonus: Check out her film debut as a singer in Milos Forman’s Taking Off (1971) 

Viola Davis in “Doubt” (2008.)

To help those who want to win Trivial Pursuit, here’s some trivia about movies and actors you might find interesting.

  • 10 years before the teen phenomenon Twilight (2008), Reese Witherspoon, Susan Sarandon, & Paul Newman starred in a murder mystery with the same name, Twilight (1998.)
  • [on losing the role of Frankie, which had been written for her by playwright Terrence McNally (which she originated onstage,) to Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie version of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune] “I thought it was wonderful to see a love story about people over forty, ordinary people who were trying to connect. We haven’t seen it before, and I don’t think we will see it with this movie Frankie and Johnny (1991).” It is actually known that Bates has lost several film roles adapted from plays in which she has originated roles (‘night, Mother also being lost to Sissy Spacek on film.)
  • In 1999, Judi Dench won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love having only appeared on screen for 8 minutes (4 scenes.) For her 2008 performance in Doubt, Viola Davis was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for appearing in two scenes. The second scene lasts 10 seconds and she does not speak.
  • Actor Hector Elizondo appears in nearly all of director Gary Marshall’s films, ” Appears in so many Garry Marshall films that his credit in the beginning of Exit to Eden (1994) was ‘As Usual… Hector Elizondo.'”
  • Before appearing in the 2012 film version of musical, Les Miserables, actor Eddie Redmayne won a Tony Award in 2010 for his role in Red…he won Best Featured Actor in a Play.
  • Actress Tracie Thoms, auditioned for the stage musical Rent 8 times without winning a role. She went on to star in the 2005 film version of the musical as Joanne. She went on to appear onstage in the same role in the final months of the show on Broadway.
  • Actress Julianne Moore didn’t make a movie until she was 29.
  • In the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Calvin Candie smashes the palm of his hand on the dinner table, the actor broke a glass under his hand and really began to bleed. DiCaprio ignored it, stayed in character, and continued with the scene. This take was the one used in the film.