Girl, you better work.

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I love this image.

It’s good to be reminded of this dynamic as the performer, and also as the audience.    It says volumes of what goes on behind the scenes to craft a performance, a project.  Or look at it on a bigger scale -to build a career, a life.     What we put on public display we hope is the best we have to offer- a culmination of hours, days, years of effort.     I’m sure this applies to every career…every life.   The behind the scenes work is 20 fold what we show to the public.

Perhaps this is why we value the validation of our peers.  They get it.  I hear jokes about actors being lazy…but it’s not feasibly to be lazy and successful when the competition is this fierce.  Looks, luck or connections may get you in the door, but the depth and breadth of talent all around you means you must really have the goods, to book the job….or to book the one after that.

No, I can’t come out and play.   I have work to do.

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Foreplay?

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Pilot Season – the perfect storm that brings out the crazy in all of us. Where (even more than the other 8 months a year) each day has the potential to take you from rags to riches.  Where the world is suddenly rushing past at light speed…and where you most acutely feel you are riding the comet to success, or standing perfectly still as it passes you by.   It is exciting.  It is panic inducing.  I’ve had pilot seasons where I was so busy, it was a blur….my record is 9 auditions scheduled in one day.  I’ve tested for pilots.  I’ve booked pilots.  I’ve also had years where I’ve gone the entire season without reading for a single project.  I’ve had everything in between.

I’m starting this season with big dreams, and some bigger obstacles.  The details aren’t important, but the pieces of my chess board were unexpectedly upended recently…so I’m starting the year without all of my ducks in a row.   Maybe this won’t matter either way….but the odds – while always awful, today feel crushing because so much is out of my hands. I’m tempted to curl up in a blanket and hibernate. Sleep through pilot season and wake up once the opportunities I’m missing aren’t right before my eyes.  I have to remember- all it takes is 1 appointment…it just has to be the right one.  I also have to remember pilot season is not the only route to success… opportunities come in all shapes and sizes – and usually are not what you’ve been expecting.

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So I sit here, amused that I have absolutely no idea what is around the corner.  I only know:
a) It will surprise me.
b) I will give my everything to whatever comes my way.
c) My effort is all I have control over.

I feel READY.  I’m ripe for the picking, bursting with flavor, a juicy f*cking peach…but you never know the appetites of the industry.  Maybe this year they are on a cleanse and only gluten free-vegan-organic-raw-sugar free-Kombucha infused foams are on the menu.

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I can’t complain….I signed up for this roller coaster ride.   I shall remain optimistic and driven, even on days when everything is sprinkled with a dash of overwhelming and impossible. And though some days, if my career was a person I would want to punch it in the balls for giving me the run around –  I will remember to be grateful for each opportunity coming my way – despite the size, the budget or the distance from what I most want.  I have no idea what seemingly small step is leading to the next big milestone.  I must focus on doing great work and trusting it is where I’m supposed to be.

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I had a very auspicious beginning.   The first day of my first acting class, led immediately to my first audition, which led immediately to two major job offers.  Although due to circumstance I was not able to accept the jobs, that validation convinced me this career path wasn’t entirely crazy.  It gave me the confidence to be brave enough to give this career a go.   Months later, I moved to Los Angles feeling like I would be employed within days and on warp speed to ‘making it’.   It never occurred to me to consider the odds.

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Which is actually a good thing.   The odds are impossible and if you allow yourself to truly admit to the numbers, you would be paralyzed in fear – or headed home to start plan B. I love/miss the insulation youth gives you.  You are brave without realizing it.  Audacious swagger seeps from your pores, blind faith is the pheromone you give off.   You arrive a bright shiny penny that has no idea what awaits it.

I’ve had a couple of difficult years and I feel a bit like I’m waking from a slumber, from anesthesia of heartbreak and loss and disappointment.    Now I’m on the edge of the cliff ready to dive in.  Every career ebbs and flows, but when the years start to pile on, it’s a whole new reason your confidence can begin to shake like a leaf.  My career is a shameless flirt. Teasing me like a stripper. Batting her eyes at me, dropping one item of clothing at a time, giving me a glimpse of the goods to keep me interested, but staying just out of reach.  Leaving me frustrated.  Alas, I am sick of this casual ‘flirtationship’.  I’m looking for commitment.   Give me the (brass) ring.
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When I first moved to LA I assumed I was on the same playing field as everyone else – it was calming to be so naïve. I quickly realized that much of my competition had been working professionally since they were children, even infants – and had resumes, connections and on-set experience that was 20 years deeper than mine.   Whoa, wake up call.  I want to take comfort in the fact that I’m the one who now has a hefty(ish) resume – but the quirk of working in this business, is that A+B doesn’t necessarily = C.  It might as well equal monkeys or mason jars.  This business is like a platypus – it’s super cool, but you don’t really understand it (is it a bird or a mammal?  Part duck, part beaver?) and you have a hard time describing it to others.

