Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oh, I’m In the Moment Now, Jerk!

When I lived in Boston, one of my actor friends starred in a production of King Lear at a highly respected regional theater. When he told me the company was importing a name actor to play the title role – we’ll call him Bob – I was thrilled. I’d enjoyed Bob in various film and television roles and knew he’d acted and directed shows on Broadway, so I couldn’t wait to see his work on stage.

My friend explained further that Bob wouldn’t be rehearsing with them due to his busy schedule, and would only join them for the final weeks before opening. That’s okay, I thought. Bob is a pro – he’ll still be fantastic.

When Bob arrived in Boston and started rehearsing with the cast, my friend reported the experience was not what he expected. Apparently Bob was a fierce narcissist who didn’t know any of his lines, even after they opened, yet felt free to tell everyone what they were doing wrong.

Worst of all, he had a penchant for randomly slapping his fellow actors, grabbing their crotches, and kissing the female actors inappropriately during performances – none of which was previously discussed or rehearsed – all because he was “in the moment.”

During one particular performance, the actress playing Goneril exited the stage disgusted and said to my friend, “He just kissed me with tongue.” Right before running to wash the taste of jerkwad out of her mouth. Not cool, dude.

Immediately and permanently, I lost all respect for Bob. Because even though he’d been nominated for a Tony Award and starred in one of the most beloved films of all time, he should have known better than to trespass on his fellow actors in such an untrustworthy way.

Acting requires safety – safety in oneself, safety within the space, and safety among peers to go deep, explore, and take risks.

Think about Colin Firth’s crying scene in The King’s Speech – to create a performance in which his character is completely vulnerable and broken down with fear, Colin needed the support and respect of his co-star Helena Bonham Carter, director Tom Hooper, and the entire crew to maintain a serious tone and allow him time and space on set to mentally prepare. Helena and Tom probably prepared in their own ways as well.

Can you imagine if Helena unexpectedly slapped Colin in the middle of the scene because she was “in the moment?” No, because that would be an unthinkable act of selfishness. It has nothing to do with the scene and it would have trespassed on the work at hand.

I’ve worked with actors who trespass on my trust. Who cross my physical boundaries on stage because they’re “in the moment,” don’t exit on their cue when they’re supposed to because they’re “in the moment,” and who touch me in inappropriate places because they’re “in the moment.” All without telling me beforehand, thinking they’re helping my performance when really they’re taking me out of it and destroying any trust that might have been there between us. I hate these people because they think they’re being actors when really they’re just being selfish bastards.

To be clear, Leonardo surprising me with a kiss before our scene at the DGA event last Saturday was NOT a selfish act, because it was a move meant to help both of us get in character. We were also in a safe space for playing and exploring, so I was able to take it in and use it.

But if Leo had kissed me while we were doing a scene from King Lear, in which he’s playing my frickin’ father, just because he felt like doing it “in the moment,” I probably would have slapped HIM.

Anyone else been trespassed upon by thoughtless actors? Post your stories below!

And if you’re reading this blog post realizing YOU’RE one of those thoughtless actors, CUT IT OUT!


  1. I'll destroy anyone who touches my sister inappropriately.

  2. I'd give you his number, but I deleted him from my phone and my memory...