Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Better to be typecast than not cast

These are the Words of Wisdom for this week: Better to be typecast than not cast. Typecasting is the phenomenon by which an actor becomes so identified with a role that it's difficult to be cast in different parts afterwards or, in weaker form, where they get stuck with playing similar characters over and over again. It operates more strongly on the screen than on the stage and goes right back to silent film days. Bela Lugosi played Count Dracula, once, and to this day that is all he is known for. He was never able to escape from that type of part in his subsequent career. Almost all actors are frustrated to some degree by typecasting. If they have any ambition at all they want to test themselves with a variety of parts, but the opportunities to do so are rare. Occasionally actors get cast against type, for artistic effect, (or maybe because someone has made a mistake.) Any chance like that needs to be seized upon but, it has to be said, the result can be embarrassing failure. Most actors most of the time will play parts determined by their appearance, persona and style of performance. Some people play comedy better than others, some grow up with the physical equipment to be a convincing thug, others are breathtakingly beautiful. As you seem to be, so you will have to play. Accept the inevitable. You will, at least to some extent, be typecast. Better to be typecast than not cast.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Push yourself but don't punish yourself

As most of you will know, I'm never far from a sporting analogy and the Words of Wisdom this week are one of my sayings about running: Push yourself but don't punish yourself. This comes from the principles of athletics training. If you put your body under stress, by repeatedly asking it to run further or faster than it's comfortably capable of, then your body will gradually adapt to cope with that stress and your performance will improve. To make this work you have to push (stress) yourself but if you punish (overstress) yourself you will likely get injured or at least have an unpleasant enough experience to put you off the spert for good.

Athletics is a measurable, physically demanding activity, but the same principles apply to acting, whcih is an immeasurable art or craft. To get better at it you have to practice and train yourself continually and persistently; if you don't your skills will go backwards. You have to set yourself tasks you find difficult; that's the only way you can improve. But at the same time you mustn't be overly self critical. Encourage yourself and congratulate yourself when something goes well. Otherwise you're teaching yourself that your art is painful and difficult, which it shouldn't be.

Push yourself but don't punish yourself.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Recognise that there are two kinds of luck

Now for some Words of Wisdom. Recognise that there are two kinds of luck. The acting profession is one where the statistical odds are stacked against you. Therefore, when auditioning or reading for a part, you are always likely to be disappointed. Sometimes the reasons will be quite arbitrary - too tall, too short, wrong age, wrong accent, the other one has ridden horses more, worked with a big name director, was in the play we did last year. The point is that none of these reasons are the actor's fault. Maybe they saw six people who might have been possible for the part, but the director just had a gut feeling, so the other five have to be disappointed. You will probably never find out the reason why you didn't get the part but it's no use getting angry with yourself or anyone else. You just have to put it down to bad luck. The fates just didn't smile on you that day. Go on doing your best.

But there is also another kind of luck - good luck. This is when an opportunity falls into your lap and you get exactly what you've been working towards. The important thing is to recognise good luck when it arrives. Sometimes it wears a disguise or comes from an unexpected direction. Now that you have a lucky break for goodness sake don't mess things up. Don't turn up late. Don't be too desperate or too nonchalant. Don't fail to learn the lines. Check out the route to wherever you're going. Just be professional in every way, recognise you've had a stroke of good luck and capitalise on it. Recognise that there are two kinds of luck.

And that doesn't just apply to acting. It applies to everything.