The Roles That Burt Reynolds Let Get Away

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Burt Reynolds, legendary actor and notorious bad boy, is still working in Hollywood at the age of 81. Presently, he is promoting his new film Dog Years which details the trials and travails of an aging movie star. In a far-ranging interview with Katie Couric, Burt lets forth about his tumultuous love life, his love of football and teaching, his many regrets including screwing it up with Sally Field and marrying Loni Anderson, and the roles that got away.

According to IMDb, Reynolds’ numerous achievements have been recognized by his having been named America’s Favorite All-Around Motion Picture Actor (People’s Choice Award) for a record six consecutive years; the Most Popular Star for five years running; Star of the Year (National Association of Theatre Owners); and #1 Box Office Star for five years in a row–still an unmatched record. He was honored with the 2007 Taurus World Stunt Award for Lifetime Achievement for an Action Movie Star and received this special citation from the Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.

You would think with a resume like that a star of Burt’s caliber would be happy and satisfied with his legacy, but that’s apparently not the case. Reynolds laments turning down the role of the randy astronaut Garrett Breedlove in the award-winning drama Terms of Endearment. Jack Nicholson went on to win the Oscar for best actor in a supporting role and the film itself won five Academy awards along with numerous film festival awards. Burt also turned down the role of the wise-cracking, fearless yippie ki-yay John McClane in the blockbuster action film Die Hard. The role, of course, went to Bruce Willis–and the rest is history! It’s hard to imagine a better player for the iconic role, but if anyone could outBruce Bruce Willis, it would be ole Burt Reynolds.

As well, the sleeper hit Pretty Woman starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts has Burt Reynolds embedded in its collective folklore. Burt turned down the role of robber baron Edward Lewis because he didn’t like the concept; and consequently, Richard Gere–already a big star–got even bigger! Mr. Reynolds doesn’t seem to mind that miss so much as he said, “I couldn’t have done the job [Gere] did.”

However, the role of James Bond is another story altogether. Burt deeply regrets his decision to turn down the iconic role in 1970 and believes it’s one of the biggest mistakes of his career. Remember, this is a guy who said yes to three Smokey and the Bandit movies, two Cannonball Runs, and the inimitable Stroker Ace, but he couldn’t say yes to Bond…James Bond? And the reason he gives for his disappointment concerning the missed opportunity? “I would have done a good job.”

It’s important to keep in mind that Reynolds has famously said he based his movie decisions on “location and the female lead.” For someone with the golden touch of Burt Reynolds, the strategy has–for the most part–worked out. But for mere mortals, it’s essential to give serious thought to each role and each project. Every character and every film or web series should serve in furthering the agenda of becoming a working actor and a going concern in the film industry. Even the work done for free or the work done for reel should be carefully examined. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about the work.

As for ole Burt, “I’m going to keep working until they shoot me and take me off and bury me,” he says. “And I hope they film it.”

Burt Reynolds in the 1972 film Deliverance.

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Remembering ‘Happy Days’ Star Erin Moran

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Beloved actress Erin Moran passed away over the weekend at the age of 56. Police received a 911 call about an unresponsive female in rural New Salisbury, Indiana. When responders arrived, it was too late; they determined that the woman, identified as Moran, had deceased. Officials have revealed the likely cause of death to be complications from stage 4 cancer.

Moran skyrocketed to fame when she was cast as Joanie Cunningham, the feisty younger sister of Ritchie Cunningham (Ron Howard), on the 1970’s popular sitcom Happy Days. Erin started on the show at the age of 13 and audiences got to watch her grow up amidst a seemingly innocent backdrop of 1950’s Milwaukee. The show was a hit, running eleven seasons between 1974 and 1984. And it inspired the short-lived spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi in which Moran starred alongside Scott Baio.

In a 2009 Xfinity interview, Moran expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the latter show, saying, “I don’t have any favorite episodes from ‘Joanie Loves Chachi.’ I liked working with the people. But I didn’t even want to do it. I was talked into it. I wanted to stay on ‘Happy Days.’ They were running them at the same time.”  Elaborating on her Happy Days costars, she continued, “What happened with all of us was like we were this family. It was so surreal with all the cast members. There was another moment where we forgot we were doing scenes. We forgot we were acting. They were my family, get it?”

