Bryan Cranston to Aspiring Actors: “You’ve got to take a chance.”

November 25, 2016

Bryan Cranston recently wrote an intimate, funny memoir entitled A Life in Parts. In turn, he’s been touring, sharing personal stories, and promoting the necessity and power of hard work. In this clip, Cranston gives inspiring advice to aspiring actors at a Guardian event in London.

The four-time Emmy Award-winning star tells actors that there are no shortcuts in the pursuit of landing roles. Rather, he insists, “It’s all about work. And that’s why I say if you don’t love it, it’s going to be drudgery to you. It’s going to be painful to you.”

As a teenager, Cranston initially wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement, and even earned an associate degree in police science. But during an elongated cross-country motorcycle trip, he came to a realization one day while stranded at a rest area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Cranston says, “I realized how much I needed to focus on something that I really loved and hopefully would become good at, as opposed to doing something that I was good at–police work–but I didn’t love. So that was when I made that decision, at 22, to become an actor.”

When he was 25, he found work as a soap opera regular on ABC’s Loving which gave him a great sense of pride and belonging. “It really broke down a barrier for me. At first, I always had to supplement my acting with other odd jobs,” he recalls. But when he was fired from the show two years later, he took opportunities to act all he could whether it be guest star roles on TV or small parts in movies.

When he was auditioning, Cranston says he would “never stop working” because he knew “there’s always going to be people who are more talented than me.” So he committed to the task of outworking the competition. “That’s the one thing you can control,” he insists. And he learned to take risks, and in turn, now urges other actors to take chances as well, saying:

“So I would imagine that after the casting director would see about 30 to 40 guys for the same role, if it’s a comedy, whatever you’re reading is not funny anymore to them….you just have to get that sense that it’s okay. If it’s a drama, there’s not going to be any [gasp] moment from them. They’ve seen it. You’re the thirty-fifth guy coming in, reading the same material. How do you get them to pay attention to you? You can’t just do what is expected. If you just do what’s expected, that’s what everyone’s going to do. You’ve got to take a chance….It’s better to take a chance and go way out there and have the person go, ‘Oh my god! That was bizarre and interesting, it’s not what we’re looking for.’ That’s okay. But you took the chance. It’s better to be that guy than audition person number 27 who I don’t remember at all. At least you’ll be memorable.”

It would be about fifteen years after leaving the soap opera that he landed a “gift” of a role as the goofy father Hal in Malcolm in the Middle–and later, of course, the role of the science-instructor-turned-meth cook Walter White from the wildly popular Breaking Bad. Now Cranston is celebrated for his versatile work in film, on Broadway, and on television. Certainly, the hard work and risks he’s taken along the way have made himself memorable!


What Could You Have Done Better in Your Audition?

February 11, 2016

When you exit the audition room, do you find yourself mulling over what went well and what went “wrong?” Actors really put themselves on the line in auditions regardless of their skill and experience levels. And the pressure to get it “right” amidst all the competition can potentially wreak havoc in the actor’s mind. Maybe you’ve noticed this with a fellow actor who calls you up after an audition to give you a play-by-play description of exactly how it went.

Now, Bryan Cranston has spoken about a revelation he once had in his career which inspired him to stop going into auditions “trying to get a job.” Rather, he changed his focus to creating “a compelling, interesting character that serves the text, presented in the environment where your audition happens, and then you walk away–and that’s it. Everything else is out of your control, so don’t even think of it….And there it is; you walk away.”

By emphasizing the “walking away,” it sounds like Cranston highlights the finality of the audition process, and whatever happens in there doesn’t consume him after he leaves. This is practical advice to keep things in perspective, and indeed Cranston attributes this outlook as a breakthrough in his career. But what about if you’re an actor who’s still working on your skill set? What if you’re very much in the midst of finding out which techniques work and don’t work for you whether it be in the acting-skills or self-confidence department? Choosing not to reflect upon the audition experience could be a valuable missed opportunity.

So where’s the balance between, on one hand, overdoing the self-reflection, and on the other hand, self-assuredly letting go of the experience? Master Talent Teacher Carolyne Barry has some constructive advice on how talent can review experiences that occur in the audition room in a healthy way, and keep your overall skill set advancing forward. In this video clip, Barry states:

“…Most actors after the audition tend to either forget about it totally or beat themselves up. Neither one of those scenarios is healthy or productive or even creative. I suggest that after your audition you walk away thinking, ‘Okay, what did I do good?’ I’m sure that if you really analyze it you will know what you did well. And then that could be reinforced. But then you think about two or three things that you could do better–not that what you did wrong–but what you could do better. And then you go home and you practice those two or three things. You get a camera whether it’s an iPhone or a regular video camera, and you shoot yourself practicing what you could do better–not lines, but certain things that you could have done better. And so that your acting keeps improving.”

Barry asserts that with this practice, your acting will improve with each audition you go on. When you enter the audition room doors with the frame of mind that this is a learning process, maybe that can help minimize nerves as well.

Have you ever tried this exercise? Have you ever used your cellphone or tablet as a tool to improve your techniques? How do you handle your thoughts after exiting the audition room doors? Please share.

Actors Are the ‘Luckiest People in the World!’

January 26, 2014




Bryan Cranston doesn’t necessarily fit the paradigm of what you might think an A-list Hollywood star might look like; in fact, some might describe him as rather ordinary in his appearance and in his style. But this so-called ordinary-looking everyman just won the Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Drama award at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards last Saturday night for his portrayal of the Scarface-wannabe Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad. In a memorable, if not hilarious, acceptance speech which had Bryan singing operatically and fawning over the great Emma Thompson, Bryan credited much of his success to the resilience of his dream as well as to plain old ordinary luck: “That’s what happens when you’re so lucky–I’ve had so many crappy jobs in my life, I gotta tell ya! I loaded trucks downtown, cold, dust, dirt everywhere and in every orifice; people yelling at you, ‘Cranston, move faster, work harder!’ And the only thing that got me through was imaging, dreaming that one day I could actually one day make a living as an actor!” Sound familiar? Bryan continued, “That’s what got me through, thank God. We are the luckiest people in the world who can say ‘I am an actor.’”

So, when times get tough, when auditions are sparse and callbacks even sparser, just remember, the flourishing Bryan Cranston thinks you are among the luckiest people in the world. When the man is breathing down your neck for those work orders or a half a dozen cappuccinos, always keep in the forefront of your mind that you are far more than just your job at hand: your imagination, your aspirations, your passion to perform and live artistically can transport you through your travails. Indeed, Bryan Cranston thinks you’re the luckiest person in the world because you are an actor at heart. Okay, you need to be paid for your acting–granted, that needs to be worked out; but you are an actor with dreams, goals, desire, and an indomitable spirit. And if you keep working, good things will happen. You may not star in a legendary hit series and win a best actor award–but you just might! When Bryan was in the throws of his horrendous jobs, do you think he ever really imagined the level of success he now enjoys? Keep dreaming the dream!