Almost Human cast: Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Minka Kelly, Mackenzie Crook, Michael Irby, and Lili Taylor

As an actor, you study your lines, you show up on set, you deliver your lines, and then you exit stage left or right. That’s pretty much the extent of it, right? Horse poop! As an actor you are an artist, a collaborator, and an inventive force in any given production. J.J. Abrams and fellow executive producer, Joel Wyman talked recently about their upcoming sci-fi cop show, Almost Human. The Fox drama centers on officers in the not-too-distant future that are partnered with robots who have human traits and characteristics. (Incidentally, we hope those robots don’t decide to become actors en mass–but that’s another blog.) When asked if the Almost Human actors had influenced the show’s content, Joel Wyman replied:

“You always start with something and then when, based on your casting, at least for me and my experiences, it always transcends it and makes it better.  You can learn what you were trying that wasn’t working, or all of a sudden, you’re surprised by something that works incredibly well that you didn’t anticipate. In the casting process, it was so interesting, because when we were finding these guys, each one of them had something that was just so perfect for the character. We knew that fundamentally they were right for the roles, but just who they are, and what they bring to it, and what they’ve examined now having these roles as actors, and what they dug into, has just made the show that much more rich, and provided us with a lot of opportunities and avenues that we didn’t even dream of.  Yes, we’re always influenced by the people that are bringing the work and the characters to the program.”

Even the best, most prestigious of writers and producers have their limitations. Actors are not just clay for them to sculpt; but rather, actors–by their sheer presence and personalities–enhance the raw material and give writers and producers story, character, and scene ideas and an elemental energy off which to feed. This is not to say you enter the set with a mind to change the tenor of the story or to determine the net result of the film, but instead, just by bringing your authentic self to the creative process (strengths, weaknesses, disposition, psyche) you can inspire a variance of approach or style. And you can influence the project in a powerful, and indeed, fundamental way.

You, young Thespian, should never underestimate the power of your own particular persona; it is the very marrow of the film, television, and theatrical world.