Whole Body Auditioning

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During a recent meeting with some casting and film director friends about what actors needed to do to book work, two words were repeated again and again: Embodied and personal.


It is no longer enough to play your idea of the role, you need to be a living, breathing embodiment of the role.

To achieve this high level it’s essential to center your preparation in the body and heart – not the mind. The mind is a literal organ that exists primarily to keep you safe. It will tell you what the piece is about and give you a few obvious ways to play it. If you prepare from the mind – and too many actors do – you won’t be showing the people in the room who you are and how you feel, only what you think.

Your brain will have an opinion about how you feel, your body will know how you feel.

Everything that we experience is taken in thorough the 3 sense doors of the mind, body and heart. The body is the least explored and also the most revealing. We have a physical reaction to everything that happens to us and that reaction is the truest one that we can have, because the body has no agenda but to show you how you feel.

Remember though, it all starts at the very beginning. How you start is how you finish and many actors start their “preparation” before they have relaxed the mind and connected with their body. You only get the first chance with the material once, so make sure that before you begin your mind is calm and focused and your body is awake and energized. This mental and physical positioning will ensure that you are operating at the full strength of your creative (not mental) powers from the very start and that you will continue to do so throughout your preparation.

Here is a way to start your process by establishing a deep connection to the body so that you have access to all of the honest, clear, compelling information that lives there.

Read the piece through out loud feeling your physical reaction to all of your character’s words and all of the other characters words. Let your body tell you how you feel by where you might be tightening or relaxing. Do certain words make your stomach clench or your breath catch in your throat? Do others relax your shoulders and open your chest? Note it all – it’s the most specific information you’ll get about how you truly feel.

Now, note the emotions that the body sensation trigger. For instance, if someone says something that scares you and you tightened the stomach and held the breath, the associated emotions could be fear, or panic or even anger. Allow your body to instruct your heart and reveal your true feelings. These feeling will become strong, connected and honest choices – choices that the brain, by the way, probably wouldn’t have allowed you access to.

Working this way you become the actor who have instills the role with all of the power and truth that results from wrapping your body and heart completely around the words on the page.

The people watching will not be able to separate you from the words and will have no choice but to hire you – they have to, you’re already are the role.

Embodiment in audition is the ability to physically manifest the words on the page. If you have prepared correctly, you arrive at the audition needing to do nothing more than speak, listen and be. You are no longer an actor acting or reading the words, trying to communicate the thoughts of the brain. You are a person being.

Personal embodiment isn’t just the new battle cry in casting, it should be the goal of every actor who is in this not just to book the occasional job, but to have a long, successful career. This is not a time for shortcuts and tricks. It’s a time for the real actors to learn how to connect to their bodies and hearts, step up to the plate and start booking. You’ll never have a better chance than right now.



Craig 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

Awkward Auditions

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The uplifting musical love story La La Land pulled in seven Golden Globe nominations earlier this week. The film is up for consideration for best picture, best director, and best actor and actress awards for its stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The story follows the journey of two aspiring performers in Los Angeles. At one point, Stone’s character auditions for a small film role before a casting director who takes a phone call in the middle of her read.

During an interview, Gosling revealed that this scenario actually once happened to him during an audition. “Yeah, where I had to cry and this lady took a call in the middle of it. And then just told me to go on, ‘Pick up where I left off.’ That was part of what was great about making this film was [writer-director Damien Chazelle] encouraged us to bring our experiences to these characters,” Gosling recalled. Stone likewise relayed her own set of audition stories to Chazelle. Taking notes, he soon found a way to weave these experiences into the movie that’s being described as an “ode to those who dream of making it big.”

If there’s one thing for sure, when actors enter the audition room, it’s that they have to be ready for just about anything. Among the many actors who have shared their unexpected and awkward audition-room tales is Broadway’s Tracie Thoms. Here she describes something that just seemed to take over her as she auditioned before Quentin Tarantino for Death Proof.

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And Color Purple star Heather Headley recounts the time casting seemed to pay her no notice as she sang her heart out with stunning brilliance.

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Another singing audition came from CBS’ Two Broke Girls actress Beth Behrs. She recalls a bit of an embarrassing audition in which she sang with a mismatched style before casting. In return, she received feedback that opened her eyes as far as which kind of roles to pursue in her career.