Born in Burbank, Moran’s mother supported her daughter’s interest in acting by signing her with an agent when she was just five years old. Soon thereafter, Erin was cast in a commercial followed by roles in television shows including Daktari, GunSmoke, and Family Affair.

After Happy Days, Moran appeared on several shows including The Bold and the Beautiful, The Love Boat, and Murder, She Wrote. She was also featured on VH1’s reality show Celebrity Fit Club in 2008.

However, Moran’s later years were riddled with hardship. In a 1988 interview, she revealed she struggled with depression and was unable to attain acting roles. Various media outlets have tried to piece together aspects of Moran’s personal life over the years. For example, TMZ reported Moran’s Palmdale, California home had been foreclosed on in 2010. About two years later, ABC News reported she and her second husband, Steven Fleischmann moved into Fleischmann’s mother’s trailer in Indiana so Moran could act as her caregiver. And in 2017, Variety magazine said she had “fallen on hard times in recent years. She was reportedly kicked out of her trailer park home in Indiana because of her hard-partying ways.”

Since Moran’s passing, People magazine reached out to Erin’s neighbors. They remembered her as a friendly, energetic, and down-to-earth member of their mobile home community although she became more reclusive in recent months.

Many condolences from Moran’s costars have been pouring in.

Scott Baio wrote a heartfelt Twitter post saying, “May people remember Erin for her contagious smile, warm heart, and animal loving soul. I always hoped she could find peace in her life. God has you now, Erin. My sincere condolences.”

Henry Winkler who played the leather-clad greaser “Fonzie” on Happy Days tried to get Moran a role in his comedic TV series Arrested Development when he perceived she was going through hard times. This weekend he tweeted, “OH Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth …Rest In It serenely.. too soon”

Her television brother, Ron Howard tweeted, “Such sad sad news. RIP Erin. I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up tv screens.”

Willie Aames wrote, “I’ve known Erin Moran since childhood doing ‘GunSmoke’. More recently as a troubled soul. So saddened to hear of her passing. RIP ERIN”

While many people in social media have reacted to Moran’s death by calling out various contacts from her career, child actor advocate Paul Peterson who starred in The Donna Reed Show has come forward stating that “at least six” former child stars attempted to reach out to Moran and help her. Peterson wrote, “I am proud of our efforts over the years to help Erin Moran whose troubles were many and complex…Don’t doubt for a moment that we tried…sincerely tried through time and treasure…to give comfort to one of our own…Erin had friends and she knew it.”


Kate Winslet Shares Lessons She’s Learned Along the Way

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In a recent BAFTA Guru interview, Kate Winslet spoke about several lessons she learned over the course of her career. The English actress has built a celebrated and eclectic resume for over 20 years now. In return, she has received a whopping seven Academy Award nominations, winning one for her portrayal as a former concentration camp guard in The Reader.

The star recollected a lesson she learned from her father the day before she auditioned for what would come to be her film debut. Driving to get the script of Heavenly Creatures, a 17-year-old Kate excitedly said, “‘Oh my God, Dad! It’s an audition for a film! Wow! Do you think like I might get it?’ And he just looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, you will.'” This assurance struck the aspiring actress. She continued, “I remember thinking, ‘That’s it, isn’t it? I’ve got to absolutely believe that I’m going to get this part…And I do remember thinking, ‘Okay, I’m going to go in there and I’m going to somehow give them no option but to give me this part.’ And of course a part of that is remaining incredibly calm.” So she consciously tried to appear “not too desperate.” Indeed, Winslet landed the part of the obsessive, fantasy-gripped Juliet Hulme. Kate insists she was lucky to land such a good part so early in her career especially because critics took note of her performance and her name became immediately known in the industry.

The following year, she received much praise for her portrayal as the plucky Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, but it was her role as the passionate socialite Rose DeWitt Bukater in the epic romance Titanic that thrust her into stardom.

In her many roles, Winslet has made a point of accepting everyone in the cast and crew. She admits, “Actors can be quite weird. They all have their sort of ticks and ways, and it’s such a privilege to see how odd everyone is. But at the same time, it can really affect your day and how you’re playing a role if you allow yourself to be caught up in someone else’s stuff or process.” Also, to feel like she’s part of a team, she goes out of her way to learn the names of all the crew members and makes a point to “really join in.”

