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Terry Knickerbocker, director of the two-year conservatory program Terry Knickerbocker Studio in Brooklyn as well as his online acting classes, bases his instruction on the Meisner Technique. He has coached Vice’s Sam Rockwell, Shameless actress Emmy Rossum, Narcos actor Boyd Holbrook, 9-1-1 Lone Star’s Brian Michael Smith, The Last Black Man in San Francisco’s Jonathan Majors, Iron Man’s Leslie Bibb, and many more. The school’s tagline is “Training the passionate actor committed to excellence.” 

 

In an I Love Success podcast, Knickerbocker explains why “consistency wins” when it comes to acting.

 

“Consistency Wins.”

“Really good actors tend to be consistent,” he states. “If you don’t have good, professional habits, you’re not going to work. You can’t just be late, you can’t not know your lines. You show up on set for a new project for Netflix, and there’s a hundred people on set. And they’ve committed twenty million dollars or more to the project. You can’t be a flake.” He warns performers not to merely rely on their talent because doing so will result in hit-or-miss outcomes. “You have to have worked out all the moments so your work is clear, precise, and interesting,” he asserts.

 

“Preparation Is Everything.” 

With all the pressure that actors feel, Knickerbocker insists preparation will alleviate that stress. “If you know you’ve done your work, you’re gonna feel less pressured,” he says. “There’s a mantra that I like to use—just like ‘F it!’ Which doesn’t mean ‘I don’t care,’ but it means ‘I’m not going to be controlled by tension. I’m doing this because I love acting. I feel good about my work. I feel ready.’” 

 

“Come from a Place of Love.”

When auditions don’t pan out or if an audition just plain doesn’t go well, he assures his students, saying, “Every actor has done bad work, but hopefully, you come from a place of loving what you’ve done and loving to perform and loving telling the story.” This frame of mind prevents actors from freezing up. “You have to stay loose, you have to stay playful, not get tense physically, and come from a place of love—I love doing this, and I’ve done my work, and I feel ready. It’s a great feeling to feel like you know what you’re doing and to walk in feeling, ‘I’ve done everything I can.’ And it’s either going to work out or not.”

 

“Move on!”

After an audition, Knickerbocker tells his students, “Move on!” He even suggests actors rip up their sides afterward. “You put the work out there.Then you move on and hopefully, you get to have a lot of auditions. If you keep doing good auditions, you’re going to get cast eventually.” 

 

He recalls an experience of one of his students, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri actor Sam Rockwell: “One time, maybe ten or fifteen years ago, he auditioned for Duncan Jones—Duncan Jones is David Bowie’s son and a wonderful film director—and didn’t get the part. Three years later, that audition made such an impression on Duncan that he wrote a movie for Sam—a movie called ‘Moon’ which is basically a one-man show. He plays like several different clones of himself. It’s an extraordinary film, one of the best performances of that year. So you never know where things are going to go.”

 

The Definition of Success for an Actor

Rockwell has been coached by Knickerbocker for over 25 years, and the Oscar-winning actor says he’s worked with him on every film and stage role he’s ever done. Likewise, two-time Golden Globe-winning actress Michelle Williams has received coaching from Knickerbocker. But when it comes to defining what it means to be a “successful actor,” Terry says, “I don’t think success is external validation. So I don’t think you’re a success because you won an Oscar. I think success has to do with, if it comes to acting, ultimately playing leading parts the best you can in projects you care about.” 

 

 

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