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And lastly, the next time you hear the Aflac duck in a commercial, you might think of Will & Grace actor Sean Hayes who did not land the role of the silly duck.

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Have you ever had an absurd or awkward incident along these lines while auditioning? Please share!




A Man in Pursuit of Rejection

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Rejection is something that all people experience in any number of ways throughout life. But if you’re an actor, it’s essentially a way of life. For example, repeatedly waiting in groups of 60 actors and knowing that perhaps just a couple of you may have the pleasure of landing the roles at hand can be an unnerving experience. But it’s clear that the more auditions an actor goes on increases his or her chances of booking jobs. So it’s essential for actors to develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection. Do you ever find that rejection is interfering with your ability to move things forward in your acting career? If so, you might find Jia Jiang’s personal struggles with rejection to be edifying.

Jia Jiang is not an actor. Rather, he was an aspiring entrepreneur who immigrated to the United States in hopes of becoming the next Bill Gates. And while he did find accomplishment in the corporate world, his real dream of being an entrepreneur evaded him. After all, right from the get go, he constantly heard “no” from potential customers or investors which left him riddled with self-doubt. In fact, he described the rejection as “crippling.” In his What I learned from 100 days of rejection Ted Talk, Jiang attributes a specific childhood experience in which he was publicly rejected by his peers with haunting him well into his adult years.

Determined to become “a better leader, a better person,” Jiang decided to take action. He discovered a game called Rejection Therapy invented by Canadian entrepreneur, Jason Comely. The game’s premise was to actively seek rejection for 30 days. Comely argued this consistent exposure to rejection would essentially desensitize any participant to the pain associated with being brushed off. Inspired by this idea, Jiang decided to go a step further: He determined he would seek rejection for 100 days, and document his experiences on a video blog.

Whether or not you have struggles with rejection, viewing Jiang’s video entries makes for fun watching. They include “Borrow $100 from a Stranger,” “Request a ‘Burger Refill,'” “Play Soccer in Someone’s Backyard,” “Ask for Olympic Symbol Ring Doughnuts,” and the list goes on.

In time, Jiang learned to steel himself against rejection, and develop self-confidence which holds strong even when he experiences setbacks. And now he dares us all to live more boldly and boost our bravery.

In turn, Jiang has made a career for himself based on his journey with rejection. He is the owner of RejectionTherapy.com, a website full of inspiration, information, and products to support people who strive to overcome their fear of rejection. He is the CEO of Wuju Learning that gives instruction to individuals and organizations to become more fearless in their pursuits. And he authored a bestselling book entitled Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection.

Jiang has certainly triumphed over his monumental fears! Do you think his tactics would be effective in dealing with audition room nerves? Who wants to try?

The Healing Power of Acting

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Sometimes the process of acting goes beyond being more than an exploration, passion, or career goal. And it, in fact, has the power to transform its participants’ lives in a healing manner.

Take Michael Shannon, for example. Shannon is known for his versatility on screen in films like Revolutionary Road which earned him an Oscar nomination, Take Shelter, 99 Homes for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and Nocturnal Animals. In this Off Camera interview, Shannon describes his difficult childhood. His parents divorced early on, and he describes his high school years as “a disaster”–and he eventually dropped out of school.

Painting a picture of his high school social difficulties, he says, “I was in a different city with a bunch of kids I didn’t know at a very large school. So my freshman and sophomore year I couldn’t make friends to save my life.” On top of it, his father with whom he was living at the time, was going through his own hard times, which ultimately lead Michael Shannon to move. In turn, he immersed himself in community theater.

Indeed, the more he performed, the more he realized acting “might be more than just something I’m doing to kill time and ease the pain.” Instead, the theater allowed him to change how he and others perceived him. Shannon revealed:

“I guess I had a lot of inappropriate behavior, or I didn’t really fit into like normal societal situations. I struggled with those, but the great thing about the acting is that I could go on stage and act insane, where in real life if I acted that way, I’d get chastised and punished or told to shut up. But when you do that on stage, people applaud  and say, ‘Wow, you’re a genius.’ So it was a pretty easy bridge to cross.”

Sally Field is another example of an actor who found acting to be a healing force. In an emotional interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors, Field opened up about a deep depression she experienced in her late teen years. She told Hailee Steinfeld, “It took me a long time to get to anybody to really learn a craft, and that wasn’t until I was in my second television series, and unfortunately it was something called ‘The Flying Nun.’ I was suffering so badly, I was so depressed and I was 19 and I didn’t want to be playing something called the Flying Nun. I did not want to be dressed as a nun all day long.”

