33-دوستکتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 33
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متن انگلیسی فصل
James Kiberd, a barrel-chested, artistic, sensitive guy with an adventurous soul, played my older brother Mike on Loving. He introduced me to an acting workshop led by the venerable teacher Warren Robertson. The class was esoteric. Odd. We’d do these exercises: You’re an animal. Make a noise. Moo. I tried to be open to it. It’s like that great song from A Chorus Line: Be a table. Be a sports car. Ice cream cone. Okay so I’m an ice cream cone. I’m melting in the heat. I’m a puppy. Yip, yip. I’m roaring like a lion. We’d start the class lying on the floor, and then we’d writhe around and paw at each other like animals. Certainly there were skeptics and those who dismissed it or who would only roar halfheartedly. But I thought: I’m here. Either I dive in or I leave. I’m a sizzling pancake on a stove. I’m that pancake. Every part of me.
We’d get into scene work, and Warren’s philosophy was: drill down on a scene for months and months and polish it to perfection. Almost every week for six months, we’d work on the same scene. I got weary of that and left after about a year. I learned some things from the class, but I felt strongly there was value in letting the imperfection of the work be okay. Wallace Stevens wrote, “The imperfect is our paradise.” Something about burnishing that same scene for months on end didn’t jibe with my instincts as an actor. I didn’t want to drill away every shred of spontaneity and freshness. I wanted to leave room for discovery.
I remember I was doing a scene from a play about artist Amedeo Modigliani. I wanted to know what it was to paint something. James told me to come over to his place and paint. What do I paint? I don’t know. Just paint. I took the 7 train over to his loft in Long Island City. He set up all kinds of paper for me. I did a painting, and I didn’t like it and threw it away. And then I did another one. And another, and another. I slept and ate at his place and showered and painted and became totally engrossed. I was learning how to get under a character’s skin.
James introduced me to art and getting into the process of it and being creative. He also taught me the value of an enriching friendship. I came to understand through him what author Marianne Williamson meant when she said something like: If people don’t enhance your life, you have to get rid of them. That may sound harsh, but after Ava and the Suicide Man, I started to feel an urgency and wanted to surround myself with people who lifted me up. James did, and he taught me a lot. And he was fun. He would try anything. He was risk-oriented. He indulged. Sometimes too much.
One time the cast of Loving was at a party at the Grand Hyatt. ABC network brass were there, all of our bosses. James was drinking up a storm. He was staring piercingly at the legendary Agnes Nixon, the creator of Loving, like a madman. He asked her to dance and she gave him her hand. He danced feverishly, and at one point, he took his shirt off and wrapped her up in a bear hug. That was all for Agnes, but James was just getting started. He strode up to an amplifier and started humping it. “Bryan, Bryan, feel this,” he said. “Vibrations.” I was thinking: He’s going to get fired.
He tried to dance with another young woman, but she quickly got fed up and pushed away from him. Now he was hurt. And remorseful. “I fucked up,” he said.
I said, “James, it’s a corporate event. All your employers are here. You know, you’ve got to tone it down.” It was a work night. I invited him to spend the night at my place in Manhattan, but he wouldn’t come with me. “At least let me get you on the seven train.”
“No I need to walk. I need to be alone.” He was spiraling. I didn’t want to leave him, but he insisted.
“You know where I live,” I said. “Buzz me. Come over when you’re done with your walk.”
He never buzzed me. The next day at work, everyone was saying: “Where’s James? He was fucking that speaker last night. Maybe he went home with that speaker? Maybe he went home with Agnes Nixon?” I was calling his pager. Nothing. I was genuinely worried. He finally came in. He looked like shit. He reeked.
“Where were you last night, James?”
“I slept in Central Park.” A crazy and dangerous thing to do even now, but in the 1980s? Certifiable.
That was James. He lived in the moment. He taught me a lot about how important it was, for your art, to do that—to tap into that child within and just play. But acting is a business. Through my friendship with James, I learned that the adult within us needs to keep an eye on the inner child.
Before Loving, I didn’t know I had innate talent. Even when I was enjoying myself working, doubt shadowed me: Could I do this? Was I good enough?
I put myself in the position to see if I had it, and something happened. I showed up and I put the work in and I got a reaction. I made something happen.
Luck also played a part. Any successful actor or writer or artist will tell you that luck is a crucial factor. But the only way to get lucky is to be prepared for luck to find you. Writers write. Actors act. If you’re not constantly applying your talents to your craft, no one is going to stop you on the street and say, “Hey, come write this TV show!” Or, “I want you to star in my movie.”
Loving was job training; it was preparation. But above all, the show gave me confidence. This whole business is a confidence game. If you believe it, they’ll believe it. If you don’t believe it, neither will they. Today, when I’m in the position as a director to hire actors, I don’t feel entirely comfortable hiring someone who doesn’t emit confidence. If an actor comes in, and I feel flop sweat and need from them, there is almost no chance I will hire them. Not because they are untalented, but because they haven’t yet come to the place where they trust themselves, so how can I trust they’ll be able to do the job with a sense of ease? Confidence is king.
Actors are like athletes in that sense. They have to want to be the one to step up to the plate when the game is on the line. The brilliant actor Shirley Knight taught me that actors need to have an arrogance about them. Not in public or in their private lives, but when they work. Actors have to have that drive, that instinct that says: this role is mine.
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