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This is a career where you are constantly starting from scratch after each gig.  Your job is fulfilling the needs of the character and it’s basically a level playing field in terms of what you bring into the room. The finances of the project may dictate that your resume gives you more sway, as might your prior connections, but not always.   In fact, it is horrifying to realize that sometimes the only sin you commit is being familiar…just the fact that you already have an established relationship with them, can sometimes work against you.    Can stop someone from seeing you in a new way.   You have to push for the chance to change their minds, to SHOW THEM that you are more than what they expect.  More than they imagined

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In this business I fluctuate daily between being amazed, downright flabbergasted that my life is so fantastic, and being paralyzed by how agonizingly far my life is from what I hope it can one day be.  So much is beyond our control….but hard work and bravery are rewarded.  Tides turn every day.  Fortunes change.  Circumstance shift.  Almost anything can happen at almost any time. Even (some version of) this:
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(*Shout out to PulseStudios for making/sending me this hilarious photo… and no, I’m not stalking BP, nor is this supposed to represent ‘ideal’ – just thought this image was too funny to keep to myself).

So shake off the disappointments.  Let go of the ‘what should have been’ or ‘almost was’.    There is no room in your heart to hold on to complaints, heartache, or the bitter pill of ‘not yet’.    Stop telling yourself the same old story of how it didn’t work and how high or frightening the stakes are.   Remember, you are a juicy peach, it is a new year, a new pilot season, a new beginning and anything is possible.   The past?   Well, that was just foreplay. The best part starts now.

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I can’t wait.

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I’m not a doctor. I just play one on TV. AKA: We aren’t curing cancer.

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Stumbled across this amusing article of actors gently dissing their profession.    Gotta say, I dig people that can find the balance of respect for the craft and awareness that we are playing pretend for a living.   It takes a healthy dose of both to do good work, and not fall into the trap of believing your own hype.

A few highlights:

Johnny Depp
“I despise those prick actors who say, ‘I was in character,’ and ‘I became the character,’ and all that stuff. It’s hideous. It’s just masturbation at the highest level.”

Jennifer Lawrence

“Why would I ever get cocky? I’m not saving anybody’s life. There are doctors who save lives and firemen who run into burning buildings. I’m making movies. It’s stupid.'”

Katharine Hepburn
“Acting is the most minor of gifts and not a very high-class way to earn a living. After all, Shirley Temple could do it at the age of four.”
“Acting is the perfect idiot’s profession.”
“It’s a business you go into because you’re an egocentric. It’s a very embarrassing profession.”

Robert Downey Jr.
“I know very little about acting. I’m just an incredibly gifted faker.”

To read the full article/list of quotes click here.

Actor brain.

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Check out this article/cool experiment.   Performing while your brain is being scanned.    Magic really is happening.

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How to make a casting director happy.

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I’m planning to share a list of my own tips and advice for new actors, soon – but this jumped out at me today.    Its a great little blog from casting director Risa Bramon Garcia  listing the top 15 things actors do that make her happy.  No, it’s not about bribing her with flowers, getting featured in a tabloid or reaching a certain number of followers online.  It’s about inspiration and responsibility.    Here are two that caught my eye:

11. You understand the power of fear, that it’s a force, not an impediment. You take risks in spite of your terror. You let it fuel you. You do what Yoda says: “Feel the force!”

12. You’re courageous. You embrace the struggle and find a way to love it, knowing that the creative spirit grows from battling through the night, that this is the force with which we create. You’re willing to do whatever it takes.

Read the full list here.

In The Round

tell it

The Hollywood Reporter holds actors roundtables a few times a year.  The participants change: sometimes women, sometimes men, comedians, over 40, under 40 etc.   The discussions are usually quite interesting and almost always shed some light on the process of acting.  It’s  eye-opening to hear those in the limelight share many of the same fears and frustrations as those of us hoping to make it there.   These particular roundtables are with the leading contenders for awards season this year.

Women:  http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/actresses-full-uncensored-interview-391620

Men: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/actors-full-uncensored-interview-387453

Interesting how readily the men admit how difficult the business is for women.   Hmmm.

