I started with Sande as a working actor. I’d toured the country in a production of West Side Story; I’d done an independent film; I’d started getting soap work; I’d earned my living for a couple years as an actor. I figured I was on my way and ready to make the bid for bigger and better.
Fortunately, I started working with Sande before I got disillusioned by the realization that the pool for ‘bigger and better’ is more like an entirely different ocean. Being a ‘smart’ actor wouldn’t cut it. It wasn’t enough to know how to analyze a script, to know how to interpret a character, to know how to choose an objective. As Sande says, “No one ever won an Oscar for having a strong objective.”
The type of work I have discovered over the following years of working with Sande has not only been more competitive, it has been entirely more fun! The live and vitality involved in actually sharing a character’s experience as opposed to presenting a well thought-out scene is like the difference between sitting down to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal and watching one being prepared on a morning talk show. One exists almost entirely in the head, while the other is an experience of all the senses that includes and excites mind, body, and spirit collectively. And the recognition that any character you’ll play is already a part of you, whether or not it has ever been recognized or honored, leads to developing an expansive sense of Self that any therapist would envy.
And put into practice, the cycle of more fun – more work has continued. In October, I shot a principal role in the feature film The Good Shepherd, sharing the set with Matt Damon, William Hurt, Lee Pace and Robert DeNiro. Before I went to shoot, Sande told me, “By the time you ‘re done, they’re going to be wondering who this new kid on the block is.”
On set, the technique became indispensable. It inspired enough of a sense of confidence to keep from feeling intimidated by the A-list, and it allowed me to share my own reality with the character, so that whatever nerves did creep in became effectively those of the character. I don’t know if Matt or Mr. DeNiro were asking who this new kid was, but there was quite distinctly a sense of having earned the respect as a peer, rather than just one more actor to put through a scene.
The same has held true for other media. From film to stage to voiceover, my work has and continues to improve, and the work has come. I am now once again earning my living in the industry, this time in that ocean of “bigger and better.” And at the same time, the extended lessons of the technique continue to enhance the experiencing of every day life, which in turn feeds the life of future characters.
What makes you a better actor,
Makes you a better person.
And vice versa.