For almost 40 years, Larry Moss has directed numerous theater productions and coached countless thespians for stage and screen. The legendary acting coach worked with Helen Hunt on her Oscar-winning As Good As It Gets role; Hilary Swank in her Academy Award-winning performance in Boys Don’t Cry; Michael Clarke Duncan for his Oscar-nominated performance in The Green Mile; Leonardo DiCaprio’s Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Howard Hughes in The Aviator; and the list goes on and on.

This Film Nut Live interview was posted a few years back, but actors can hear timeless, insightful, and practical guidance from Moss. Starting off as an actor, Larry studied with Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Warren Robertson, among others. As a master teacher, he tells his students, “This is not an acting class, this is a class about honoring the writer,” and he encourages actors to fall in love with the writers, as fully appreciating quality works can serve as a great motivator. Actors can use text from the script to find clues about their characters much like a detective searching for evidence in an enigmatic case. And in this way, script analysis can foster deep personal connections with the characters, and clarify what drives them. Moss says:

“The four letters that acting is about the most are ‘Want.’ What do you want? And how are you going to get it? And before that is: Who are you? Meaning what nationality are you? What kind of an educational background? How do you use language? But when you get down to the bottom of any script–and I’m talking any script–the character walks into the script with a want, and they try to get it–just like life.”

He advises actors to take keen notice of how they function throughout the day by using a notebook to document all the different ways they try to get what they want throughout the course of their day. “Watch how you operate, and that’ll teach you what acting is really about. I want something; how do I get it? What’s my obstacle in the way of getting it? And how do I overcome that obstacle–with behavior and active verbs: tease, criticize ….”

As for actors who are starting out, he advises them to dedicate themselves and do some soul-searching. He says, “Anyone who is serious and desirous of an acting career and is willing to work for it–and I mean, work hard–in acting class, in reading, in listening to music, in observing the great performances on film that are there to be seen. Find out what you like. What kind of an actor or actress do you want to be? And most importantly, what do you have to say? Stella Adler used to say, ‘Don’t be an actor unless you have something to say.’ Well, maybe you have something to say about being short or tall or fat or pretty or handsome. People have a lot of deep feelings about a lot of things, and acting can use that.”

Aspiring actors are encouraged to “get to a good teacher, start reading, start studying, start crying, start punching–not people, but punching out–and feeling your body. Acting is a physical experience.” For those who are interested in learning more from Moss, he authored an acting textbook entitled The Intent to Live: Achieving your true potential as an actor.