Acting Nice

Balance seems to be a much bandied about word. Very often, just when you think you have found a way to answer a specific problem, it turns out that your answer, without a healthy dose of its antidote, is itself a huge problem.

In music, I feel like there is a constant balancing act between precision and passion, between articulation and energy. In fact, that is a balancing act in all form of expression, learning how to say exactly what you mean but in a way that is more exciting than just saying it. It’s sort of the trick.

After years of working in the studio, I got a lot of CDs given to me by other studio guys, and these chunks of music never really meant very much to me because they generally suffered from enough articulation but not enough energy. The problem was that all of that time spent in the studio trying to get stuff perfect had made it difficult for me to listen to recordings that were thrown together. These “three chords and the truth” bands, as Ian calls them, made me furious.

The same can be said with an actor’s approach to his career. The hardest thing about acting, it turns out, is not the acting, but the creation of opportunities for you to act. Because of a confluence of circumstances, including the fact that actors are now supermodels, that bad acting is less important than the cult of personality that might follow an actor, and that acting has become little more than pretending on film followed by assiduous editing, acting has become something that anyone can try and that most people want to do.

Acting follows this same balancing act, but the approach to your career has to as well. The stories of actors who are completely self absorbed and painfully unkind to those around them are well known. It is almost celebrated in the same way that Bill Gates, even to those who hate him, is respected as a captain of industry. Most actors look at the people they are working with as potential show stealers, as possible future threats to their next job, and doll out as much affected nonchalance or outright cruelty as possible. And the truth is, this level of arrogance and fingernail scratching is necessary if you are going to go to three or four auditions a day for things you won’t get.

On the other hand, kindness is the thing that gets you farthest when hostility has failed you. Every company I have worked with since about 1993 has wanted to work with me again. (Every company I worked with before that thought I was great but was probably glad to see me go, my cruelty was matched by a quick tongue and a slow mind and I treated people as hilariously badly as I could).

Because of my relationships with my family and friends, in the state we are in now, I find that I am erring on the side of kindness more than cruelty. Ian has become, through Tessa, a much softer version of his old self, easier to wound and more open to affection, and his and Michelle’s reactions to the attacks on the city have probably made me inadvertently more aware of my effect on people. And Jordana is so maternal she is practically a breast, it’s hard to be arrogant when you are sprayed with the milk of human kindness a couple of times a day.

That is an awesome image.

So, despite the fact that I like cruelty in my humor, despite the fact that I love pratfalls and jokes where people get embarrassed, I find that I have less and less emotional energy to deal with the professional actors of this world.

So, let’s say you get a chance to work with me, even for a day, even just on a reading or something. Do try to be kind. Arrogance and cruelty are small minded reactions to moments of stress. I know you have a dick, and I’m sure it’s simply huge, but I don’t really want to get into a measuring contest. I have spent so much of my life acting like an ass just to prove that I have a place in this world, and I think, I’m not sure, but I think that most of that time has been wasted.