But fortunately she found a support that helped her emerge from the depression. For Field, that support was The Actor’s Studio. Field admitted:

“[The Actor’s Studio] really began to form who I was not only as an actor, but helped me be who I became as a person. Because it gave me tools…so that I never lose my own voice…acting tools, that I can go into myself and if I can call on those pieces of myself as an actor, then I can call on them as a human, and I couldn’t do that before.”

To hear Field’s entire comments on the topic, you can view the interview on Variety’s Actors on Actors which debuts on PBS SoCal on January 3rd.

Do you attribute acting with being a healing force in your life as well? Please share.

Casting Director David Rubin Reveals What He Looks for in Talent

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In this PBS interview, Casting Director and Academy Governor David Rubin shares insights into how he makes casting decisions. Rubin’s casting resume includes a long impressive list of box office hits including Gravity, Men in Black, Hairspray, and The English Patient. He’s also received an Emmy for casting HBO’s Game Change.

According to Rubin, “The most important thing for an actor to bring to the table is themselves, their own idiosyncrasy. And so many actors get preoccupied with what they thing the filmmaker is looking for. And frankly, what we’re looking for is them.”

He has expressed similar ideas about this topic last year when interviewed by the Academy. When asked the number one thing that he looks for as a casting director, he responded: “I look for compelling and, ideally, unexpected ways of portraying each character. Our choice of each actor must help tell the film’s story in a particular way and hopefully gives it a depth and a dynamic that might even go beyond what the screenwriter and other filmmakers had originally envisioned. In order to do that, I’m looking for actors who are skilled in their craft and who bring an individuality that makes them distinct from so many others.”

Rubin also addressed what actors sometimes do that stop him from considering them for roles. He said: “The most important thing for an actor to do in a casting situation is to prepare well and make clear choices for your character in the audition scene. We realize you often don’t have access to a complete script and are making guesses about the character, based on little information, but making firm choices and playing with conviction is the key. So what really turns me off is the lack of distinct choice. Even if an actor is wrong for that role, if they’re true to their instincts and are committed to their acting choices, I’ll remember them and happily have them in for a future film!”

In his quest to deliberately open up roles to actors among a diverse talent pool, Rubin has a practice of ignoring screenwriters’ character descriptions early on. “It’s not that I don’t respect the intentions of a screenwriter. But writers describe characters very specifically, NOT for the filmmakers, but really for studio executive and financiers, so they’ll read the script and see a movie in their heads which they’ll hopefully want to finance and distribute. But once a movie is in pre-production and we’re contemplating casting options, I think it’s best to forget about specifics like age, race and gender and just think about who are the actors who would be believable in a role and help drive the story forward in interesting ways.” Broadening the casting options becomes an important part of the conversation with filmmakers as they explore various ways to bring life to each of the characters in any given project.

And actors should keep in mind that when they believe they’ve  botched an audition, don’t worry about it. Any “mistake” just might be what most intrigues casting directors like Rubin. “Often those are the most illuminating auditions to me–those kind of organic moments where an actor connects with a character even though they may not even realize that they’re doing it,” he says.

We all need affirmation! (part 3)

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In parts one and two of ‘We All Need Affirmation!’ we discussed the power of positive affirmations and a number of exercises of changing negative thoughts to positive ones combating those lingering, counter-productive thoughts.  In this final installment, are two exercises on building self-confidence and belief in oneself.


Exercise: I believe in myself.

This next Affirmation will help you believe that you are good enough to be great.

Once again, write this down in your Actor’s Journal.

I believe in myself.

Then take a breath and say it out loud:

I believe in myself.

Say it again, quietly to yourself.

I believe in myself.

Feel it, own it and live by it. This should become your mantra, part of your morning ritual. Before you brush your teeth, drink your coffee, or pick up your cell phone, you need to look in the mirror and say “I believe in myself” three times.

You will immediately see a difference in yourself. You will gain a stronger desire to achieve your Want and you will be more positive about your prospects. Incorporate your mantra into your daily life. Say it to yourself three times before you go to class. Say it before you go into a meeting with an agent. Say it after a rough day before you go to sleep.

I believe in myself.

