The Film Experience is enormously proud to hand the site over to Ann Dowd (The Leftovers, Masters of Sex). She will be guest blogging all day. - Editor.
-by Ann Dowd
The awareness, the love story, for me began in high school. Acknowledging it came later. I’m talking about falling in love with acting and committing to the life with all its ups and downs.
You know, you do a play in high school and you think “Wow, this is kind of great.” For me it was playing Adelaide from Guys & Dolls -- it just about did me in with joy. But it never occurred to me, and I’m sure this is true for many others who didn’t grow up in a theater environment, that you could choose to be an actor. It just wasn’t an option.
I was in premed for four years in college. But I also took acting classes each year and that's where I found peace and some sense of fufillment. There it was, that feeling again, a deep love. The role that changed my perspective on whether or not I could really be an actress as a life choice was Sonya in Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. It was that quiet voice again which said, "I want to live in her life."
It’s a simple thing, from my perspective now years later, about knowing whether you want to do this and whether you can commit for life. And that’s in this question:
Can I step into the life of another human being in an open and truthful way without judgment?
There’s a connection that happens when you’re acting that transcends just about anything. When that happens — and it doesn’t always — but if it’s deep and it happens enough there’s an awareness that you could really live this life with all its ups and downs. So I made the change in senior year of college, auditioned for an acting school, got in, and essentially never looked back. It was very hard, many ups and downs. But there was never a question of “can I do it?” It was that I had to do it. Plain and simple — it was the only thing that made sense to me.
For Those Starting Out
Many young actors starting out want advice — “how do I get an agent?” is usually the question — and I'm afraid I don't have much advice on that issue. When I look back now 30 years, when I think of what a young actor needs to be successful in this business, for me it comes down to the following: a fierce energy, a single mindedness, a refusal to consider failure or giving up as an option, and an unshakable belief that you have a rightful place in this work. Youth has that in it's favor.
And I can offer this: stay deeply connected to your love of acting. Put your head down and keep going, even if there aren’t roles, or if they go well or don’t go well. In the moments when you’re alone, slow it all down. Step away from technology as much as you can, observe and listen to life as it unfolds. Live your life. Work on your relationships. You will need all of those things as actors. You need perspective. If you have personal issues, seek the help you need to get through them — you need an understanding of suffering and pain but you do not need to spend your life doing that to make the work good!
Attend to your life in other words. Know and believe that it’s going to work out. If you love what you’re going to do and you do the work to get better as an actor,then you’re going to get the support you need.
I know that sounds naive but I honestly believe it’s true.
Next: The Leftovers