Winslet’s biggest challenge on set is to stay focussed. She says, “You can rehearse, and you can plan everything, and you can think you have a framework that you want to stick with or a few ideas that you want to remember to keep in your back pocket. And sometimes the craziness of an on-set environment can be so intense that you can find yourself forgetting all of those things that you planned.” In response, she makes sure to find quiet places to check in with her thoughts amidst the hustle and bustle.

After preparing for a role, Kate insists, “It’s so important to let the preparation go because you can get stuck in this little sort of tunnel of your own.” She makes a point to “leave so many sort of blank spaces for other people to fill by way of the director, and the other actors, and the things that they think, and also what they are bringing to the project through the roles that they’re playing.”

As far as advice to aspiring actors, she says:

“I think what I would honestly say to people just starting out, you know, it is difficult. It is definitely a hard job to do. And you do have to keep working at it. You do have to keep practicing things. You have to allow yourself to make mistakes. Make them. Rehearse in your bedroom. Try not to look in the mirror too much because then you rehearse a scene in front of a mirror and you like the way you said something or done something and all you will do is keep picturing yourself doing it the way you liked rather than being completely present in the moment…And if [acting] is the thing that you really believe you want to do with your life you will get there.”

Octavia Spencer’s Start in the Business

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Oscar-winning actress, Octavia Spencer is celebrated for her portrayal of Minny Jackson in The Help and she’s been nominated for another best-supporting-actress Academy Award for her Hidden Figures performance as mathematician Dorothy Vaughan. In addition to dramas, Spencer’s long and versatile resume includes roles in dark comedies like Bad Santa and the television series Red Band Society as well as voice-over work in the animated film Zootopia and the science fiction action film Insurgent. Most recently, Spencer can be seen in The Gifted.

In this SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview, Spencer describes how she went from being an aspiring actress to actually getting her foot in the industry’s doors.

Growing up in Alabama with six siblings, Spencer started performing in high school plays. But she didn’t major in theater in college because she didn’t want to take the required course that taught behind-the-scenes skills. “We were basically like scrubbing the stage down and painting and getting ready for the next play. And I’m like, ‘I will never in my life be painting a stage. I’m an actor!” In retrospect, she wishes she’d applied herself to these supportive theater skills so she could have learned abilities like how to sew and understand the core elements of lighting a show.

Her mother was a maid and taught Octavia to be practical in her mindset and approach to life. Although she had a deep desire to be an actress, the thought of working in Hollywood seemed like a far-fetched dream. “I just didn’t realize they made movies outside of Hollywood,” Octavia says. But when a Whoopi Goldberg movie, The Long Walk Home was being filmed in her own town, the fresh-out-of-high school Spencer set her eyes on getting involved one way or another. She persistently called the production each day, even disguising her voice, asking for various departments until she found out where the production office was located. Thus empowered, the determined young woman repeatedly showed up at the office until they relented and allowed her to intern.

Spencer says performing is in her DNA, so she was thrilled to be on a set in any capacity. Whoopi was particularly encouraging to the aspiring actress; indeed, Spencer refers to Goldberg as her “guardian angel.” Spencer would come to work in the casting department; she reveals how she was told that “Hollywood was not for girls that looked like me–it was for the beautiful people.” With this in mind, and considering herself to be a practical person who needed to have consistent work, Spencer passed on opportunities to audition that were offered to her. Now Spencer triumphantly smiles about her undeniable success and insists, “There’s nothing easy about what we do.”

But there was one director with whom she worked who did not offer her a chance to audition. It was Joel Schumacher during the production of A Time to Kill. This sparked something within Octavia. As a result, she asked him if she could read for a part in the production. “By asking him, I was not passive. And it made me not want to be turned down. It made me want to do it,” she says. Ultimately, she was given a role as a nurse. When she saw her name posted on the trailer door, Spencer beams, “It was the best dreamer’s dream come true that day.”

