I’ve been acting professionally since I was a little kid, but most of my training I’ve gotten from working with directors. And I remember in this one play I did, there was an actor who was just torturing himself. Nothing was really changing in his performance and in rehearsals, but he was in such torment. I’ve been studying with Sande for 11 and a half years and there’s nothing in my experience with her that’s ever been torture. It’s exactly the opposite. It’s flying. It’s founded on creativity.
We don’t just do scene study in class. One thing is the hero exercise in which you look at whatever it is that’s heroic about the character. I think the first person I picked was Sinead O’Connor– identifying what it is that’s heroic about her. There’s something about the way she is fully herself, her incredible, ferocious performance that really inspires me. It’s not about imitating her, it’s about embodying all those things that are special and inspiring to me about her. So I did a song of hers. I’ve always sung (and I’ve had closet dreams of doing a rock and roll stuff) but I hadn’t really had an experience of doing that. And doing that exercise, which was several years ago, planted a seed of being able to really perform.
There are small things we talk about in camera acting as opposed to theater acting. Stage acting is very much about energy going outward. Your energy has to fill the space. It doesn’t mean you have to be loud or big, you can be very very still and quiet on stage and still fill a room. But with camera, the camera comes to you. So you also have to be very full and alive but it’s a different kind of intensity. I’ve done several films in these last few years, I always am reminded of that and always get present when I’m working in front of the camera.
You have to start with the raw materials of yourself, that’s all you have. Every day is a different day in my life and whatever issues or concerns are present that day, whether I’m up or exhausted or joyful, you can access any and all of that.
When I’m travelling around to schools and talking to students , you find that so often young actors feel like they have to do things the right way or a certain way, but they’re not THERE. This idea of what the things is supposed to be is there, but they’re not there. So I try to, as much as possible, spread the notion around that you have to start with yourself. That what you have is what’s special and what will distinguish you from any other person.
The film “Road Trip” was really fun to audition for. The character was really twisted. I brought the material into class before I had to go to the audition. He was kind-of like a God freak and we just kind-of worked with that aspect of it a little bit–and that’s not something that I am in real life. But this guy feels like he has a direct line to God.
So Sande had me pick up the phone and talk to God. I can’t articulate why that clicked for me, but that just brought it home. Along with the other stuff I’d been working with, that just brought it into clearer focus.