Jack Black Thanks the Teacher Who Inspired His Acting Career

March 8, 2015

When you think of Jack Black, what do you immediately think of? His enormous zeal for life? Are you awestruck that he’s one of the few who found a way to succeed as an adult by basically always remaining a kid? Yes, he is a Golden Globe-nominated actor, a producer, comedian, and singer; but, he’s also a poster child for the word passion, and weaves it into all he does in his career.

But things weren’t always looking so great for Jack. His parents had divorced when he was ten, and his dog died of parvovirus soon afterwards. During his middle school years he was enrolled in an alternative school specifically designed for struggling students who were falling into destructive life habits. Indeed, when he entered into Debbie Devine’s drama class, he appeared to be somewhat of a misanthrope. But much to her surprise, he kept returning to her class for inspiration and a blossoming appreciation for drama and improv. Devine’s zest for the material revived Black’s spirits, and ultimately profoundly transformed the direction of his life.

“I came to you at a very dark time in my youth…and I came to your class and I was inspired. It was the first time that I had actually enjoyed going to school and learning,” Jack told his beloved teacher. He says he remembers feeling “intense joy” while in her drama class.

At the age of 13, Black acted in a TV commercial for the video game Pitfall!. Then his acting career kicked off with roles in primetime TV shows like The X-Files, and Northern Exposure. From there, he landed small roles in films including The Cable Guy, and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. His breakout performance was playing a wild record store employee in High Fidelity. Soon afterwards he landed leading parts in films like Shallow Hal, School of Rock, and Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.

Every actor has a unique story about what or whom ignited their passion for the craft of acting. Did you have an extraordinary teacher that turned you onto the endless possibilities of acting? Please share!

Don’t Be Afraid to Commit

March 21, 2013

Jack Black in Nacho Libre

“There’s no abiding success without commitment.” –Tony Robbins 

If you had a new product or service and were looking for a spokesperson to represent it, what qualities would you look for in that person? While the description could go in any direction–funny, witty, classic, professional, down-to-earth, to name a few character traits–the one sure-bet partner to that quality would be someone who is committed.

When actors straightforwardly commit to a reading, their performance will not go unnoticed. Rather, such performances stand out like a rose in a barren desert. They captivate the audience–specifically, the commercial producers and executives–and are truly entertaining to watch. Also, when you transform yourself into a specific character, the performance requires all your mental focus, so anxiety consequentially must  take a backseat. Whether you “nail” the role or not, you will not be forgotten. Your passion will be appreciated, and you increase the chances of having your name be highlighted as “someone to consider for future roles.”

So what’s the secret? Well first off, you need to be willing to risk lookin’ like a fool. When being required to wear tights in Nacho Libre, Jack Black felt some hesitation. “At first I would have rather been naked to tell you the truth, because I just look so goddang ridiculous. But then I thought, ‘Wait, that’s my job. The stretchy pants are my friends. I love the stretchy pants!’ It just took a little mental adjustment, because I know that when I’m embarrassed and scared about acting, that means I’m going to get some good life-nugget knowledge out of it. And I love the knowledge nuggets,” he reflected.

The fear of appearing foolish in front of people you wish to impress is not uncommon for actors, and the results can mean a compromised performance. Commitment takes confidence! It’s not just comedic roles that can make an actor cringe. For example, in Margot at the Wedding, Jack Black was asked to explore some darker sides than he’d ever performed, and this took him out of his comfort zone. “It was challenging. I was most worried about the crying scenes and the nudity. But I sucked it up and went to those places because I just had to look over at Jennifer (Jason Leigh) who was so fearless in her performance.”

There’s no shortage of commitment when it comes to cinema history, so fuel up with inspiration before your next audition. Here are a few examples of fierce performances and the actors who dared to bring it there:

Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull–complete commitment.

Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull











Al Pacino in Scarface. During the filming, he stayed in character while on and off the set.

Al Pacino in Scarface











Charlize Theron in Monster. Need I say more?

Charlize Theron in Monster










Jared Leto playing an HIV-positive transvestite in The Dallas Buyers Club. Doesn’t get any more committed than this; just look at the picture.

Jared Leto in The Dallas Buyers Club











Clearly, these actors didn’t allow fear to inhibit their convictions to become an outstanding actor. And if they could do it, why not you?

Please share your favorite “committed” performances.