By: Jess Canty
I have been thinking a lot this week about noise.
As an actor in this town there is a lot of noise that you have to cut through. A lot of what I believe my job to be is to help you do just that. To have someone to go to who you can run things by and say "is this noise or is this real." It is the part of the job I like the best - I swear, if I never had to look at a breakdown again, and could simply help y'all navigate the noise and the choices of which projects are right for you I wouldn't be upset LOL.
Here is some noise you will likely encounter that I want you to try to turn the volume wayyyy down on, or turn off completely.
#1 - GIVING "THEM" WHAT YOU THINK THEY WANT. This is the most dangerous version of noise that you need to cut out of your acting career. "They" don't know what they want until they see it. So if your approach is to given them what you think they want, you are dead in the water. I cannot stress this enough.
You have to BOLDLY be yourself - which implies that you know yourself - and hope that what you are bringing to the table is ultimately what they want to see. Your experience, your take on the character, your version, your interpretation. Whatever is extra about you, unique about you, interesting about you IS WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE. You just have to be willing to share it.
This is the #1 reason why I quit acting. I didn't want to spend my life constantly being asked to share all the stuff about me that I think is cool and funny and all the stuff about me that is painful and difficult and vulnerable and hard - with the world. Sounded pretty exhausting LOL.
You have to be willing to be an open book in your performances. THAT is what "they" want to see. And I am talking both comedy and drama. I love Seinfeld, but he is not an actor. He is an incredibly astute standup comedian who surrounded himself with three incredible actors.
#2 - AGE There is a TON of noise around age in this town.
Stop worrying about it. Stop thinking about it. Stop trying to guess what age you .... yep I'm gonna say it... think they want. Ignore what the breakdown says. The only age that matters is the age that you can believably play.
Look at Mandy Moore. She believably plays High-School to early 50's on This Is Us. Maybe she's an old soul - and that is why it works. Maybe her "essence" is older and more mature than her physical age and that is why she is killing it. Imagine if she "didn't want to be seen on screen with crows feet" and turned down this show. Imagine the amazing performances we would be missing out on from her.
Your agent sending you out for roles you feel are out of your range? As a long-term strategy this is perhaps a problem, but they are getting you in a room. So they and casting are seeing SOMETHING.
You don't know what other roles are coming down the line. You don't know what else that office is casting. You don't know if the writer just gave that character an age because they had to when writing the script but they don't "care" how old the character is. If you are great you can pull a Gillian Anderson or Tiffany Haddish and get cast in a role that is 15-20 years older than your actual age and nobody will care! So go book that role that is too old for you.
Sidenote: If you ever get asked in the room by anyone how old you are, your answer should be truthful. Please don't lie about your age - again, you don't know what they want and so you don't know if changing your age will hurt or help you.
If you don't want to give a direct answer then here are some suggestions:
"I regularly play [insert casting range here]
"How old is the character?" - and then when they answer you can say "I am confident I can play that age believably."
"How old do you think I am / can play."
The ONLY time this question is appropriate is if you are under 18 because there are legal issues for production if you are a minor, so please answer directly if this is you.
Prepare yourself for this answer, as you will be asked, even though you shouldn't be asked - especially if you look younger than you actually are.
#3 - OTHER ACTORS Now I know this is a strange one to mention in a team of actors that I believe are all smart, talented and funny.
However, listening to another actor about what class you should take, or what role you should be going out for, or what agent is right is a waste of time. Why? Because THEY AREN'T YOU.
A class that is right for them, may be terrible for you. An agent that is awesome for you, they may have a personality clash with.
This is why you have a manager.
I believe, like a psychologist, I am here to help you discover what is right for YOU. If you tell me a class isn't working for you that 3 other clients are in - great! I will help you find another class.
This is your path, your career, your chess-board to navigate. I am the wall for you to bounce this off of so you can become more the best version of you possible as an artist. That is the only thing I care about and it is my only goal.
#3a - OTHER ACTORS THE SEQUEL Do not listen to other actors auditioning.
Put on those headphones, step around the corner, whatever it takes. Block them out. Maybe everyone ahead of you is screaming on the same line in the script. You can hear it through the door. You didn't plan on screaming on that line, in fact you thought it was funny. And you found another place in the scene to be angry. DO NOT CHANGE YOUR PLAN.
Do not "listen" to the other actors. That is more noise - literally. Your take. Your version. What YOU bring IS THE RIGHT ANSWER. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
And hey, if its not what they choose, at least you were yourself right? At least you didn't walk away wondering if you guessed wrong about what "THEY" wanted.
#4 - YOURSELF What noise are you creating for yourself? What are you afraid of sharing? What thing that lives under your gut are you not willing to touch because you're afraid of how it will look, or how people will react, or what it will make you have to face?
Only you know what it is.
"IT" is making you cut it too close on getting to that audition on time - when you know you should have left 15 minutes earlier.
"IT" is making you not start memorizing the sides as soon as you should.
"IT" is preventing you from crying in that scene that you know needs it.
"IT" is making you turn down that opportunity because it doesn't "feel" like the right role for you.
Whatever that is? It is killing your ability to be your best self in that room.
Its killing your acting.
#5 - EXCUSES
There are a million excuses why things aren't working.
You're "too old" or "too young" or "too fat" or "too tall" or "too dark-skinned" or your "accent is too thick" or "not charactery enough" or "not buff enough" and on and on and on and on and on...
You know who that doesn't matter for? People that cut out that noise.
Too Tall? Ask Geena Davis or Jim Carrey.
Too Dark-Skinned? Go talk to Idris or Lupita.
Too weird? Write to Andy Serkis.
Too thin? Say hello to Doug Jones.
Each of these actors are unabashedly unafraid to be themselves and their best selves every single time. No matter the noise.
And one of my absolute favorites at this is Carla Jimenez. Enjoy!
https://vimeo.com/297501218 password: BeYourself