Bryan Cranston’s BreakThrough Philosophy

January 1, 2016

Bryan Cranston was once asked to give advice to aspiring actors, and in turn he spoke about a “breakthrough” in his career when he shifted the way he mentally approached auditions. The Breaking Bad actor said, “About eighteen years ago, I had this cognition that, I realized I was going into auditions trying to get a job. And that simply wasn’t what I was doing. That wasn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. An actor is supposed to create 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…You’re not going there to get a job. You’re going there to present what you do: You act. And there it is; you walk away.”

Cranston says this altering of his mind frame both empowered him and fueled him with confidence. Afterall, he continues, “The decision of who might get a job is so out of your control that, really when you analyze it, it makes no sense to hold onto that.” And indeed, he says the fruit of this philosophy was an increase in work. “I’ve never been busier in my life,” the Emmy Award-winning actor asserts.

If this advice sounds simplistic to you, you might be interested to know that other actors have noticed a leap in their success by adapting to this same philosophy.

For instance, Dallas Buyers Club‘s Michael O’Neill describes a similar scenario in his journey as an actor. Of one frustrating point in his career he says, “I couldn’t get thrown in jail. Just nothing was working. And I felt like I was auditioning really poorly.” A director friend of his attempted to help O’Neill out of his slump by inviting him to observe other actors auditioning for a play she was casting. Among the many lessons he learned from the experience was that the most professional actors who gave solid, strong auditions quickly exited the room after presenting their worthwhile takes on the role. He, on the other hand, was tending to stay beyond his audition performance in hopes of making a stronger connection with casting to attain the job. But this observational exercise made O’Neill realize that as long as he did his best work, he could trust doing so was enough. From then on, as he explains, “Especially if I nailed the audition, I’m outta there, they’re gonna have to catch me by the coat tail, I’m done, I’m gone. Because I did what I was supposed to do. I did my job. And I can’t do it any better, I can’t do it any more.”

What kind of philosophy do you embrace when you enter the audition room? Are you like Cranston and O’Neill used to be: focussed on landing the job? If so, has this approach worked out well for you? Or have you likewise observed an improvement in the results of your auditioning when you consciously remain centered on giving your best performance instead of focusing on being hired for a job?