Preparing for torture

As the agony and ecstasy of pilot season approaches, thought I’d post a link to this blogGuys are not going to want to f**k her  by Ken Levine.   Its a doozy.   It is hard to describe how sensational it is to be part of this biz  when things are going well.  You’ll just have to trust me….it truly does justify the lunacy we go through trying to get there.

We really are gluttons for punishment.

What’s my line?

Memorization is a demon that almost every actor I know struggles with to some degree.    Having time to prepare is the want of every performer and probably the aim of every production….but in reality, you can be hired very last minute (my record is being hired 4 hours before having to be on set acting).  Significant script and dialogue changes can arrive only moments before you shoot a scene.  Some actors are masters at handling this….waltzing through massive changes without breaking a sweat.  Erasing early versions from their minds in an instant and seeming to absorb multiple pages of new material.  I envy them.  I feel far less graceful.   I’m good at memorization – but not great.  I always make it happen…but its with effort and with a fear of failure nipping at my heels.   I’m always looking for ways to improve.  If you have tips…send them my way.

Wanted to share this article (The Actor’s Memory) with my actor friends…or anyone who might be interested….all about the actor-brain and the process of performing on set.

The Slow Boil

Glenn Close is a beast.  She devours scenes.  She eats dialogue for breakfast.   She leaves lesser actors in the dust.  She owns the work.   Whether she is playing the good guy or the bad guy, I am always rooting for her.   I love her.

Possibly my favorite of her performances was as Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons.  I loved it so much, that the first monologue I learned at age 16 was her character’s calm description of creating herself in a culture that ‘only wanted me to sit still and do what I was told’.   Yes, this was ridiculous – as it was a entirely inappropriate monologue for my age….but it was so insanely delicious watching her on screen that I HAD to know the material.   Had to hear those words trip off my tongue.  If you haven’t seen the film – check it out.  You find costume drama’s boring? Give it a chance.  You will be delighted with how sexy, vicious, and riveting the story is.   It’s an intoxicating mixture of chess, porn and warfare.

I was feeling a bit dusty this week – frustrated with progress that feels nominal and effort that feels Herculean.   I was reminded that Glenn didn’t book her first on-screen role until she was 35.  In Hollywood that’s like saying she was 700…and had leprosy. It’s impossible.   But she did it.

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That really IS the question! Are you going to make it happen, be who you want to be, or not?   Time IS of the essence, but I breath a sign of relief that it isn’t as dire as we are told.   Hollywood makes you believe that if you haven’t headlined a film by the time you hit 22 (especially as a woman), you probably missed your chance. It’s nice to be reminded there are exceptions to the rule.   That passion, perseverance and skill can trump the status quo, skew the bell curve and beat the odds.

From the outside it feels like success comes roaring all at once…when usually it has been simmering for years.  While the media focuses on the kid who booked a huge role on their first audition and immediately launched into a full throttle career-  the greater truth is the ‘15 year overnight success’.   Job by Job, gig by gig, building a career over time.  Until that one special job arrives and your career goes from ‘Who’s that?’ to ‘That’s who!’ .

So, I still allow myself to want it all.  To believe in the possibility I can still have it.   I hope you give yourself that gift too – whatever your dream, your passion, your goal.  Fifteen year overnight success sounds great to me!

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I heard a quote once about Zach Galifianakis– it said, something to the effect of  “we are lucky he wasn’t his most successful when he was young, because his talent needed to ferment, to marinate and we are all the better for it”.   I get that.  I hope that is me. I’ve always been an ‘old soul’ and I know that has come across in my work.   I look younger than I am.   But I’ve always had a quality of maturity that is older than I am.  It’s a strange mix.  Perfect for some meaty roles- but not the generic young woman that is so often the role being cast.  I’m now reaching the point where it is all coalescing together.   A yummy soup of womanhood that I hope I can capitalize on.

I’ve always said I would rather be starting my career, have it continuing on the rise, than to realize the best is behind me.   That it would be more interesting to have a career full of dynamic women’s roles, rather than the empty roles of vapid college co-eds or muted girlfriends.   So I will keep pushing forward.

I ran into Kathryn Joosten several times over the years.  The final time was about two weeks before she passed away.    I didn’t know her well, but she was just as sweet, lovely and grounded as you expected her to be. I am inspired by her story of following her passion and living her dream.  I hope you are too.

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Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.  And Dreams aren’t just for the bright-eyed cherubs amongst us.   Life is short – you owe it to yourself to chase after what you most want.

No excuses:

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The Girl With The Tattoo Of My Face On Her Vaj

Fans.

