Bryan Cranston to Aspiring Actors: “You’ve got to take a chance.”

November 25, 2016

Bryan Cranston recently wrote an intimate, funny memoir entitled A Life in Parts. In turn, he’s been touring, sharing personal stories, and promoting the necessity and power of hard work. In this clip, Cranston gives inspiring advice to aspiring actors at a Guardian event in London.

The four-time Emmy Award-winning star tells actors that there are no shortcuts in the pursuit of landing roles. Rather, he insists, “It’s all about work. And that’s why I say if you don’t love it, it’s going to be drudgery to you. It’s going to be painful to you.”

As a teenager, Cranston initially wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement, and even earned an associate degree in police science. But during an elongated cross-country motorcycle trip, he came to a realization one day while stranded at a rest area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Cranston says, “I realized how much I needed to focus on something that I really loved and hopefully would become good at, as opposed to doing something that I was good at–police work–but I didn’t love. So that was when I made that decision, at 22, to become an actor.”

When he was 25, he found work as a soap opera regular on ABC’s Loving which gave him a great sense of pride and belonging. “It really broke down a barrier for me. At first, I always had to supplement my acting with other odd jobs,” he recalls. But when he was fired from the show two years later, he took opportunities to act all he could whether it be guest star roles on TV or small parts in movies.

When he was auditioning, Cranston says he would “never stop working” because he knew “there’s always going to be people who are more talented than me.” So he committed to the task of outworking the competition. “That’s the one thing you can control,” he insists. And he learned to take risks, and in turn, now urges other actors to take chances as well, saying:

“So I would imagine that after the casting director would see about 30 to 40 guys for the same role, if it’s a comedy, whatever you’re reading is not funny anymore to them….you just have to get that sense that it’s okay. If it’s a drama, there’s not going to be any [gasp] moment from them. They’ve seen it. You’re the thirty-fifth guy coming in, reading the same material. How do you get them to pay attention to you? You can’t just do what is expected. If you just do what’s expected, that’s what everyone’s going to do. You’ve got to take a chance….It’s better to take a chance and go way out there and have the person go, ‘Oh my god! That was bizarre and interesting, it’s not what we’re looking for.’ That’s okay. But you took the chance. It’s better to be that guy than audition person number 27 who I don’t remember at all. At least you’ll be memorable.”

It would be about fifteen years after leaving the soap opera that he landed a “gift” of a role as the goofy father Hal in Malcolm in the Middle–and later, of course, the role of the science-instructor-turned-meth cook Walter White from the wildly popular Breaking Bad. Now Cranston is celebrated for his versatile work in film, on Broadway, and on television. Certainly, the hard work and risks he’s taken along the way have made himself memorable!


Viola Davis’ Bold Risk to Take Off Her Wig and MakeUp

June 1, 2015

First off, don’t believe the internet hoax; Viola Davis is alive and well.

In fact, she’s doing very well! Davis recently won a Screen Actor’s Guild Award for her role in the ABC hit drama series How to Get Away with Murder. The show has almost 10 million viewers thanks to Viola’s powerful portrayal of her complex character, Annalise Keating.

Last week she told How to Get Away with Murder For Your Consideration panel that her role of Annalise was unlike any role she’d ever been offered. “When someone is described as sexual and mysterious and complicated and messy, you don’t think of me. I thought it was a really great opportunity to do something different, to transform into a character that people weren’t used to seeing me in.”

Speaking about the captivating closing scene in which Annalise removes her wig, eyelashes, and wipes away her makeup–essentially transforming her character from powerhouse defense attorney-law professor into a woman with vulnerabilities that everyone can relate to–Viola explained that this revelatory scene was her own idea. Indeed, she explained it was the only way she agreed to play the part of Annalise. She shared with the panel, “There was something I didn’t buy about Annalise in private. It felt like who she was in private had to be diametrically opposed to who she was in public. And so in order to do that, I felt like I had to physically take the wig off. I mean, I have no eyebrows. I have eyelashes that I put on, and there was something extremely vulnerable about that act–and I know it seems like a very simple act at the end of the day–but for me, that simple act really surmounted to something very powerful in the end, because what it was was someone being very, very private in public, which is absolutely the cornerstone of what we do as artists. I didn’t just want to walk in heels like I was a supermodel. Who does that? That was how that scene came about. I didn’t want to wake up in bed thinking that this is how I really look. I wanted to woman up, and I wanted to actor up, too.”

The director of the episode asked Viola, “Now do we want to take off all the makeup?” Davis made clear her position, “You know what? I want to take it off.”

Intrigued by the notion of exposing the “part of being a woman that people kind of throw in the trash heap when you see them on TV,” Viola shared with Nightline, “It’s very empowering–and for me, intensely interesting.”

Here’s one of those bold risks that actors often talk about in their determination to create layered, compelling characters. Turns out, less can really be more.

Viola has decided wear her natural hair in her personal life as well for similarly empowering reasons. She has explained her reasoning by saying, “I took off my wig because I wanted to step into who I was. And I felt like…every time I put on a wig that I was apologizing for who I was, being a dark-skinned woman, very curly hair, I felt like I was hiding it…and I felt like I didn’t want to do that anymore…and I stepped into who I was.” 

Jennifer Lawrence Is Not Just a Lucky Star

March 14, 2012

“I look at Kristen Stewart now and I think, ‘I’d never want to be that famous.’ I can’t imagine how I’d feel if all of a sudden my life was pandemonium.” – Jennifer Lawrence

She’s 21 years old, was named one of People magazine’s Most Beautiful People in the World in 2011, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2010 for her stunning performance in Winter’s Bone, and is about to blast the doors of fame off their hinges with her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games…even though she’s never taken an acting class.

Who could be luckier than Jennifer Lawrence?

Well, while luck may have been involved, Lawrence’s road to success has been paved more so on ambition and determination. At the age of 14, she had such a conviction that her path in life was to be an actress, she convinced her parents to allow her spend a summer in the New York City in hopes of finding a talent agent. Her parents clearly were supportive of their daughter’s dream, and allowed her to leave her Kentucky home base. Once in New York, instead of finding a talent agent, a talent agent found her, that is, during a modeling shoot. The agent invited her to do a cold read to which Lawrence received high praise despite her only training being from church plays. She did end up staying in New York City that summer, and appeared in commercials for MTV’s My Super Sweet 16.  From that point on, Lawrence committed to her school work load, and graduated high school two years early to begin her career as an actress.

How many high school students do you know with this kind of determination? To label Lawrence as lucky would be to minimize all that she really brought to her career advancements. Her ambition has been unwavering right from the start. So what if that talent agent never discovered her that day? Do you think that would have stopped her? Of course not. According to Jennifer, becoming an actress “didn’t feel like a choice at the time, and it still doesn’t.”

According to a recent New York Times opinion piece, The Go-Nowhere Generation, a side effect from the slow economy has been for young Americans to become “risk-averse and sedentary.” This stuck-at-home mentality at a minimum prevents teens from getting their driver’s licenses, and at worst hurts the economy as young adults take fewer risks with their investments and job opportunities. Kids who grow up during tough economic times also tend to believe that luck plays a bigger role in one’s success, which breeds complacency. “Young people raised during recessions end up less entrepreneurial and less willing to leave home because they believe that luck counts more than effort,” said Paola Giuliano, an economist at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

The fact that Lawrence took risks and went to where she felt the work was, shows entrepreneurial grit. She once stated, “I like when things are hard; I’m very competitive. If something seems difficult or impossible, it interests me.” Let’s hope she maintains that positive spirit with her new mega-star fame—and all the pandemonium that unfolds!