Give yourself a break. Just for once. What if you tried that?
No one does it all by themselves. Ever. It’s bullshit to think that you have to. It’s fiction. Let that myth go.
Why is it in this profession actors get scared thinking that if they can’t produce something on their own (meaning, get to someplace emotionally or be fully free in a feeling way), they must be untalented? Or incapable? Or lack what “the greats” possessed? Or are going to get fired?
No one does anything on their own.
President Obama has advisors. Golfers have caddies. Racecar drivers have a pit crew. Gymnasts have a coach. Circus performers have clowns (!) and a ringleader and a man who swallows swords for goodness sakes. So, why do you think you have to always be perfect on a take? Or in your work? Or in auditioning? Or in your process?
Actors often ask tearfully, “But why can’t I get there on my own?”
First off – light bulb! – you are getting there on your own. (But with help from others!) Yes, someone (a teacher, director, casting director, friend, mentor, coach) may facilitate that emotional expression or breakthrough but it’s you who’s doing it. It’s not someone in outer space doing it for you. Pulling your strings. You’re doing it! You, in your expression, bring all of you to this ineffable, magical, strange, wonderful moment and you go for it. You trust your instinct, get physical, let out a scream, break into tears, live in the rawness of life itself, fully commit, release into your bad-ass.
You did it. It doesn’t matter that someone was urging you on, “You can do it! You can do it!”
Quite frankly, that is their job.
To achieve a breakthrough and get anywhere we want to go emotionally in our work – ultimately, you’re never going it alone. Even if you feel no one is helping you – just by being an actor you already have implicit help. You have a story and a director and a co-star and circumstances and a set and words and stage directions and a narrative. You have props and costumes and craft services!
Sometimes I get asked that question in class. It happened this week when I was teaching at our London Studio. “Why can’t I get there myself?” The actress just needed a tiny bit of tweaking on a hugely volatile emotional scene (it was about her own death, no less!) and she just went for it. I mean went for it! So much so, I thought I was witnessing her dealing with her own mortality. (Which at a meta level she was – and all of us are.) Scary, raw, vulnerable, terrifying and beautifully human.
“Getting there” on her own also means the actor has to be willing to go there. You have to be open and brave and surrendered. You have to be willing to receive and let go. When the actor is just that – willing – then you get there. And someone often takes you through that door. That’s why it’s a collaborative art form. And that’s also why you are in class working on yourself, evolving, developing, growing as a person and an artist and creating a deeper emotional understanding of who you are and what you’re capable of.
If you’re doing that, rest assured, you are getting there on your own! With, of course, just a little help from some friends.
And isn’t that good to know?