After that experience, Octavia moved to Los Angeles and purposefully found regular work outside of the entertainment industry so that when she would go to auditions, she’d be viewed as acting talent only–not dismissed as someone behind the scenes. But regarding her job experience in casting, she advises: “There is nothing better in demystifying the whole casting director-actor relationship. It’s the best if you just intern a few hours a week. Because then you learn how to own your auditions…I say when you get to a point where you can actually flub a line, and you see what actors do when they flub a line in an audition, it just totally makes everything like, ‘Oh, I messed that up. Okay, let me take it back.’ But before, you would do that you’d just be terrified: ‘I skipped a line!'”

Her next role was in The Sixth Man, but unfortunately, she was completely cut from the film. That’s when she realized, “I probably need acting classes. Because everything was like really important–and every word.” Learning the craft of acting opened the doors to many more auditions in both film and television. With a steady flow of acting work, Spencer feels blessed to have been given so many opportunities over the years.

Being Fired from ‘SNL’ Was Good for Jenny Slate

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“The best thing to happen to me was for [‘SNL’ producer] Lorne Michaels to hire me and fire me.” –Jenny Slate

One of Jenny Slate’s childhood dreams came true when she became a cast member for Saturday Night Live in 2009. She’d been doing stand up for several years and was just starting to land acting gigs. Elated, Slate found the SNL crew to be friendly, but she quickly came to find the experience to be “very intense–just really disappointing.” Most of all, the funny woman felt “incredibly disappointed” with herself. Indeed, on her debut performance she accidentally dropped the F-bomb on live TV, but moreover as she puts it, “I was not suited to the environment. I didn’t like it. I was really uncomfortable, and I never expected the environment to be so risk averse.”

Still, Slate was crushed when she wasn’t renewed for a second season on the legendary show. In a recent Off Camera interview, Jenny admitted to feeling “really mad and I felt really grossed out by the system and grossed out by myself.” Sadly, it was then that the 28 year started experiencing stage fright like never before. She painfully recalls her state of mind at the time, saying:

“But after I got fired, I was so humiliated like in every way. Humiliated by how I behaved, that I wasn’t a strong person, I wasn’t joyful. And I thought that everybody cared. And nobody…cares–at all. Nobody cares that I got fired. And I couldn’t get over it. I was too sensitive, and when I got up on stage I just felt like everyone hates me, they think I’m annoying for trying–they’re mad at me for trying. Why are you still here? Get out, you failed. You’re reminding us all that we could also fail. Get out. You’re the dying antelope. And I couldn’t do my stand up joyfully. I was like a ghost of myself.”

Fortunately, she turned herself around, first by getting angry. “What?! No! I’m so young. This is not the end for me,” she resolved. “I am not going to take this narrative to the end of the road just because it exists.” Then Jenny went to a hypnotherapist. It was then, she insists, that her stage fright disappeared.

“I kind of take pleasure in taking responsibility for what I’ve done wrong because then it’s not ugly,” Slate said.

Shortly thereafter, her career took an unexpected turn when she collaborated with her then-fiance, Dean Fleischer-Camp to quickly create a short film for a comedy show. The two co-wrote the stop-motion animated film Marcel the Shell with Shoes in just a few days. Fleischer-Camp created the appearance of the one-eyed shell character, and they improvised the dialogue. Jenny used a quiet, high-pitched, and throaty voice for the cute and friendly Marcel. When they posted it to YouTube, the short went viral–and it currently has over 28 million views.

With that kind of success, it should be no surprise Slate’s voice-over career took off. She has since done voice work in many animated films including The Lorax, Zootopia, The Lego Batman Movie, and the upcoming Despicable Me 3. Slate’s dramatic roles include a critically acclaimed portrayal of stand-up comic in the romantic comedy-drama Obvious Child as well as the teacher of a seven-year-old mathematical genius in the recently released drama Gifted. Turns out, Slate’s determination to take responsibility for her disappointments and her firm resolve to perform with joy were key to finding the career she really wanted.

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The Callback vs. The Shoot

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Casting Frontier | Frontier Insider

I have been teaching commercial acting for 20 years and auditioning for 38 and have never figured out a way to teach actors how to work on set. I have found numerous techniques to hone their skills in the audition room. I have created techniques on how to stand out and be noticed for good solid work. I have even found ways to recreate a callback setting so actors can deal with the nerves when a job is at stake.

