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.
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.
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.