MC² Actors Studio’s The Actor’s Process Series

“You have to set a goal. You have to have tenacity. If you don’t have it, don’t waste your time. There’s a whole additional set of values and needs in addition to your talent and your skill. Just sticking it out, being productive, getting seen, and getting talked to are big parts of it. The biggest thing is tenacity. Without tenacity in your system, talent doesn’t mean much. But if you have discipline and tenacity, coupled with talent, you’re capable of doing anything. You need passion, tremendous passion. I try to make is so clear to you how much you have to commit to it in order to get what you want. And if you’re not prepared to make that commitment, don’t waste your time. It’s not a surface thing. It’s not like, ’Oh, I’ve got so much talent, or beauty, or whatever, that someone will see it, and they’ll pick me out of the whole bunch, and I’m off!’ It just isn’t like that. You have to work, commit, reveal yourself. You have to be willing to put yourself on the line.”
~Gerald Freedman, The School Of Doing
I read it (the script) over and over and over again. Just to find out, in actors terms, ‘the given circumstances’ – who you are, what people say about you, all of that. That’s the first thing I do. And then I write a bio of the character. I try to fill it up as much as possible: What are her memories? Does she have brothers and sisters? What secrets does she have? What’s her favorite color? I do all of that work first. The character is always ever-evolving, just like we evolve based on circumstances that happen to us. There could be things that happen where we absolutely know how it’s going to affect you, but you really don’t know how it’s going to affect you and how it will make you veer off course at any given time. So whatever prep work you do, the next work you have to do – you leave yourself alone. You leave yourself absolutely alone.
~Viola Davis, BAFTA Guru Interview
My preparation is always pretty much the same, regardless of whether it’s a $150 million film or a $1.5 million or whatever it may be — I’ve got to do a lot of homework, and I’ve just got to be well-equipped when I come onto the floor. And I want to come onto the floor with ideas. And I want to also be well-prepared so I have the ability to have a freedom to explore any avenue on the day. And have fun.
~Michael Fassbender to Backstage TV 
With big emotional roles, it’s very easy, especially if you’ve grown up in the American school of acting, to exploit your own pain. You have to be careful about that, because nine times out of ten, your pain is not appropriate to the character. You can watch someone onstage cry and cry—but in the audience you feel nothing. It’s easy to become indulgent. For me, what’s important is the story first.
~Laura Linney 
In some way it’s an indication that I’m in the right place, because the fear is kind of informing me: I’m in the place where the known is ending and the unknown is beginning. And that is our job, to consistently put ourselves in a position where we’re uncomfortable and going beyond our comfort zone. If you’re fortunate enough to build a career, a little pebble is put out in front of you, and you’ve got to step toward it, and with each step you’re hopefully going further out and getting beyond what you’ve done before and exploring territory that has yet to be explored. So you have to really make friends with that fear. It’s a bit of a tightrope walk.
~Mahershala Ali, Hollywood Reporter Interview 
One of the most important keys to acting is curiosity. I am curious to the point of being nosy. What that means is you want to devour lives. You’re eager to put on their shoes and wear their clothes and have them become a part of you. All people contain mystery, and when you act, you want to plumb that mystery until everything is known to you”
~Meryl Streep
You do a lot of homework. I think of it as kind of training your creative animal. You, the thinking mind, is kind of training your animal to be sensitive to this kind of thing or to think more about this kind of thing and to maybe engage in this kind of pastime more—so you end up in a process of osmosis kind of shaping the way you carry yourself, the way you see the world. And of course you work with a script, and of course you find your different ways into putting that script into into your body. And then when it comes the day of performance, you can take your animal off the leash and you surrender to it. You cannot control it with your thinking mind, otherwise you’ll be doing something maybe precise, maybe shaped and crafted and varnished, but you’re not giving something spontaneous and more truly honest. And to do that, you have to kind of, yeah, unleash and hand over the reins to the animal itself and not the animal trainer, which is a thinking mind.
~Riz Ahmed, Backstage Interview 
That’s the thing about being an actor. You have to avail yourself to circumstances and experiences that you yourself don’t know anything about. But we as human beings…we are not as individual as we think we are. And that’s what allows for us to experience empathy when we watch things. So for me, going to school and going to get acting training was about that. Learning more than what my personal experience would offer. And availing myself to that. And doing the research and the technical preparation. And then just breathing and letting ‘God walk through the door’ like Oprah said.
~Lupita Nyong’o, The Queen Latifah Show
When I’m given a role, the first thing I do is read the play over and over again. I scour the script and write down everything the character says about himself and everything that everyone else says about him. I immerse myself in my character and imagine what it might be like to be that person.
~Tom Hiddleston, The Guardian 
Someone might have a germ of talent, but 90 percent of it is discipline and how you practice it, what you do with it… Instinct won’t carry you through the entire journey. It’s what you do in the moments between inspiration.
~Cate Blanchett
I think that the stress that we put on ourselves is probably a good thing; I don’t understand why they don’t talk about that more. They should talk about that in acting class and schools. The trick is that fear and that stress that you feel is a great motivator. Fear is a great motivator. I had a lot of fear and still have my fears, but it really drove me to work, work, work, and then work some more. And if I look at my younger self, maybe I wouldn’t change it, because that fear—like, I didn’t grow up well off. I didn’t really have a Plan B, and in fact, I took great pride in not having a Plan B. I didn’t wanna give myself any opportunity to fail, and I was a big believer in hard work being the salvation. Everything went back to working hard. And I still believe if you’re willing to do the work, you’re gonna see great results.
~Jared Leto, Backstage Interview 
You have to go through this long, painful process of learning techniques to be able to recognize a ‘good accident’ or a ‘bad accident.’ Ill-informed intuition is fantastic—it’s what great art is. So really old painters or writers or actors are brilliant, because they’ve finally reached the point when they can let go of all technique. And young actors or young writers who try to pretend that technique doesn’t matter have got their heads up their arses, basically.
~Helen Mirren, Interview Magazine
You have to have someone outside of your own brain who will help you create, and you have to find the community who will hold you accountable…(he then goes on to say) It comes down to never running out of approaches, and that comes down to building tools in your toolbox…(he then goes on to say) Craft comes in when the idea doesn’t just drop into your lap and you have to draw from a set of tools that you have developed over the years.
~Lin-Manuel Miranda, Forbes Interview
I have had the luxury of ‘Noes’. And I’ve also had the luxury of ‘Yeses’. And it’s taught me a lot. There’s also, to me, spaces to learn. There’s also quick crash course masterclasses on how to really know how to define who you are when you walk into the room. Bring who you are, but also have the preparation…have the craft…and have the knowledge behind the character so that they can all mesh together.
~Mj Rodriguez, SAG-AFTRA Interview
Every person is driven by some deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep secret and finding that for a character gives you that which drives it through. You look for it and then you try and find that essence that drives them. If you can find it, if you find the right one, they’ll know it.
~Robin Williams, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
That’s how I got hooked on acting. It’s an education in and of and by itself. I do a tremendous amount of research because I have to know who this person is in order to let you know who she is. If I don’t feel that I have captured the essence of this woman, I cannot do that.
~Cicely Tyson, Time
If you start at a place and say, ‘I have certain skills that allow me to work in this profession,’ and give yourself a little boost of confidence, then you can operate from that perspective of pushing yourself to know what more you’re capable of…(he then goes on to say) I always want to know what I’m capable of. I want to reach out as far as I can…(he then goes on to say) So if this is what I’ve put so much into in my life, why not keep going in that direction?
~Rami Malek, Backstage Interview
I’ve always taken my craft very seriously and have always felt that I had to make choices for very personal reasons, very subjective reasons. If I ever chose something because I thought it would win me an award or make me a lot of money, I was going off track…Ultimately, what we have as individuals is what makes us an individual. I think to be able to approach something personal and to learn a craft of getting into someone else’s skin, I guess that’s the biggest actor rule that I live by.
~Glenn Close, Closer Weekly
All the work is a kind of mining, and you’re mining for clues. And there are many many clues… that could bare exploration for the rest of one’s days and you’d still feel there was more to learn… So I think what tends to happen is you learn as much as you can, you absorb what you learn and hope out of that will grow something that is true. And you forget everything that you don’t know – which is a lot… (he then goes on to say) It could easily seem as if this work – especially as so much of it is done on your own, in preparation – is that it’s a kind of an isolationist exercise. But again, that work that you do on your own is the work that allows you to be OPEN with your colleagues, to be fluid. It allows the imagination to work in response to what they bring, because you have no idea what they’re going to bring.
~Daniel Day-Lewis, StageMilk Interview

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