I’m not a real actor. Well, actually, I guess that’s not fair – what I mean is I’m not a trained actor. Many actors you love and see on TV and in movies studied acting for real. Like, some of them even have degrees in acting and stuff. I call those people “real actors.”
I have never studied acting in a class or in school or in college. I don’t know Stanislavsky from Uta Hagen or method acting from acting that isn’t method. It’s all Greek to me. But I do have a method of my own, from my almost 30 years being employed as an actor, and trained actors I know tell me my ‘method’ actually is a sort of method. So there you have it.
The scene I had with Jim Parsons in this past week’s episode of “The Big Bang Theory” (Season 9, Episode 5, “The Perspiration Implementation”) was a very emotional one. I cried the first time we rehearsed it and each time we showed it to our writers and producers. (Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen it.)
It means something to me to portray Amy.
It matters how her feelings are presented.
It matters that I communicate what the words on the page say in a way that makes my bosses happy and makes our writers feel I understand what they have written.
My success as an actor is dependent on the approval of the powers-that-be. Sometimes I want to do something one way, and it is suggested to me that I not do it that way. My job as an actor is to make it happen for the greater good, not my personal beliefs about how a scene should be.
When Sheldon says he is dating other women because he was told it’s a good way to move on, here’s what happens for Amy.
- The shock of him dating other people is already hard to stomach. Gotta pretend I’m okay with that but it’s really hard to hide my shock.
- He has asked other people about ways to move on. Other people know that he is ready to move on.
- He is moving on.
Some people take rejection well. For me, it’s one of my most sensitive buttons in my real life. I feel like I’m being rejected if the label on my jar of jam doesn’t scan right at the market and I have to get a new one. I feel rejected if anyone has a conversation with someone else and I’m not involved.
I’m not a jealous person. I’m a person with a serious issue with being left out and rejected.
Amy is a part of me, and I know what it feels like to hear that someone has moved on. That they are seeing other people. That they are discussing their need to move on and leave me behind, even if I thought that’s what I wanted.
Amy feels those things, and that’s what I think about when I do scenes like that one on the landing.
Your average acting class would probably tell me I need to know myself better, that I need to figure out why I have such a strong desire to be a part of everything, and get more comfortable with myself, and that then I’d be a better actor.
To me, those conversations about knowing myself are ones I have with a trained psychotherapist. I’m being serious. I don’t want to understand those things so I am a better actor, I want to understand those things so I am a better, more fully evolved, mature person.
All of my flaws are Amy’s and all of my strengths are hers too. Everything about me that needs working out gets worked out at work. And when I master a part of my personality that chained me, maybe what makes me a convincing actor is my memory.
I remember all of the emotions I’ve had; the good and the bad. I talk about them in therapy, and I play them out as the scripts roll in. Week after week, month after month, year after year, and now, decade after decade; my life is a series of remembering and feeling and processing. On stage and off, I am an actor.
I still don’t feel like a “real actor,” especially when I hear about all the exercises and stuff that “real actors” do as part of their training. But I keep showing up as an actor. Every audition, every job, every day, it’s an opportunity to be alive on a stage. To make people feel something. To feel something.
That scene on the landing hit me hard because it’s real. Maybe not real acting. Just real.