Michelle Williams on Toughing It Out

June 10, 2016

Have you ever had to perform while you were sick or hurt? Staying focused, committed, and energized at these compromising times can prove to be an actor’s crucible! Other professions likely prefer a sick employee stay home to nurse themselves back to health, but in an actor’s world, unless there’s a highly accomplished understudy, then everyone is counting on the actor to pull through as “the show must go on!”

Well as they also say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Michelle Williams recently revealed her steadfast actor’s drive in a New York Post interview about performing in the Broadway play Blackbird with co-star Jeff Daniels. In the emotionally charged play inspired by crimes of a sex offender, Williams’ character Una confronts the older man, Ray, who preyed on her 15 years earlier. Williams gives us a glimpse of the trials she and her acting partner endured while performing eight shows a week:

“We’ve gone on in all states–we are wedded to each other in sickness and in health. He had a staph infection and did five shows with an arm that couldn’t move. I had the flu, bronchitis, vertigo and slipped a disc in my back 20 minutes before the end of the play. We will not miss a show because we depend so heavily on each other. At this point, I’d literally have to not have a pulse to be onstage!”

This love of the play and their sense of purpose have resulted in both Williams and Daniels being nominated for a Tony Award.

On a similar note, one of the most famous musical numbers in cinema history is the joyous song and dance Singin’ in the Rain from the film of the same title. But the astonishingly talented Gene Kelly’s buoyant performance is all the more stunning knowing he nailed the rain-drenched number while suffering with a 103-degree fever over the course of two days of filming the scene.

Another example of an actor who could have very easily put the breaks on his performance is Martin Sheen. Sheen cut his hand badly on the set of Apocalypse Now after he punched a mirror as he was drunkenly engrossed in a scene. The crew wanted to stop filming and attend to his injury, but he implored them to continue shooting. The scene of Captain Willard having a nervous breakdown in a Saigon hotel room became an iconic watershed due to its raw emotion and breathtaking realism. It will also live in the annals of film history because of the very real blood that was shed in the name of artistic integrity. It should also be noted that Sheen suffered a heart attack while making Apocalypse Now and was back on set a few weeks later ready to roll! For anyone who’s seen Martin Sheen’s work, this is not surprising; for many years he’s been known as an “all in” actor.

What kinds of trials and travails have you overcome in pursuit of being a tenacious, unyielding, reliable, never-say-die actor?