Michelle Williams believes one of the best things that ever happened to her was to “not have any kind of early success.” It was after seeing a local play during her childhood that Michelle Williams’ interest in acting was piqued. But when she put herself out there around eleven years old, the budding star realized what a challenging goal she had set for herself. “It’s a hard childhood to have or a lack of a childhood to have,” she once said. In this BAFTA Guru interview, the multi award-winning actress describes those early days saying, “When I first started auditioning, I auditioned for two years without ever getting a job. And two years is a lot of auditions. It’s a lot of being told no.” The Manchester by the Sea star now speaks from the vantage point of being a four-time Oscar nominee. She continues:
“The longer that you want something and you don’t get it, but are able to withstand that kind of rejection, and still say that this is what you want to do, the stronger that it makes you. And the more able you are to weather the inevitable ups and downs–which really is just the life of an actor. Because there is no consistency and there is no security at any time. You’re always thinking: ‘Where is my next job? Where is it going to come from? What am I going to do?'”
Fortunately, young Michelle landed her first screen appearance at the age of 13 in an episode of the television series Baywatch, and her film debut in Lassie. And from Brokeback Mountain to Wonderstruck (which is currently in postproduction) roles certainly have continued to pour in over the years. With all her acting experience, she’s been speaking about a number of lessons she’s learned along the way. Here is some nuggets of wisdom she’s accumulated.
Williams shared some important information she’s learned to make her of more value to directors during a Variety Actors on Actors interview. First, she makes sure to “really know [the directors’] world.” Besides watching films they’ve authored, she pursues their influences and what inspires them “so I know how I can best sort of serve their vision because ultimately it really is a director’s medium.” But thinking of herself as a color on any given director’s palette, she was surprised to discover another lesson:
“I used to think that directors would hold like a magic key. I used to show up and think, ‘Fantastic! I got this job with somebody that I respect and now they’re going to show me how to do my job. They’re going to unlock something inside of me. And they would just look at me and say, ‘What do you have to give? What are you going to do? I hired you to do this job. What’s the magic thing you’re going to give me?’ And it took me a second to realize they need me to do what I want them to do. So I have to be the person in fact.”
Also, with experience the Blue Valentine star has come to fully embrace both her best and worst performances. She insists, “Things that I’ve done that haven’t turned out well are just as important as the things that I’ve done that have turned out well because they are equally instructive teachers.”
And lastly, Williams has the following advice to others pursuing the craft of acting. She says, “If anything that I’ve really learned or that I would want somebody else to not have to learn the hard way it’s to just like raise your hand, and use your voice, and shout out your opinion, and let come what may.” She’s come to better appreciate the value of risking embarrassment and asserts, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? Like you have a bad idea and you share it with somebody. Like you’re not going to die from that. And chances are, it might be whittled into something. Then it’s a good idea.”