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.

SIT AROUND AND WAIT

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..


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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:

TAKE A CLASS

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.

EXERCISE YOUR IMAGINATION

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.

PRACTICE TIME

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 wallaceauditiontechnique.com

 

 

 

‘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

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.

Jennifer Lawrence’s Rules for Success

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Jennifer Lawrence is quite a success story. At the age of 26 she’s already been nominated for four Oscars, taking home one for her performance in Silver Lining’s Playbook; the star’s films have grossed over $5.5 billion dollars worldwide; her role as The Hunger Games‘ Katniss Everdeen has earned her the title of the highest grossing action heroine with the Guinness World Records; she’s appeared in Time’s 100 most influential people in the world; and her charitable organization, the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation has donated millions of dollars to numerous organizations helping children.

This Top 10 Rules for Success video is a compilation of interviews from over the years in which Lawrence speaks about some of her personal philosophies that guide her in life. Here are three of the philosophies mentioned.

Don’t consider failure

“I’ve always had this really gross, dangerous mentality of no consideration of failure,” she starts off. “If I want something I just go until I get it.” Growing up, Jennifer was “tough” like her two older brothers in Kentucky, she wouldn’t hesitate to ride untamed horses without a saddle, and was always active in sports. She suffered from social anxiety, but found that it melted away when she performed in church plays and school musicals. By the time she was 14 years old, she felt certain she wanted to pursue acting and convinced her reluctant mom to allow her to move to New York. “I knew, I felt so strongly. It feels insane to be a teenager and know. I knew [pursuing acting] was the right thing to do, that it was going to work out,” she reflected. “It was like this fire and also this like–I just knew it, so I eventually saved up babysitting money and went and did it.” She also graduated from high school two years early to begin acting.

Work very hard at the business aspect of acting

“Without gaining some sort of control over the business, I lose some control over the creative–which is most important. So, I used to stay out of it, ‘I don’t care. I’m an artist. I don’t need it.’ But this is my business now….And I respect my business,” Lawrence asserts. “I’ve worked really hard to build this, and I want to continue building it. And it’s my business–my personal business. So I don’t understand how people do slack.” Whether it means to be readily available to her agent or cutting members of her team to make sure she’s the one making decisions for her career path, she’s on top of the business end of acting.

Talk, Watch, and Listen

Lawrence’s propensity to talk was acknowledged in seventh grade when her class voted her “Most Talkative.” And talking appears to be instrumental in her acting approach as well. Indeed, she did not study the craft acting. Instead, she describes her thespian roots this way: “When I just started and I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know how to act. I just knew how to talk. And I think once I started understanding, I was like well I don’t want to learn how to act. I just want to keep learning how to talk.” Also, like most actors, she places a strong emphasis on observing people around her and incorporating what interests her into her characters. Elaborating on her acting method she once said, “To you it looks emotionally straining, but I don’t get emotionally drained, because I don’t invest any of my real emotions. I don’t take any of my characters’ pain home with me, I don’t even take it to craft services. I’ve never been through anything that my characters have been through. And I can’t go around looking for roles that are exactly like my life. So I just use my imagination. If it ever came down to the point where, to make a part better, I had to lose a little bit of my sanity, I wouldn’t do it. I would just do comedies.”

Michelle Williams Reflects on Her Outstanding Acting Journey

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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.”

Actor-to-Actor Advice

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Jack Nicholson once said, “I hate giving advice, because people won’t take it.” Well, here are some actors that certainly did appreciate the advice of their acting colleagues. In fact, they never forgot the words of wisdom. Here are a few of them.

Johnny Depp recollected a number of acting greats who encouraged him along the way. “All the amazing people that I’ve worked with–Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman–have told me consistently: ‘Don’t compromise. Do your work, and if what you’re giving is not what they want, you have to be prepared to walk away.'”

Laura Linney said that her fellow actor, Kevin Kline gave her the following acting advice: “[He] told me, ‘Film acting is all about relaxation.'”

Meet the Blacks star Bresha Webb said, “Marlon Wayans is a great friend and always told me to go with my gut and just really put it all out there. As an artist that’s been very freeing for me.”

Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher once told Meryl Streep: “Take your broken heart; make it into art.”

Jake Gyllenhaal once shared, “Dustin Hoffman said to me that I didn’t have to do as much as I thought I had to do.”

James Franco said, “Seth Rogen said, ‘I’ll never do a movie that I wouldn’t go see if I wasn’t in it.”

When Jennifer Connelly was asked the best acting advice she’s ever received, she answered, “Leonardo DiCaprio said someone said to him, ‘The pain is temporary, the film is forever.”

When Ben Stiller was a young actor in his early 20s, he spent time with William Hurt with whom Stiller’s dad was cast in a play. Ben recollects his conversation with Hurt saying, “He said he knew so many young actors when he was starting out…that quit before because they didn’t have the perseverance. They weren’t able to stick with it.”

When Pitch Perfect 2 star Anna Kendrick had a case of the butterflies before performing at the 2015 Oscars, she received great advice from James Corden from Into the Woods. “I told him how nervous I was and he said, ‘You have to enjoy yourself because the 13-year-old in you would punch yourself if you didn’t.” “I try to keep that in mind…To enjoy yourself in the good moments, and to push yourself in the hard moments,” Kendrick says.

Cameron Diaz said of her My Best Friend’s Wedding co-star Julia Roberts: “One thing I realized from Julia which I knew before–but was made very clear–is that when you’re the star of the film, the crew looks to you to set the tone of everyday work. So when you come into work, whatever it is that you’re giving off, that is what the tone is going to be for the working conditions.”

When Sean Penn and Robin Wright’s daughter, Dylan Penn was making her onscreen acting debut in the horror flick Condemned, Dylan reflected on the advice her veteran parents gave her with her role. “I think the one piece of general advice that they gave was just to never do something that felt off. Never do something that felt false for me or else that’s going to show up on screen. Which really helped me in the end.”

When Robert Downey Junior was in the throws of addiction, he recalls Sean Penn’s advice: “In a relatively short time [Penn] was a better friend than some people I’d known for ages. I remember him saying…”You have two reputations. I think you know what both of them are, and I think you’d do well to get rid of one of those reputations. If you don’t, it will get rid of the other one.”

And lastly, years ago Tina Fey had no money and moved to New York to work on Saturday Night Live. At that time she saw an Oprah show where Winfrey advised, “Always be the only person who can sign your checks.” Fey admits she doesn’t have a head for business, and she very well might have allowed someone to take charge of her money had she not heard these wise words.

What’s the best advice another actor has given you?