I was just watching a slew of videos on Youtube featuring The Oscars Roundtable where actors and directors answered questions of fame, acting, inspiration, interesting moments, grappling with how to give life to the characters they portray, and other thought provoking things. It was starring a lot of diverse personalities, and was honestly the most candid, raw discussion I've heard in a long time. So you have a very dry, humerous, and self-deprecating Robert Downey Jr. You have Mickey Rourke who in his lifetime has experienced dark tumultuous periods, is able to authentically connect to people in a raw and magnetic way. You have Anne Hathaway who is still a bit green and is sinking her teeth into more involved roles as she progresses. You have the graceful Helen Mirren who is wonderfully regal yet charming at a moment's notice. This mix of delightful people was so fantastic to listen to.
The point of this post isn't to glorify that industry or the people, that's not my focal point, despite my profound respect.
Acting to me, for the first time in my life is something I can relate to. And it's still taking some getting used to. I've been realizing this as far back as early January but listening to these actors, it is becoming clearer. At first, I used to immediately connect acting with being fake and inauthentic. But that has since changed, although this was an ingrained notion in my mind for most of my life.
Let me take a step back and discuss admiration. To respect and admire something, is in a sense, one step away from doing it oneself. If you respect and admire something, it is something you would be grateful to be able to do. All of the things I respect and admire, I wish I had the capacity to achieve myself. It is not something that I admire and scorn simultaneously. I don't believe that it's possible, although in this world, people try to create those paradoxes. For example, the President of the United States, for me is a position that I highly respect with the responsibility it entails. Your constituents are the citizens of the USA, and one takes into account the interests of not only the people but businesses, foreign politics, the bureaucracy, the legislature, and everything in between. If you look over the course of history and realize there was a period of Presidents called the 'No Name Presidents' like Millard Fillmore you'll see that the interpretation of what a role means varies wildly. Any role, whether it be the President of the USA, or being a mother, is acting, in a very broad sense. If you assume acting to mean fake, then no, it is not, but I am going to redefine what I mean by being an actor.
I don't believe it means to be inauthentic and fake. To me, the general population feels that the realm of acting is so far from their lives because they can not envision this phenomenon of getting into state and believably portraying these people. It is an incredibly difficult feat because it takes one's soul and body to synchronize, where other industries there isn't so much of an exhaustion of resources to create the art.
To get into state and to really portray the characters, first one has to look beyond oneself as a typecast. Are you the surly arrogant person that never lets his pride down and nothing else? Are you the girl next door -- beautiful and so down to earth that can't be seen doing anything out of propriety? Actors are able to get into the skins of these seemingly one-dimensional characters and allow people to see that they are multi-dimensional. They become aware of not only their voice, their mannerisms, but where they angle themselves towards people, and certain idiosyncrasies to create history. And then they do this again. And again. With characters with different accents, histories, troubles, motivations, belief structures, expertise, and they create believability and the audience trusts in that.
It is someone who really has a sense of the vast spectrum of human emotion and all of its vivid colors dark and bright to truly be a great actor. The reason why people judge an actor by the wide range of characters they play is because the best actors can be given a role, and run with it, and make it their own. Fundamentally actors can't be fake. To prepare for a role that is not themselves, they explore the deep valleys of emotions and thoughts of that person. They get into their shoes, have the hypothetical conversations the character would have, until they are able to think and make choices for the character. Actors also can not judge the characters they play, for fear of pinning them down and subconsciously affecting their portrayal in a way that diminishes the flesh of the role.
Acting is so many things. I know that the best actors are trained to be in tune to the human condition and as a result, are in the business of psychology. Only, instead of lecturing about psychology, they'll show you with their performances, and it's a beautiful thing.
Life is playing a lot of roles. And if we committed to the homework, preparation, and execution as these actors did with playing characters they are far from, as the roles that we are actually in right now, then the world would be a better place. :)