The Healing Power of Acting

December 5, 2016

Sometimes the process of acting goes beyond being more than an exploration, passion, or career goal. And it, in fact, has the power to transform its participants’ lives in a healing manner.

Take Michael Shannon, for example. Shannon is known for his versatility on screen in films like Revolutionary Road which earned him an Oscar nomination, Take Shelter, 99 Homes for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and Nocturnal Animals. In this Off Camera interview, Shannon describes his difficult childhood. His parents divorced early on, and he describes his high school years as “a disaster”–and he eventually dropped out of school.

Painting a picture of his high school social difficulties, he says, “I was in a different city with a bunch of kids I didn’t know at a very large school. So my freshman and sophomore year I couldn’t make friends to save my life.” On top of it, his father with whom he was living at the time, was going through his own hard times, which ultimately lead Michael Shannon to move. In turn, he immersed himself in community theater.

Indeed, the more he performed, the more he realized acting “might be more than just something I’m doing to kill time and ease the pain.” Instead, the theater allowed him to change how he and others perceived him. Shannon revealed:

“I guess I had a lot of inappropriate behavior, or I didn’t really fit into like normal societal situations. I struggled with those, but the great thing about the acting is that I could go on stage and act insane, where in real life if I acted that way, I’d get chastised and punished or told to shut up. But when you do that on stage, people applaud  and say, ‘Wow, you’re a genius.’ So it was a pretty easy bridge to cross.”

Sally Field is another example of an actor who found acting to be a healing force. In an emotional interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors, Field opened up about a deep depression she experienced in her late teen years. She told Hailee Steinfeld, “It took me a long time to get to anybody to really learn a craft, and that wasn’t until I was in my second television series, and unfortunately it was something called ‘The Flying Nun.’ I was suffering so badly, I was so depressed and I was 19 and I didn’t want to be playing something called the Flying Nun. I did not want to be dressed as a nun all day long.”

But fortunately she found a support that helped her emerge from the depression. For Field, that support was The Actor’s Studio. Field admitted:

“[The Actor’s Studio] really began to form who I was not only as an actor, but helped me be who I became as a person. Because it gave me tools…so that I never lose my own voice…acting tools, that I can go into myself and if I can call on those pieces of myself as an actor, then I can call on them as a human, and I couldn’t do that before.”

To hear Field’s entire comments on the topic, you can view the interview on Variety’s Actors on Actors which debuts on PBS SoCal on January 3rd.

Do you attribute acting with being a healing force in your life as well? Please share.

Sally Field: “You Find a Way to Do the Work You Want to Do”

March 28, 2016

Two-time Oscar winning actress Sally Field recently revealed to BuzzFeed that she’s felt like an underdog throughout the course of her 50-year acting career. Considering the worthwhile roles she’s played over the years, her career momentum has appeared to come easy for the A-list star. But that’s not the way she would describe the evolution of her acting journey. “I can’t remember when I didn’t feel like the underdog. Actually, underdog is the understatement of my career. Maybe that’s something I put in my own head…but I don’t think it is something I put in my head. Everything I’ve ever had that mattered to me, I had to be such a scrappy fighter to get.”

Field’s early roles were in television shows as a teenager playing Sister Bertrille in The Flying Nun, and the surfer girl Gidget. But she felt like the “mutt of the group” as she didn’t come from a prestigious acting school, she didn’t feel respected by some directors, and then faced the challenge of being typecast as the TV sitcom version of the girl next door. She experienced six years of rejection when she tried to find work in film, only to discover that it was the male actors that the industry permitted to make such a transition during those times in the early 1970s. “So I had to fight, “ Field asserts. “I had to overcome that. I had to be very honest with myself: How can I get good enough that they can’t say no?” It wasn’t long before she studied with Lee Stasberg at the Actors Studio, and pushed past these barriers. Field was soon after cast as a young woman with multiple personality disorder in the TV film Sybil–a break through role that both earned her an Emmy and got her foot in the door as a film actress. She’d go on to win Academy Awards for Best Actress for her performances in Norma Rae and Places In the Heart, and be celebrated for many other roles in films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Forrest Gump, and Lincoln.

As she progressed in years, however, Field was faced with a shortage of worthwhile roles for females her age. “Even when I was supposedly at the top of my game or in my prime, or whatever they call it, even then it was very hard to find projects,” she insists. But still her passion remained unceasing. “There’s a relentless forest fire inside of me [and] I wish my fires would begin to dim,” she says in jest. “You find a way to do the work you want to do, whether it’s on the big screen, the small screen, the stage, you just find a way.”

Although she prefers acting in films, she’s grateful for any opportunity to act, and so has learned to be glad to take on TV roles in shows like ER and Brothers & Sisters. Today, Field remains as driven as ever, describing her desire to act as screaming, “Let me in there, boss! Let me off the bench! Let me do it! Let me do it! I can be bad, I can be short, I could be blonde, I could be old, I could be young, just let me loose!”

Her latest role is Doris Miller in the independent film Hello, My Name is Doris which was released earlier this month. Field is paired with a much younger love interest played by Max Greenfield. She insists, “It’s kind of a miracle this got made” both because it features a older female lead and because the film is unusual and not easily defined. “I’m fighting for Doris,” the 70-year-old Field says.

Here is a clip of Field explaining how she told Steven Spielberg, “You’re wrong, Steven…you’re wrong” as she fought to attain the role of Mary Todd Lincoln opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln.