As an actor, everyday I'm fighting for the roles, and the moments that challenge me emotionally. Even though this is what I am fighting for, and what I love, there are moments where I feel like I'm not ready. I fall into the feeling of "I would be so much better at calling on this emotion if I had more life experience; a better reserve to draw from..." this would then fuel my character choices and help make my delivery that much more precise and deep. This brings me to a quote from Charleton Heston, "The minute you feel you have given a flawless performance is the time to get out." And it also reminds me of children, and how present their emotions are. There is no preemptive, they simply feel. I have to stop trying to jump through hoops and open myself up.
In my second year at the National Theatre School of Canada, my class worked with the critically acclaimed director, László Marton. One day, I was struggling with the emotion of a character in a scene and upon expressing my issues to László he said that it wasn't about "crying on cue" but rather living the moment honestly. And in order to have ones emotions so present one has to work on it like any other skill. It takes discipline to break down ones barriers and let the emotions bubble up on a regular basis. It's something we suffocate as we grow into adults. Actors have to work very hard at shattering those emotional walls for these intimate moments, then building them back up in order to deal with realty.
It's not easy, and as much as I talk about it, it's still extremely difficult. There are people who have such emotional depth that they can pop in and out like taking off a hat, and then there are people who are simply great at faking it, so much that it looks like the real thing but actually comes from fear of letting their guard down. I'm working to break down my walls, get to that raw and unabashed emotion so that not only is it real for me, but that the audience can see I am being real with them.
Being half way through this contract, I'm continuing to learning a lot about my habits in this medium, and how to best bring the "goods". Being on this journey, from theatre school graduate to professional actor, is challenging but I am getting more comfortable with Lykos, finding the best ways to deal with the situations that befall him. He's a very complex young man, and his trajectory is incredible. This requires me to be diligent and unabashed with my approach to scenes.
This week has had big moments in it. I've been feeling very homesick lately, and that has started to slump me down into a rather pessimistic and negative mood. I have been relatively quiet and non engaging, but I'm human and I'm allowed to have moments like this. The issue is that when I get into these "slumps" I slip into the mind frame of jealousy, negativity and a need for constant approval. This is a dangerous place, because when I cannot separate myself from these emotions before it comes time to act, I end up completely cutting myself off from my scene partner(s) and ultimately the viewer; a dangerous place.
I'm an idealist and also set very high standards for myself. Sometimes this is a great combination; it allows me to approach each new project with fervour and excitement, it allows me to sympathize with people and makes me work at achieving the life that I want. The downside is, I expect people to be like me and want the same things, which comes off as me trying to impose my ideals on people. This leads into my struggle with the fact that this is a job, and like every other job there are going to be favourites, and gossip and bad attitudes, and great attitudes and lovely people and people who will never even know I was here, even if I made an inukshuk and left it in the middle of the set.
I'm a strong advocate for equality. I think if we could all be given the same treatment, rather than building up certain individuals, there would be a lot more happiness, as there would be less room for comparison. Growing up and being around more people is teaching me that the only way to rise above mediocrity, ego stroking, the superficial love and gratuitous encouragement, for essentially being alive, is to rise above it. To not give it the time, to not let it burrow into my mind and to prize my mind as a place of serenity, harmony and happiness.
Being part of this project is truly something out of a fairy tale; I could not have asked for a better project to start with. I am learning so much about myself, I'm learning about people, actors and artists as well as all the technical aspects of film and how to execute my instincts in the best, most honest way, with immediacy. It's teaching me to deeply listen to myself and truly be a vessel for my character.
Something else I am re-learning, is how to trust my talent and myself. In moments of doubt I have to remember that I came from a great program, with a wonderful education behind me. I booked this job, and have yet to be fired. I'm doing great work, despite how I may feel about it. I'm doing my homework and am always prepared for my scenes. I constantly work on being authentic in my performances as well as incorporating the precision and nuance that defines a human being. I'm learning to accept that I'm not your average actor, visually, stylistically, and artistically. I'm an individual and will forge my own path rather than follow in someone else's, it's easy to get distracted and resent someone for achieving "success" but if I can stay focused on my journey then I will etch out quite the life for myself.
I constantly need to remind myself that I am 23 and haven't experienced much life yet, there is still a lot ahead of me. I have to focus on my mental stability and living life for me: trusting my instincts and putting positive energy into the universe rather than trying to figure everything out, comparing and missing the opportunities being presented to me by giving into fears and insecurities.
This week ended on a high note, as Amanda Tapping, who has been directing me all week, hugged me and told me that I had done superstar work. Images of Molly Shannon sniffing her sweaty armpits surged into my mind and a smile spread across my face.
I'm doing something right.