This Affirmation is especially effective before auditions. It will counteract any prior self-doubt and negative thoughts and statements about failing such as “I’m going to screw up this audition.” It’s equally as valuable after auditions to block any negative thoughts from re-entering your subconscious like “I just screwed up that audition.”

Also, to complement this Affirmation, try the following visualization exercise at home or sitting in your car before any audition:

Once again, relax, take a deep breath and imagine the inside of the casting room. Picture yourself standing in the middle of the room performing your scene with focus, energy, passion and the Confidence that comes with being fully prepared. Picture a casting director, writer, producer and director all sitting across from you, smiling, interested, taking notes and circling your name on their call sheet. As you finish your audition, visualize them smiling, thanking you for your work and telling you with a wink that they’ll be in touch. See yourself walking out of the audition with your shoulders back and your head held high, proud and satisfied with your audition, confident that you did your best.

Visualizing a positive outcome will fuel you with Confidence.

Exercise: I am a confident actor.

In this final Affirmation, I’m going to help you build upon the Confidence you already have. I’m going to help you find something you’re confident about and translate that into your acting. I’m going to help you accept that you can be a confident actor.

First, let’s find out where else in your life you feel the most confident. Steer it away from acting. Think of something you know you are good at, something that you believe you can do and do well. We all feel confident about something. Do you feel most confident about your relationships, at your job, playing a sport, schoolwork, giving advice, in sex?

Where are you most confident? Write it down in your Actor’s Journal.

I am very confident when I …

Let’s say you wrote down, “I am very confident when I am driving.” That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert or a professional racecar driver. It just means that driving is something you feel sure of doing.

In other words, when you drive, you are not fearful of the road or other motorists. You feel relaxed, yet in control. When driving, you are cautious even when you’re talking to your passenger, singing to the radio, or talking on your headset. You feel free, at ease, your thoughts are flowing. You feel confident and the Confidence surges through your body.

Well, that’s how you should ultimately feel about your acting, whether it’s in classes, auditions or on the set. You should feel comfortable with the material. You should feel at ease in the room. You should feel strong about your intentions. You should feel confident. You should feel like you’re a good actor.

I want you to think about that activity, the one that makes you feel confident. Picture yourself doing it in your mind and feel the Confidence rise in you. Attach that powerful feeling to the following words. Write it down and say it out loud three times:

I am a confident person!

Carry that feeling and that positive thought into the classroom, meeting or your next audition. Experience the difference it makes.

Translate those feelings of Confidence into your acting. Say it out loud:

I am a confident actor!

As you work on your Confidence in and out of acting class, this mantra will ultimately become your personal truth.

Now you have four personal Affirmations to work with in gaining Confidence and sustaining it on a daily basis. Take these Affirmations and write them on a Post It. Hang the Post It on your computer, your bathroom mirror, your dashboard or put it in your wallet to always carry with you as a reminder.

I am good enough to be great. I believe in myself. I am a confident actor.


SeditaImgWhether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at ScottSeditaActing.com.

We all need affirmation (part 2)

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In part one of ‘We All Need Affirmation!’ we discussed the power of positive affirmations and the exercise of changing negative thoughts to positive ones. Next is an exercise on how to counter those negative ideas and thoughts that can linger.


Exercise: I am good enough to be great.

Of course, remnants of your negative thoughts will still linger. Let me show you how to counter those nagging negative thoughts with an even more positive thought.

This next Affirmation will be all encompassing to your life as well as your career. Once again, write this down in your Actor’s Journal:

I am good enough.

Now clear your mind, close your eyes, take a breath, and say it out loud five times:

I am good enough.

As you repeat this Affirmation to yourself over and over, some flashes of a past negative event may play out in your mind like a home movie. You might become emotional as this negative experience runs through your mind. You might see someone telling you that you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not good looking enough or that you’re too fat, too skinny, too small, too tall. Or the event could have been much more specific, like you forgot your lines in a play, which left you feeling embarrassed or humiliated. It’s something that left a deep scar.

Acknowledge this negative event, and the thought and emotions that go with it. Exhale and let the negative thought start to evaporate. Counter this negative thought with a more passionate, positive thought. Open your eyes and say:

I am good enough.

Say it as many times as you need to wash that negative thought away. Feel it and experience it slipping from your mind. You should feel relief as you allow yourself to be rid of the negative thoughts that surround that negative event. Hear the words come out of your mouth. Listen to that single voice, that single Affirmation. Say it again, say it louder and stronger:

I am good enough.

