We all have certain walls that get in the way and block us from growing as performers. Maybe we're afraid of letting our angry side out. Or maybe we're shy about appearing to be weak, or we don't want people to think that we're really stupid, or a cry-baby, etc.
The more honestly we act and the closer we are to our own dark side, the more some people will think that that is the way we really are. So we will often hold back – we don't want people to think we're really like that, right? But then we aren't doing our job as actors.
Would you rather people thought you were a bad actor, or that they thought maybe you really are a racist or a slut, or a weak, sniveling coward?
I dealt with this issue when I was starting out. I thought of myself as really cool. You know – I rode a motorcycle, had long hair, and keep it all together. In class, I always held back on my emotions. Then I was doing a scene and my teacher said to do it again and really open up and connect with the other actor. I did and it worked. After class I asked her why her direction helped me so much. She said, “You were waiting for someone to say it was okay to be emotional.” That advice was the best I ever got from a teacher.
Sometime later I got a great part in a play, but the part was of a somewhat dumb, super silly, goofball. So, I had a choice – turn the part down; do the part, but play it cool and not do a good job; or throw myself into it and go for it – which is what I did. And yes, there were people who didn't know me and thought that character was me. They expected that when they met me after the show that I would “entertain” them with my silliness. And they were disappointed when they realized I wasn't my character. But so what? I got great reviews, and more importantly, finally broke though that wall. Now I have fun whenever I get to do a role that is outside my comfort zone.
It does take work. And awareness of our walls. But if we work through them, the payoff can open us up to all kinds of wonderful opportunities.
Late news flash!!! My agent called while I was writing this post and I booked a role on the new Westworld pilot for HBO. Love getting paid to play – even if the character is not always “cool.”