But being on set is its own beast. I am going to give my sage advice on things to do and things to avoid once you have booked the elusive job.

Let’s start with the fitting, which is usually the first time you will interact with the director and clients if it is a commercial. I strongly suggest you come dressed in an option for the role. If they ask you to bring some wardrobe choices to the fitting, bring a few. You don’t need to bring your entire closet, just one or two strong choices and wear one of them to the fitting. Make sure your hair is washed and you wear makeup or come as if you were going to the callback. I have seen people lose the job after being cast because they are so casual or unkempt and that is not how the CLIENT sees the character. You should always present your most cast-able self anytime you are around those hiring you.

Often what I wear to the fitting is selected for the job. Make sure you wear nude underwear or things that will not detract from the outfits you will be trying on. I suggest pantyhose for women because they may have you change behind the clothes rack or some other makeshift dressing area.

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Great! On to the shoot day

First: Get to the set at least a half hour early. Walk around and say hello to people. Introduce yourself. Have a bite to eat and relax into the setting. Find a place to drop your things in your room.

Note that often nowadays there are rarely separate trailers for actors especially on commercials. Budget cuts and the like have impacted this. So find a spot that you can put your stuff down and travel light. Bring a phone, a book and maybe some comfy shoes… that is it.

Second, Get to know the names of the AD (assistant director) or second AD who will be signing you in and monitoring your whereabouts. Let them know where you are, so they can find you. Nothing irritates them more than looking for you when they need you in makeup or on set. The more you can know names of the folks working on the shoot the better and the more comfortable you will be

In all likelihood, one of the first things you will do is sign your contract. ALWAYS SNAP A PHOTO OF IT and send a copy to your agent even if you think it is fine. You want the agent to deal with discrepancies, not you. You are there to act, to create, and to be of service. Let the agents negotiate on your behalf.

Be kind, respectful and professional. Have your photo ID, passport or social security card handy for them and any other paperwork you need. Know the address of your agency. Uou can always download contracts on line and practice filling them out so you look like a pro.


Yes they called you at 6:00 am but don’t get around to shooting you till 3:00 in the afternoon. It does happen. This is where your patience and professionalism must come into play. You CANNOT complain. They are paying you for the day and you are to be ready and energetic when they call you to the set. Do whatever you have to do. Walk, exercise, nap, eat, read to amuse yourself and stay focused.

SHOOTING—when the 2nd AD calls you to the set, be ready to go. First, they will do a rehearsal with the director and the DP (Director of Photography) to see how they are going to shoot the scene. Give your all in the rehearsal. This is where they can see what will work and what won’t. Don’t hold it back for the actual shoot as they may not know how to cover it. Drop the ego and listen to what all of the moving parts are. They may need to make changes because of lighting, or cast, or angles, nothing to do with you, but it will affect what you do in the scene.

LISTEN. Then they may ask you to step away while they light or set up the scene. Stay close by and make sure they know where you are. Keep your energy up and pleasant and be respectful of the others doing their equally important work.

They usually start with a wide shot, covering the whole scene. Still give it your all in every take. Be open and available for notes from the director. Be open to listening to the assistant director as well because the director will frequently tell the AD what they want from you in the shot.

After they have THE WIDE… Then they will come in closer, for perhaps a two shot or just another angle. Things may adjust. They might pullout the table that you had in the scene because they need to get in closer with the equipment. People are all around sticking things in your face, light meters, make-up people with powder puffs or maybe you are sweating and the makeup person is nowhere to be found. Don’t be afraid to quietly ask the AD if the makeup person is close by because you feel shiny.

Be open to the notes and when and if they do several or many takes, it is often other factors, lighting, camera, focus that is causing them to do so many takes to achieve the desired effect. You want to keep it fresh and new as if it was the first time you said it, but unless they suggest it, keep doing what they asked for. If the director seems to be reaching for something in your performance, try it. Repeat what the director said in a playable action. If the director says, let’s speed it up. You can ask “so more urgency?” Or if the director says take more time, you can ask, “so languish in the moment?” This way, you are collaborating with the director and giving yourself something playable to do.

