Last time I checked, every person on this planet still shared a common denominator.
That is, we’re all human.
And that’s the call into acting right there. (That’s the call into all art, actually.)
To be more human in our work, in our lives, in our interactions with others. To be curious about what it means to be human and to genuinely be interested in others (even those that challenge us beyond imagination)!
This is not an easy task. There are so many distractions chipping away at our humanness.
Cell phones. Technology. Social media sites dictating and changing behavior, driving us toward repetitive habits that prevent us from being.
And then there’s location, location, location.
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 15 years. As much as I love it, I also find L.A. seems to be a place that isn’t so great at being human. Or rather, it allows for us to demonstrate the parts of our humanness we feel comfortable in showing. The rest we can hide, compartmentalize, pretend it doesn’t exist, or simply get in our cars and drive away.
I often feel I’m in some sort of alternate universe here where no one seems to struggle with any of the things I seem to be struggling with””because to talk about those things must mean I’m weird or weak or “uncool” or not together.
We’ve gotten so good at pretending to be a perfect human that we’ve forgotten how to be fully human.
As actors, the stories we tell are universal. They’re not just showing the parts of people that are nice and put together and pretty and live in Silver Lake!
They are the stories of all our lives””stories of struggle and perseverance and strength and beauty.
I recently read a NY Times Magazine story that shook me to my human core. It documented the crossing of 733 migrants across the Mediterranean Sea who were risking their lives to flee their impoverished northeastern African country of Eritrea. It was harrowing and tragic and human. We don’t think other people’s stories have anything to do with us. But as citizens of this planet, they do. And as artists who want to tell stories””especially stories that matter””you have to move beyond your geographical, political, spiritual comfort zones.
Our job then, as artists, is to connect to our own personal autobiographies that are the same as everyone’s, simply by being born into this existence. That’s the common thread!
You can’t do that being stuck on Snapchat all day. It’s imperative we stay connected to what other people experience. Not necessarily to become activists or sign a petition or start a rally (although those are all noble expressions), but simply to open the compassion in our own hearts for other people’s struggles. To feel empathy or outrage, to feel heartbroken or hopeful, to feel ecstasy or despair.
In short… to feel period.
And to get in touch intimately with the human condition””ours and theirs.
Idris Elba, who’s playing a West African dictator in the new film “Beasts of No Nation” said the challenge was playing someone who wouldn’t be “likable” and to make him human. “Let’s humanize it. Someone gave birth to this man. I wanted to find a way to make him real. Love him or hate him or Idris, but that character, you experience him and go, ”˜Whoa.’ ”