The job of an actor and by job, I mean the nuts and bolts; be on time, rehearse, learn your lines, study your script, understand what’s’ going on in the scene.
Now the real job of an actor; not to act. To ask yourself the same question every day – am I believable as a human being. Sounds crazy right? But as a Meisner student my first ever acting coach told the class from day 1 – never say the word character in my class – there is no such thing. There is only ever you as a person working through an imaginary set of circumstances but no matter how far fetched those circumstances may be, the result is always the same – find the truth in every moment, react as you would react, feel as you would feel and do all of that in the guise of someone else.
Think of any great actor – Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, Morgan Freeman (some of my favorites) and recall how not once do you ever think ‘oh thats Denzel he’s a pilot today’ you believe that they are that person they draw you in to their story, now think of a time where you watched an actor trying desperately to act – it feels different right? You find yourself calling bullshit, I call bullshit on myself all the time – I act the role, I add up all the numbers 2 plus 2 equals 4 and yet it doesn’t make sense because you’re pretending to feel, pretending to react – when the only way is really to feel, really react. Listening is the only thing we ever really need as actors but every day nerves, fear, projection, planning, stop us from really listening, from being in the moment and from finding our truth.
Acting is a job like any other, its hard and often not glamorous, and sure getting to live your life on any given day as an astronaut, a police officer, a hit-woman, mafia boss, drug dealer mother of two, FBI agent, farmer – whatever it may be, the research and the understanding of the role may differ but the delivery will always be the same – you are you a living breathing human being, deeply layered – you as a person are never just one thing and neither can be any ‘character’ you ever play be either
In conclusion for all the countless times I’ve heard actors ask the question in class, am I a good actor? I’ve always thought the more important question is, how well can I not act?
Scene Study from my On Camera Krakower Class.
Of all the months to move to the greatest city in the world, I chose February, possibly the worse month to move anywhere but hey if you can handle New York in February and still come out loving it then you know you’re a New Yorker. Fast forward and 8 months of living in this unbelievable city and here’s what I’ve learnt, call it an unofficial guide to moving to NYC…specifically the things they don’t tell you in the guidebooks…
* People are rude- like whole other level rude, but also on occasion unbelievably kind, don’t expect any customer service in stores, stations and especially the subway – that way when you get it you’ll be pleasantly surprised, after you pick yourself up off the floor from shock that is.
* You’ll have totally random conversations with people on the street, they’ll stop you to tell you they like your shoes, your hair, your earrings and randomly they’ll tell you, you look like Lady Gaga.
* Sex and the City totally glamourised living in New York, although Carrie Bradshaw’s brownstone on Perry Street is pretty fabulous. A lot of the iconic SATC hotspots like ‘Pastis’ in Meatpacking or Patricia Field on Bowery have now closed so it’s getting harder to do the whole SATC tour.
* Grocery shopping is insanely expensive especially if you hail from Europe, I mean $5 for a lettuce or $10 for a deodorant. Never go to Wholefoods and make the rookie mistake of filling up at the salad bar – trust me you’ll get to the register and find your salad cost 20 bucks. There’s a reason New Yorkers call it ‘Whole Paycheck’
* Understand that bathrooms are grotty even in the nicest of neighbourhoods, even in fancy restaurants and they are also ridiculously small and don’t even get me started on the ones that have a shower over the bowl!
* For a long while unless your very wealthy it will feel like your camping, you’ll learn to live on the basics, and treating yourself will be a thing of the past. It’s called survival and you’ll get very good at it.
* Apartments in Manhattan are dark, the buildings are so damm close together no light ever gets in, oh and get used to people seeing you changing, sleeping, waxing or whatever else you might do in private, chances are the building opposite is like 20ft away and there’s always someone looking in, and when you catch them looking then don’t look away instead they carry on staring like your a low rent tourist attraction
* You will rarely get to be glamourous. Heels will become a thing of the past, seriously when you walk 26 blocks twice a day you’re gonna choose flats or sneakers every time. Everyone (me included) thinks they are going to land in New York and become Carrie frickin Bradshaw – dream on, practicality always rules in this city.
* You’ll never quite settle on the best place to live; Because no single place in NYC has it all, there’s always a compromise, I guess it comes down to what New York is for you – for me it was the brownstones and cobbled streets that have names not numbers: it was the west village every time, but then I went and fell in love with Brooklyn and a whole new love affair began. You won’t know how bloody amazing it is until you’ve felt the buzz of Williamsburg in early evening or breathed real air for the first time from atop one of DoBros skyscrapers, or sat in DUMBO on a sunny Sunday afternoon drinking Margheritas in the park overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge.
* If you have an accent you’ll do just fine, especially Brits, they have a whole Kate Middleton love affair going on and you’ll get to feel pretty special like your the only person in the world with a British accent and who doesn’t want to feel special eh.
* New York is hard and it’s hella dirty, it will for sure be the dirtiest place you’ve ever lived, you’ll learn quickly never to wear flip flips or open back shoes. You’ll also learn to not freak out when you step in what is most likely urine and also to not think too much about the random droplet that lands on your head from above.
* You’ll never be done finding new places and neighborhoods you love, New York is full of surprises like the fact we have beaches, and lots of them only involve a shortish subway ride – although if you ever venture to Coney Island and you absolutely should at least once – beware that it’s like Blackpool in the 80s on crack.
* Its a shoppers paradise – no I don’t mean all the big name shops and department stores, yes they are amazing especially at Christmas when shopping in Bloomingdales makes you feel like your in a scene from ‘Serendipity’ no I mean the vintage stores, the thrift stores, the consignment stores – hell if I’d have realized the kind of loot I could procure I wouldn’t have packed any clothes, instead I’d have filled up my suitcase with toiletries and home comforts, like Cadburys chocolate and Heinz Baked Beans – yep baked beans do not exist in this city!
* Cell reception will become a thing of the past, no matter which provider you choose you will invariably end up screaming at your phone in frustration when for no reason in the wide open you don’t have a single bar.
* Its old, the infrastructure is medieval, the subways are prehistoric, everything is slow and behind the times, it’s all so surprising and well, unexpected.
* Most days it is like living on a movie set, you’ll see buildings from your favourite TV show, I was endlessly impressed when I used to live round the corner from Monica and Rachel’s West Village Apartment, but I did think myself an fairly unworthy Friends fan when I realized I’d walked past the actual Friends fountain in Central Park tons of times without realizing it.
* You’ll eat a lot of 🍕 so much so that you’ll decide you’d be happy never to see another pizza again, but then you walk past ‘2 Bros’ and your peckish and it’s dollar a slice and you think why the hell not.
* You will never fail to be shocked at how much a glass of wine costs on a night out but you’ll learn that the smart New Yorkers get their wine at ‘Trader Joe’s Wine Shop’ and drink before they head out – seriously their two buck chuck (that’s cheap wine to you and me) is actually quite a decent drink, I go through bottles of the Merlot 😉
* You can be anything and anyone you want in this city, seriously there is no other place in the world so accepting so evolved so bloody full of potential and even on the days when your run down with it all and you think you’ve had enough, something random and amazing will happen or you’ll simply look up and see that skyline and think holy fuck ‘I live in New York’
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