Let’s take it one step further. Now, you’re going to say it directly to yourself. Walk over to a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, take a deep breath and say:

I am good enough.

Keep saying it until the person staring back at you believes it. Once you feel it in your body and you truly believe that you are good enough, take another deep breath and say:

I am good enough to be great.

You should feel stronger, exhilarated and more empowered. You have triggered the positive energy that you possess. You should feel a belief building in yourself. You have embraced your potential and you are ready to move forward and be great.


© Ron Rinaldi Photography www.ronrinaldi.comWhether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at ScottSeditaActing.com.

Adam Scott Talks About Audition Room Nerves

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Adam Scott’s career has grown consistently yet somewhat sporadically over the course of many years. But since portraying characters like the ultra-confident, jerky Derek Huff in Step Brothers as well as the brilliant but socially awkward Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation, the actor’s career has taken a leap forward. Indeed, his career is currently hitting full stride. In a recent interview with Sam Jones on The Off Camera Show, he spoke about audition room nervousness he’s long battled as well as the effect these jitters had on the kinds of roles he landed.

“I auditioned for ‘Scream,’ and for ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer,’ and all those…I just didn’t get any of them. I was always so nervous,” Scott admits. Describing himself as pretty bad at auditions, he adds, “But I’d be good if the character was supposed to be nervous. So for a long stretch, I would get all these nervous guys.”

When he first arrived in Los Angeles to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, Scott quickly auditioned for a part in the movie Wild Bill. Much to his astonishment, he was invited back, but this time to read with the lead, Jeff Bridges. “I came back and I mean the nerves were insane. Jeff Bridges…in full ‘Wild Bill’ character–it was amazing. I was 19, I guess, standing there going, ‘If I get this part, a lead in a Walter Hill-Jeff Bridges movie, like what’s going to happen? I just got here.’ And I choked tremendously.” He is certain that Walter Hill took pity on him. “And I always wonder like how different would my life be if I actually like sucked it up, and figured out how to relax and do a good job there.”

But being able to voluntarily relax when you want is not so easy for actors or non-actors for that matter. In the long run, what helped Scott turn down the volume on his audition room nerves was to use what had long worked for him–in fact, ever since he was a kid. Even after being introduced to a number of different acting approaches, Scott largely relied on his natural acting instincts, which he describes as “basically doing what I used to do in my bedroom as a little kid: pretending.” The habit of watching hours on end of TV shows inspired him to love make believe–and the thought of becoming an actor for that matter. And pretending was what helped him in the audition room: He learned to fake self-assurance before casting directors. Soon, he wasn’t a sure bet for the “nebbishly, nerdy loser” types, but was instead cast as what he describes as “overconfident a–hole types.”

But he still insists, “I still get nervous on TV sets or movie sets.”

Nevertheless, in 2015 he starred in the film Black Mass alongside Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch following the career of the infamous mobster Whitey Bulger. Scott’s upcoming projects include portraying a disabled person in My Blind Brother; and he has roles in Netflix’s biopic film The Most Hated Woman in America, a spoof on the X-Files called Ghosted, and he will star in a coming-of-age feature Flower.


The Acting Center Helps Actors Trust Their Instincts

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One of the top-rated acting schools in Los Angeles is The Acting Center. It’s touted as “a new acting and improv school based on a rediscovered technique buried for the last 80 years.” Founded in 2006, the center’s television, film, and theater professors specialize in producing “uniformly confident, completely certain actors who can create any character–in any emotion, in any situation–instantly.” Regardless of an actor’s level of skill or experience, an emphasis is placed on students fully trusting their creative instincts, and honing their authentic expression.

According to the center’s website, the curriculum includes hands-on technique that is “based on learning by doing (versus watching, analyzing, overthinking) and for that reason every actor works in every class and for most of every class.” In the above video, experienced actress Erika Christensen explains how the various methods taught at the school avoid teaching an actor that his or her choices are right or wrong. Instead, she found that she was able to expand beyond what she considered to be her range which she found to be “a completely inspiring experience.”