What a luxury.  Having support (of any kind) in your life is such a privilege. Having support for your work from virtual strangers is like having a secret weapon.  It can be mind-blowing.   My experience of fans has run the gamut from spectacular to scary and sometimes, outright looney-tunes.  It is always a bit surreal.

One of the complicated realizations is despite how great your work may have been…the reason a fan becomes a fan may have nearly nothing to do with you.   It’s about how you made them feel about themselves.   How the story you helped tell affected their life.  How the character you played resonated with them, represented them, inspired them and supported them at a tough time.    It is both an incredibly intimate relationship, and entirely outside of you.

When I meet fans, they sometimes shake and cry and are unable to speak.  Sometimes they are enthusiastic, funny, sweet and are fantastic to talk to.  Sometimes they treat me like crap in what seems to be an effort to appear very cool.  (“ya, I want your autograph, but its not like I care, its for a friend, I’ve never seen your work, I actually think that show was stupid.” Did they also wear that Xena t-shirt and chakram necklace because of how much they hate the show??)

Sometimes they are insanely inappropriate:

Them:  Hey, can I take a picture with you?
Me: Sure
Them:  (being completely serious) Can you lift your shirt up and flash the camera?
Me:  Haha, no.
Them:  Uh.Ok, fine.
Photo is taken…they start walking away, I overhear them say ‘What a bitch’.

Yep. That’s me. The bitch who won’t flash her ta-ta’s for your cell phone cam shot.      Also the bitch that won’t kiss you, won’t give you her phone number/hotel room number or and won’t meet you later for a drink. Sorry, creepy dude. But I admire you had the guts to ask.

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Sometimes they transcend fan and become a personal lifelong friend.

Sometimes they are stalkers (Don’t even want to go into details, other than it SUCKS and is very scary.)

Sometimes they bring you super sweet gifts or make you amazing (or hilarious) art:

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Sometimes they stick their camera underneath the bathroom stall door to try to get a picture of you.   AAAAaaaaahhhhh.

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Sometimes when you are at your lowest point, and nearly ready to give up – they remind you that you are GOOD at what you are trying to do.   Or when you feel like your work is silly – they remind you what an impact it can have.

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Sometimes they send mail.  It comes in all shapes and sizes from sweet notes, to icky propositions to completely mistaking who you are and what you do.  (“Hi, I LOOOOOVED you as  Jenny on The L Word.”  Umm, I was never on The L Word.)

The relationship is a mystery. Amazing, and also completely strange.  Validating.  Disconcerting. A blessing.  I’d say 98% of the time its great.  I am appreciative of my fans every day.   I know it could all stop at any moment.  And in this new day and age where the industry is changing so fast – fans have more power than they’ve ever had before.   Power to get projects funded, get them on the air, get them publicity and attention they would otherwise miss.   The importance of the relationship can’t be denied.  {speaking of which, y’all feel free to pimp out my blog!}

It’s also a great lesson: Never underestimate the role you play for someone else.  Be careful with your words.   Be present with the people you are in the presence of.  Some of the smallest moments between people can be the most profound.  Even when your interaction seems small, it can have a remarkable effect on someone’s life.

Back to the headline.   So there I was at a personal appearance – making the rounds at a meet and greet.   I’m approaching a table of boisterous ladies when I spy a one of them with several sci-fi and fantasy characters prominently tattooed on her back and arms.   When I comment on them, several people at the table start egging her on to show me ‘the other one’.  After hemming and hawing bashfully for a minute, she decides to be brave and go for it.   I have no idea what to expect…maybe she has the Xena logo?  Maybe I ❤ Livia?   No….I wasn’t in the ballpark of what was about to happen.   She stands and to my horror and amusement starts unzipping her pants.  I start to look around nervously….umm, what is happening?   She pulled her pants down a few inches, then starts to also pull her undies down as well (wait, what!?) she pull them down far enough for me to see the top of the tattoo – my character Livia, MY eyes staring back at me from her crotch.  Yes, my face on her va-jay-jay, her kitty, her holy grail.   This is where I stopped her.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to know exactly what I/Livia was doing to her most delicate lady bits below the belt.   I didn’t want that image burned into my brain for all eternity.   Though for the record I’m sure Livia was thorough and talented 🙂  So… somewhere out there is a lovely girl walking this world with my face permanently stationed between her thighs…how supremely odd that I’m so intimately and forever connected to a virtual stranger.   Gotta love commitment like that!

No idea how you could top that one.   Fans…you are the bomb!

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