Actor Tips to Manage Disappointments

March 17, 2018

Have you ever had your acting hopes and expectations crumble due to disappointment? Maybe you didn’t land a desired role, or after being cast, you were informed you were being replaced? Indeed, an actor’s journey is naturally full of disappointments, so it’s best to have a plan on how to handle letdowns so you’re ready when they threaten to zap your enthusiasm, or worse, make you want to quit. In this video, casting director Erica Arvold and acting coach Richard Warner give practical advice on how to manage the raw emotions that are associated with disappointments as a performer.

Arvold admits she’s had plenty of experience with relaying bad news to actors. She says, “It is, honestly I want to say, the hardest part of my job. I am so fraught with anxiety to tell an actor that they’ve been replaced, and I try so hard to be supportive because they wouldn’t have gotten the part in the first place if they weren’t a lovely, talented individual.”  Selected actors don’t always end up being a good fit for a role after all; sometimes it has to do with issues with their performance, however, Arvold insists it rarely indicates an actor is lacking in skill.

She recounts a painful instance when she had to tell a budding actress that she was being replaced. In response, the young actress’ confidence suffered, and she got stuck in a negative state of mind for a period of time. But fortunately, she did some work on herself and returned to her auditions with a renewed sense of purpose and a vibrancy. “I don’t know what happened, but she somehow got on the horse again, and she gave the best auditions that she’s ever given, and she’s booking, booking, booking–and quite successful now,” Arvold recounts.

Arvold actually considers actor disappointments not only as inevitable but as a right of passage. Warner agrees and sums it up, “You have to find a mentality where [a disappointment] serves as an epiphany rather than something that’s going to be a psyche crusher.” Dealing with disappointments in a positive way is one of the most important things an actor can learn. So, Warner offers some tips on how to manage the letdowns that come your way.

Remember, it’s business–not personal

Being rejected for a role is not only common; it’s inevitable. But the business decision to go with another actor is not a personal attack on an actor’s self-worth.

Exit gracefully

Think of when an athlete loses a game and is expected to shake the victorious opponent’s hand for the sake of good sportsmanship. Just as athletes are expected to hold strong after a defeat, actors are similarly expected to keep their composure when they experience a setback. Maintain a professional attitude in the presence of casting professionals, producers, assistants, and camera operators; after all, many of them have close relationships, and actors can become known for either their dignity or outbursts. “If you can exit in a professional way, they’re going to remember that,” Warner says. While your emotional struggle is valid and normal, find a private place afterward where you can release, cry, or vent about the experience.

Self-Reflect

After releasing your feelings and talking about them, then it’s time to consider what you might do differently in the future. Warner insists each disappointment serves as an opportunity to improve. But it’s important to focus on what you can control, like your attitude, commitment, or practical ways to finetune your craft. This way, with each disappointment, you’ll progress a little at a time; over time, it all adds up.

But whatever you do, Warner encourages actors to keep moving forward; don’t allow disappointments to stop you. “Take heart,” Warner concludes. “There are all sorts of wonderful stories about where we can turn apparently career-ending tragedies into something that really actually gives us deeper work and more connection to who we are as a performer.”

Stacy Keach Shares His Acting Insights

December 1, 2013

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  • “Stacy Keach reveals his truth in ‘All in All,’ without an actor’s hubris or the temptation to embellish. The result is a deeply moving and inspiring story that transcends a traditional Hollywood memoir in both candor and grace. Bravo!”— Martin Sheen

After over forty years of acting for the stage, the small screen, and the big screen, Stacy Keach–he of the Mike Hammer TV series and Cheech & Chong stoner comedies–has written a biography, All in All, which reads like a manual of how to make it as a working actor. Keach is a classically trained Shakespearean performer, a network television star, and a character actor extraordinaire. Acting alongside heavyweights like Paul Newman, Martin Sheen, Faye Dunaway, Jeff Bridges, and Edward Norton, Keach immersed himself in every character he played whether the project was big (playing Hamlet in the park under Joseph Papp) or small (The Mountain of the Cannibal God; enough said) and he researched every role as if it were a postgraduate thesis. Indeed, he credits his meticulous research and unmitigated commitment to the craft, as well as his ability to deal with rejection in a productive manner with his success and longevity. “The ability to handle disappointment is obviously a running theme in my life…” he writes in his autobiography. “And I think it’s an underrated trait.” Stacy also credits his cleft palette, and the teasing he endured as a child because of the malformation, with bringing understanding and empathy to his innumerable dramatic and comedic roles.

Along with the many fascinating and archetypal stories he tells throughout the book (losing out to Jack Nicholson for the lead role in One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, being imprisoned in the UK for drug trafficking, getting schooled by the great John Huston in a game of pool, to name just a few), Stacy saves the final chapter of All in All for his hard-won advice to up-and-coming actors. “I tell my students when we don’t get the part, we mope, we get depressed, and we think we’re no good, we lose confidence. We lose sight of the most important aspect of sustaining the life of the actor, and that is faith in oneself.” And Stacy goes on to synthesize what it really takes to succeed as an actor, writing simply, “You have to have a firm conviction that whatever happens, ‘I’m good enough to make it.’” Stacy offers more sage advice in his book such as Americans should not adopt a British accent; instead go for Mid-Atlantic speech with softer vowels; counting iambic feet while performing Shakespeare can be dangerous; and “Find your own voice.” But his enduring insight is on the crucial element of rejection, and how to keep its sabotaging destruction at bay. “It’s okay to express disappointment about not getting the part,” he writes. “But you must keep a cool perspective about the realities of the business, and not let it detract you from continuing to improve your skills.”

So, continue to improve your skills through the ups and downs of your career, determined Thespian! And who knows? Maybe you’ll be writing your memoirs in fifty years!