Talent vs. Skill in Casting Calls

January 11, 2012

Some actors are auditioning for TV shows and commercials because they’ve been told they’re a “natural.” Being a natural is something to behold, it’s great fun, and it stokes the creative fires. As a natural you’ll receive a bounty of praise and often, tremendous encouragement. Being a natural is also a great foundation for anyone aspiring to a career in the arts. But relying too heavily on the nature, and not enough on the nurture aspect of your abilities is not wise. If you find yourself excelling in the acting game, it’s convenient to believe it’s easy. But the game is long, and the game changes as you play. Some of the best actors in the history of cinema were also the most gifted. But the truly great ones worked the craft like a top athlete works in the gym. Laurence Olivier, one of the most revered actors of the 20th century, was known to speak William Shakespeare’s lines “as naturally as if he were actually thinking them,” said English playwright Charles Bennett. But even after he’d experienced many years of extraordinary recognition, he was still taking vocal lessons to keep his skills sharp–even the skills he already had in the bag.

Amy Adams says of her Fighter costar Mark Wahlberg, “He has a work ethic that is incomparable. He is where he is because of his hard work, his sheer force of will.” Wahlberg trained for his role as “Irish” Micky Ward two years before The Fighter was greenlit. One day, the men who write the checks saw Mark tearing it up in the ring; it wasn’t hard to sign on the line which is dotted.

Will Smith is keen on the notion of hard work, and indeed, credits persistence for his success. Will claims to work on his career while other guys are eating and sleeping. He swears by a “ridiculous, sickening work ethic,” and states:

“The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, for people who have dreams. Talent is what you have naturally; skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.”

Who can argue with this philosophy? Dedicating yourself to being better each new day can be achieved by Smith’s philosophy:

“You don’t set out to build a wall…you say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ And you do that every single day, and soon you have a wall.” 

Sounds like a great way to land more casting calls and TV auditions!