Often the producer or clients will have a way they want to try and it doesn’t mean what you were doing was wrong; they just want to have options to look at in order to pick the right one for the spot, film or episode.

I AM READY FOR MY CLOSEUP – this is where most actors fall apart. Something about the camera being up close and personal gets them all shook up. Remember who you are talking to and what you want and try to anchor yourself with something or someone.

You might be looking at a blue piece of tape, when before in the wide shot you had an actual person or something real to look at. Now you have to have the same reaction with a piece of tape. Use your memory or emotional recall to capture the picture in your mind’s eye and make it as believable as you can..

About the author:
Judy Kain is an actress who has been in over 400 commercials. Her television credits include recurring roles in The Odd Couple, Hand Of God and The Fosters. Judy owns Keep It Real Acting Studios in North Hollywood.

Always Ready

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Casting Frontier | Frontier Insider

Learning what it takes for you to always be at your best and ready to deliver is one of the most important lessons for an actor to learn.

You never know when and where you’re going to get your shot, so your time needs to be spent preparing, not waiting. If you ask 100 working actors how they got where they are, you’ll get a wide variety of answers. For most, it started with an audition, but no matter how their opportunities presented themselves, they were READY.

Actor preparing

Here are 3 things you can do to make sure you’re ready to audition and ready to work:


I’m a teacher, so, yes I think this is an important way to stay sharp! But, I’m also a student and take many classes myself. I see how powerfully they guide me and how I count on them to keep me focused and at my best.

A good class should remind you of why you wanted to act in the first place. It should encourage and uplift you and leave you better than when you started it.

Acting is a heart and body centered art form and an open heart and acute body awareness is essential to your success in connecting to your work and to the audience. A good acting class should care about your heart and enliven the body.

Class is also a great way connect with your peers. It’s easy to feel alone on this path and being with others who are striving to be the best they can be is a wonderfully supportive thing to do.

Also ask around and be sure the teacher of the class isn’t someone who thinks they have the answer and loves nothing better than hearing their own voice tell you the truth. There is no one answer on how to act or audition, a good teacher knows this and will have the skill, through whatever technique they teach, to guide you to your answers and help you find your truth.


It’s easy to get stuck in the habit of putting your head down and bull dozing through the tasks of your days, with little recognition of what is going on around you. This is death to the artist. Here’s a fun exercise to try to keep the tools of awareness and imagination sharp, so that you’re always alive and energized.

Get out of your house. Go to a park, café, or anywhere you can sit and observe. Now, choose a person and really watch them – notice the details of what they’re wearing, their hair, the pitch of their voice, their laugh. Imagine where they would live. House or apartment? How is it furnished? Do they have a lot of dishes or just one or two? Are there pictures of people in the living room? If so, who are they? Pets? What job does this person have? Do they like it? What kind of money do they make? Are they comfortable or do they need more? Are they lonely or do they want more time alone? What do they long for? Ask as many questions as you can think of to make that person come alive for you in a specific, real and heart-felt way.

Repeat this exercise until your eyes and ears are razor sharp from observing, and your body and heart are fully awake and engaged.

Use this exercise to re-connect with your internal and external world. You will vibrate with an awareness and energy that will brighten your work and lift it to a higher level.


No matter what is happening in your life or how hectic your survival job, every actor should set aside at least one hour a day to feed their creative souls. The activity is up to you and should be based on what you need that particular day: rehearse a scene, prepare a set of sides as if you had an audition that afternoon, watch an interview with an actor you love, read. Life is busy and sometimes it’s hard to find time, I know because I do this as well. I am a teacher and even on days that I teach and coach, I take my hour or so and hone the exercises I teach, create new ones, meditate, talk to casting directors or whatever wakes me up to the joy of my profession on that day. I never miss a day and you shouldn’t either – this is your creative life we’re talking about here!

Ultimately, you want to gain control of your life to the extent that you are living as an artist 24/7, so there’s a lot more to it than just these three steps, but they’re a good start. I actually teach an entire course on living as an artist because I’ve seen again and again how intertwined the life and the work of the actor are.

So take good care of the now, after all, the present moment is the only moment you can control. But, if you spend it waking up to your life and your work in a truly committed way, you’ll be more than ready when your time comes.


