Acting professionally for over 40 years has given Michael Laskin many insights into the entertainment industry, especially about the importance of authenticity. After all, he asserts, “It’s not show business; it’s human business.” Acting alongside Hollywood greats like Geena Davis, Patricia Arquette, Alec Baldwin, and Jason Alexander, Laskin noticed all the actors on set were very talented–that was a given. But on top of their notable skills was something that seemed to be equally, if not more, important to their success: each embodied a strong personal presence, a compelling identity. With this realization along with his skillset, Laskin founded the Michael Laskin Studio in Los Angeles and wrote the book The Authentic Actor, the Art and Business of Being Yourself—both of which emphasize a solid acting technique in conjunction with “an emerging self-knowledge.”

In the highly competitive field of acting, Laskin hopes his coaching will propel actors to receive more callbacks or, better yet, book more roles. When it comes to auditions, his website states, “Bottom line: what’s required is the core truth of the character and the scene filtered through your ‘personal fingerprint,’ all compressed into a dynamic few minutes.” That personal fingerprint, he insists, “will trump the other stuff because in the professional world, talent is a given.” But by emphasizing being over doing, Laskin tunes actors into what makes their presence special. He describes authenticity as “something of undeniable origin,” and maintains, “You can’t teach that, but you can open the door and say, ‘That’s where you go—right over there.’”

Because first impressions are so important, Laskin places a significant value on his students’ personal narrative while auditioning. Clarifying what they can control versus what they can’t, he helps them to replace thoughts of wanting to be accepted with more empowering narratives like, “If you should choose to pay me, this is how I would do it.”

While everyone is unique, Laskin works with students to make them memorable for positive reasons and to see themselves as much more than just their resume. He told the Guided Goals Podcast:

“If you go into an audition room in front of network executives, famous people, and big directors, you’re going to win or lose that opportunity in five seconds–before you open your mouth. And it’s hard to tell people that because most people lose the opportunity, most people don’t get the job. You know, the odds are very long. And I don’t know how to tell you how to come into the room, but your entire life comes into the room with you whether you like it or not—whether you’re happy or not. If you’re unhappy, but you’re masking it and you’re pretending to be happy, I’m sorry, it comes into the room with you, and people can tell—maybe not even consciously, but they can read it.”

For this reason, Laskin guides actors to be relaxed about who they are as a person. Among the qualities that make someone captivating are being present, embracing personal imperfections, being genuinely interested in the others, and speaking with confidence.  

With this in mind, he asks his students to do two things. First, he has them show him what they’re best at; this reveals their highest level of talent whether they choose to perform a monologue, poem, or song. And secondly, he asks his students to write down a list stating, “This is what I know …” This written exercise helps him understand who the individuals are and how they perceive the world. Then he has them say what they know in front of the classroom of strangers. “Then you have the real artist in front of you,” he says. “It works.”

“By leading an examined life, you will gain greater confidence, which translates to artistic growth, ever improving performances, and a renewed love for this pursuit,” his website says. Indeed, Laskin believes authenticity is the deciding factor of success whether an actor is focusing on a scene, a film, their career, or even their life. “Authenticity wins the day.”