You’ve probably heard the question in almost every interview that features a well established film or stage actor. The audience is given the mic and a question like this is probably asked at some point.
“I’ve wanted to be an actor my whole life, what’s the best advice you can give me?”
And in a way that is what this post is about, although I won’t attempt at all to give acting advice to current students. I will be giving advice to the student I was during my degree. If you can relate in any way to this letter to my past self, then I’m happy to be of service.
To 18-year-old John Armstrong
Hello young John! At this point you’re nearing the end of the second year of your degree. Exciting times ahead! It definitely doesn’t seem like it from where you’re standing. Like many students you have a crippling self-doubt, both in your talent and in your general personality. But no fear! I’m 20-year-old John from the future, to tell you that you don’t need to worry so much!
I’m going to give you some advice so that one day you will look back and realise that it’s ok.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF CARING – I know you find it funny now. Going for a night drinking before an audition the next day so that it looks like you don’t care. But trust me, it doesn’t work.
The thing is John, you have to give yourself permission to care. There are a lot of people in this world who are afraid of caring, or afraid of showing people that they care because it’s “uncool” to have passion. It’s so much easier to lose when you’ve shown everyone that you don’t care. It’s much harder to lose when you’ve shown people how much you want something but fail to get it.
But you’ll never win, unless you also stand to lose. Give your passion free rein, be honest, and work hard and it will all turn out just fine.
YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO LEAVE NEGATIVITY AT THE DOOR – There’s a quote by a French actor which is “We all have two lives, the second begins when you realise that you only have one.” And future John isn’t wasting any time and neither should you. The thing with emotions is that they are like clouds that cross the sun. Those emotions will pass. It’s impossible to force a permanent happiness onto yourself. Likewise it’s also impossible to force other people to be happy with you. Which leads onto my last piece of advice for you.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF LOOKING LIKE A FOOL – In many ways, acting can be reduced to not being afraid of looking stupid sometimes. Otherwise how could we break out into song and dance in the middle of a sentence and not run off-stage in embarrassment. Let go of your ego. The project you are working on and the story you are telling is far more important than how embarrassed you feel. It’s about the audience and the story. It’s not about you.
Peace out John !
Best of luck.