CraigWallaceCraig Wallace’s background in script development combined with his 16 years of coaching actors enables him to find the job getting moments that others miss. His expertise in breaking down text and years of coaching experience has made him “L.A.’s go to private coach.” Sign up for his group or private classes at




‘The Affair’ Actress Ruth Wilson Shares Her Creative Process

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English actress Ruth Wilson recently answered questions on a public forum while promoting her performance in the title role of Hedda Gabler at the Royal National Theatre. In a Guardian webchat, the star revealed steps she takes when creating her characters. Indeed, she has expressed how she works hard on the inner life of her often passionate and unpredictable characters. Earlier this year, Wilson’s Golden Globe-winning performance as Alison Lockhart in the Showtime series The Affair was renewed for a fourth season. The drama explores the emotional effects of an extramarital relationship between Alison and a school teacher named Noah Solloway played by Dominic West. Here are some of Wilson’s webchat answers.

What is the initial step she takes in her working process?

“Read the script many times. I create a workbook by which I go through and write down everything every other character says about my character, what I say about myself and others; I stick in pictures and references, historical images or places it’s set; if a character is really hard to understand I sometimes write out their thoughts in the silent moments of my characters so I know exactly what she’s thinking moment to moment. Obviously I need a lot of time to do this and that’s not always the case. Surprisingly for Hedda, I’ve done the least amount of prep, and I’ve felt very liberated as a result.”

On how she develops the emotional complexities of her characters, she says: 

“I start from the character and motivation, and the inner workings and thoughts of a character, and this usually draws you close to a voice and a mannerism or a physicality. For example with Alison in ‘The Affair,’ I get to play both sides of that character–my version from her point of view, she was someone suffocated by grief and self-loathing, so she appeared more shy, shoulders hunched, eyes averted, quiet. In Noah’s point of view, she came across as predatory vixen, so my body language was entirely different. She came across as much more confident, and in charge of her own choices.”

On the challenge of maintaining the accent of her characters she says:

“Very hard–I feel like it’s taken three seasons to get it right! I think [‘The Americans’ actor] Matthew Rhys said 50% of acting is thinking about your accent all the time. It makes it easier if you keep it up between takes, even if you feel foolish doing so. After three seasons, I can speak in a British accent in between. It’s different for everyone–some like to hear and repeat, but I have to work on it a bit, and find the rules of that particular accent. For example, I’ve just done a Yorkshire accent, and a lot of it is at the front of the mouth, up against the teeth, but it’s flat, the mouth doesn’t open much. There are certain letters that aren’t audible. And it also helps to understand an environment, and why an accent is formed in the first place–city accents tend to be louder and quicker and faster than an accent that originates in the countryside. Though Yorkshire farmers are well loud! I often find my American accents seeps into other projects–the ‘R’ comes back to haunt me all the time.”

Matt Damon’s Rules for Success

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Matt Damon transformed from being a lonely teenager appearing in high school theater productions to a successful A-list star receiving an Academy Award from five nominations. The Massachusetts native is considered one of the highest-grossing actors of all time and has branched out to screenwriting and producing as well. This Top 10 Rules for Success video reveals several nuggets of wisdom that have worked so well for Matt as he pursued his acting ambitions. Here are three of the rules mentioned.

Believe in yourself

When asked the best advice he’d ever received, Damon answered with some particularly discouraging advice: “When I was younger, everybody told me not to be an actor. To this day, I say that to people who come up to me and say, ‘I’m thinking of going into acting. What do you think?’ I say, ‘Absolutely not, terrible idea, don’t do it.’ Because that’s what everyone said to me. And I think if you’re going to make it in this business that is so full of rejection and hardship, you need to believe in yourself despite what everybody you love and trust tells you.” 