Another student, Jason Steed, explains how he regained his confidence at The Acting Center. In previous acting classes, instructors had essentially taught the aspiring thespians to question their creative choices. This left Steed, and so many others, feeling insecure. In fact, Steed admits he came to doubt his acting abilities altogether. He contrasts those potentially damaging kinds of instruction with TAC’s approach, saying it’s “a space to create, and that’s what I love…and now I’ve got my acting chops back.” He can confidently enter the audition room doors with the conviction that he’s got something unique to offer. “There’s only one of me, and that’s what the technique is making me realize, that my ideas are unique to everybody else’s.”

Actress Rita Fiora likewise attended TAC, and describes how she used to worry she was wrong in her approach while at auditions. “And then you get in front of the casting director, and you think you’re wrong. And they pick up that you think that you’re wrong, and so obviously you’re wrong. You’re never right for the part.” Since her classwork at TAC, she no longer feels afraid of being critiqued. Instead, the now self-assured actress says, “You know that you’re doing exactly what you know you as the character would do…You’re right for what you would do.”

Most importantly, Christensen, Steed, and Fiora describe their subsequent auditions and role work going to a whole new level after taking the courses. “You think different, you move different, and you might talk different…and you’ve allowed yourself to become someone else without any stops, and it feels like magic. You feel free,” Fiora insists. And after scene study and improv classes at TAC, Christensen asserts that while working on a movie, “I noticed that I didn’t have to contrive any of the emotion or manipulate it, which is fascinating to experience.”

The Acting Center offers courses in scene study, improv for adults, teens and kids, acting for young adults, as well as private coaching.

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Jimmy Fallon’s Advice: “It’s Good to Be Scared”

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For aspiring comedians, the thought of bombing in front of an audience can be enough to stop them from pursuing their dreams altogether. In this web exclusive of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy gives advice to comedians beginning their journey in stand-up comedy, and specifically addressing how to move forward after a failed joke or performance.

When an anonymous fan writes to ask him what he was afraid of before or during his first stand-up show and early career, Fallon responds:

“When you first start out bombing, you’re afraid of bombing onstage, and not being funny onstage. But if you look back on it, and that’s the whole fun of it, it’s just getting the nerve out there to just go up there and do your act. And the more you do it, the more you will bomb, the more comfortable you get at doing stand-up. And then, sometimes I’m not kidding, you look forward to bombing because it’s just something different, and it’s like, ‘How do I dig myself out of this hole?'”

Fallon shares one example of when he found himself unable to move beyond a failed joke. “I did one once in the Catskills at some resort,” he recalls. “Some dude got up to go the bathroom or something. And I made fun of him, I don’t know what the joke was, I was trying to work the crowd. And I was like, ‘All nerds: Report to the bathroom’ or something bad like that.” The unamused and intimidatingly large audience member stood confrontationally before Fallon and asked him, “What?” People were booing before Jimmy was reminded to continue telling jokes. Reliving that painfully awkward moment and rubbing his face, Jimmy admits, “I just couldn’t get out of it.”

Keep in mind, comedy was everything to the aspiring comic. He was obsessed with becoming a cast member of Saturday Night Live since he began watching the late night comedy show during his teen years. He once described the singularity of his career ambitions this way:

“This was my ultimate goal. If I ever cut into a birthday cake and made a wish, I would wish to be on SNL. If I threw a coin into a fountain, I would wish to be on SNL. If I saw a shooting star, I would wish to be on SNL….I had no other plan. I didn’t have friends, I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t have anything going on. I had my career, that was it.”

Fortunately, all the times he performed comedy in various shows and contests during his teen and college years gave him plenty of experience with success and failure onstage. Eventually, he dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles. Once there, he performed stand-up at The Improv, and joined classes with The Groundlings.

As luck would have it, in his early twenties, he was given the opportunity to audition for the Holy Grail: Saturday Night Live. However, much to his heartbreak, they passed on the young talent. But alas, he was given a second chance to audition for the show. This time he passed with flying colors. In fact, he even managed to make the notoriously straight-faced creator of the show, Lorne Michaels, laugh aloud. In 1998, Fallon fulfilled that SNL dream, and remained a cast member till 2004. Of course, he continues to have a prolific career as a comedian, television host, actor, singer, writer, and producer to this day.

Addressing the fear of bombing onstage, Fallon says, “I bombed so many times.” But he concludes, “Don’t be afraid to be afraid. Eventually you look back and you’re like, ‘Oh, I remember when I used to be scared of those things.’ And it’ll help you get strong.”