Channel your energy

While attending Harvard University, Damon would skip classes to pursue acting projects no matter how small they were. And he wrote an early treatment of the screenplay Good Will Hunting for English class about an unrecognized genius. Then Matt and his good buddy, Ben Affleck took that treatment and turned it into a completed script. The two would go on to receive an Oscar for their Good Will Hunting screenplay years later after the film was made. Damon says he and Affleck wrote the script “out of necessity.” He continued, “We just needed a job. And as you all know, they don’t really give those out here. So it was just two guys who were eager and young and had a lot of energy and a lot of creative energy. That’s always a big problem with LA and New York. You’d meet these other actors and it’s like you’re rearing to go, and there’s nowhere to put that energy.” Besides writing their own material, Damon encourages actors to channel their energy into other healthy and productive avenues like taking classes to gain acting experience.

Decide not to be nervous

A star-struck Damon was on the set of Saving Private Ryan with his co-star Tom Hanks when Hanks said something that made a lasting impression on the younger actor. “I was asking him about the movie he did with Jackie Gleason,” Damon recalls. “And I said, ‘What was it like to work with Jackie Gleason?’ And he thought about it for a second and he said, ‘You know, I made a decision to not be nervous.’ And I went, ‘What?’ And he goes, ‘I just, I knew everyone was so nervous around him and I just said, ‘I’m not going to be nervous around him.’ And once he realized I was treating him like a fellow human being, we really had this great working relationship.” Damon has gone on to work with many other prestigious, if not intimidating talents, and it seems this advice has served him quite well.

The Skill of Self-Confidence

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“No one will believe in you unless you do.” –Dr. Ivan Joseph

Dr. Ivan Joseph is a sports psychologist and Director of Athletics at Ryerson University in Canada. But earlier in his career when Ivan coached the soccer team at Graceland University in Iowa, the critical asset he sought in incoming players was confidence. He defines confidence as “the ability or the belief in yourself to accomplish any task no matter the odds, no matter the difficulty, no matter the adversity.” It was the most important skill as a player “because without that skill we are useless as a soccer player because when you lose sight of belief in yourself we’re done for,” Joseph asserts. While some people believe that individuals are simply born with or without bold and assured personalities, Joseph insists that confidence can be trained. Here are five ways he believes anyone can build a winning mentality.

Repetition, repetition, repetition

Patiently and consistently practicing what you want to excel in is key. Joseph insists, “The problem is we expect to be self-confident, but we can’t be unless the skill or the task we’re doing is not novel–is not new to us. We want to be in the situation where we’ve had so much pressure…–because pressure builds diamonds–we want to be in the situation where, ‘Hey, I’ve done this a thousand times…” It’s crucial to overcome the human tendency to avoid tasks that we believe we’re failing at. He states, “Practice, practice, practice. And do not accept failure.”


Self-affirmation starts by stopping yourself when you notice you’re having a negative inner dialogue. Next, convert your thoughts and words to positive ones that acknowledge the full credit you deserve. Because our thoughts affect our actions, he likes to repeat the following manta: “I am the captain of my ship and the master of my fate.” For Joseph believes, “If I don’t say it, if I don’t believe it, no one else will.”

Get away from the people who tear you down

If someone brings you down, it can trigger your own negative thoughts. “There’s enough people that are telling us that we can’t do it; that we’re not good enough. Why do we want to tell ourselves that?” Joseph asks. Avoid negative energy all you can, and instead find supportive friendships.

Acknowledge what’s good

When people are only shown what they did wrong they tend to under perform. Similarly, they tend to thrive when they’re reminded of what they’ve done right. Knowing that we all make mistakes and we all have the potential to dwell on those errors, Joseph asserts the importance of finding ways to appreciate ourselves–especially during the most difficult times. For example, he once wrote a self-confidence letter to himself when he was in high spirits. It listed several positive aspects concerning his life and character, including the wise choices he’d made as well as his accomplishments. Joseph makes sure to pull the note out and read those words particularly when he’s going through tough times, making mistakes, or receiving criticism.

Self-confident people interpret feedback to their benefit

Joseph notes that self-confident people tend to put a positive slant on the feedback they receive. If they hear there’s a 98-percent chance they will fail at something, the self-assured interpret the percentage as a good chance of success. A two-percent opening is enough to encourage them in their efforts because it means succeeding is indeed possible. Joseph hopes everyone makes a habit of this kind of emboldened thinking.

Dr. Joseph is credited with making great advancements wherever he’s employed and with inspiring pride and spirit in others. Clearly, developing the skill of self-confidence is working for him.