I’ve already “preached” about the whole “To thine own self be true” concept in a previous post, but last week I was presented with that age-old question “Who are you?” and I desperately wished that I had a rock to crawl under. I nearly almost slithered under the table when it was originally posed to me. In a moment all of these faces and recognitions of things and people that I am NOT flashed through my mind, but I couldn’t even formulate a complete sentence of who I was. Oh snap. Well what the heck does that mean?
Being annoyingly organized and slightly obsessive, some say compulsive, I decided to go back to my list of those that I am not in the hopes that it would become clear from the residue that was left over as to who I AM.
First of all, I am not, sadly, Leeann Dearing. I love Leeann Dearing. I was one of the first interns at the Dearing Acting Studio and spent a lot of time with the Dearings in a professional and personal environment and I don’t have a bad thing to say about the whole clan. Leeann was so beautiful that sometimes I would be rendered speechless and awkward like a prepubescent boy when she would walk into a room (I have so much more sympathy for teen boys now btw), she is witty and funny, sweet like a little honey cake, intelligent and every day I seemed to learn a new talent or skill that she possessed. I sat there in my black clothing with my black frizzy hair and my stubby little body in a big office chair with my feet barely touching the ground, oh who am I kidding, they didn’t touch the ground, wondering about what it would be like to be Leeann. Blonde, blue-eyed, charming and gorgeous and a God & people-loving soul. Well the blonde I couldn’t pull off, the blue eyes…meh, contacts are a pain in the butt, but I could try to take away from her zeal for life and love. She brightens any environment she graces and I wanted some of that, I wanted a cup of her sunshine.
One that I still haven’t stopped acting like an obsessed fan over is Ms. Annie Boon. I remember watching her in a short film called Vinyl and thinking. I want to be her. I want to do this. She gave the first performance where I said to myself, she’s not acting, she’s just being honest and there happens to be a camera in her face. It didn’t matter what I saw her in after that, role after role after role she was consistent in this truth. It seemed like an unreachable standard to an amateur like me. I saw her on set, the first professional set I had every been on actually, and I was mortified to even be near her. It didn’t matter to me that she wasn’t this huge famous name, respectable talent is respectable talent and I pushed myself to get over this irrational fear and tried to listen, watch, observe, learn from her that day on set as much as possible. Isn’t that a beautiful thing to want to take away – honesty. Pure, simple, come-as-you-are honesty. That’s what Annie gave me a desire for.
Another lady I knew that I was not is Nicole Randall. This hot little number came out of virtually nowhere and started booking roles with directors that I was too timid to even approach. She is a real-life Jessica Rabbit with fiery red hair, a body to die for and a smile that men melt for. I wouldn’t know how to be that bold and fearlessly sexy if my life depended on it. To add to the cool-factor, this girl can handle a gun, a bow and arrow and probably can ride a Harley when I can’t even hold one up. There was that secret hope that she would be mean or stuck up but no such luck, Nicole is an absolute sweetheart and I can see why people enjoy working with her – she’s that flawless balance of fearlessness and feminine, a blend of sugar & spice. I want a little bit of her kick, a little bit of her bravery, a bit of her bad-assness, if you will.
Lately my obsession has been Jing Song. This girl is EVERYWHERE and plays everything from victims to ancient goddesses. Plus she’s got a body to kill for, I’m not gonna lie, I saved one of her photos to my desktop as motivation…plus I just like to look at it. Naughty, I know. But in all seriousness, her versatility and vivacious attack on film in this industry did not escape my attention. She is never prideful nor too big for anything but instead is incredibly humble, grounded and excited about any opportunity or role, no matter the size and her sense of humor is delightfully refreshing. Clearly, I will never be Asian – there’s jus not enough plastic surgery in the world and I will never have that banging body, again I repeat, there’s not enough plastic surgery in the world, but I could use a dose of her humbleness and realness.
I had a director that once said “If you must steal, only steal from the best.” I dig it. So now I had this list of fabulous people I am not, but I also had a list of honorable attributes that I try to apply to my own life and professional approach. I think I see a framework starting to be constructed…
The second part of the conversation rang in me around this time “Who are you like? Who have people said you reminded them of; either acting or look like?” Here we go…
My look is usually evolving. I have people that don’t even recognize me from one set to another, but I’ve been told I look like that Star Trek girl, Sarah Brightman, Rachel Weis and and (I am so ashamed to admit that this is the most popular) Snooki.
Acting, I don’t feel worthy to compare myself to anyone but I learn from Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Hilary Swank. I read about them, watch their work, follow their careers. I’ve had one experience where I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom and I’d walk in and out of the bedroom while getting ready and some silly Rom-Com with Sarah Michelle Geller and Alec Baldwin was on and I literally did a double-take when I saw her make a particular expression. It was like looking in a mirror. Next thing I knew 40 minutes had passed by with a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth as I sat in horror, half hell-bent on hunting down Geller’s PR Rep and accusing them of having someone follow me around since birth to feed her material. That was me up there, I swear to the heavens. You think I’d follow her career, but I don’t. It’s weird watching yourself, or your clone.
Then the third part of the questions came in “What are your strengths? What is your niche? What roles do you excel in naturally and what do you want to do?” Pfffff, I market myself as the girl who can cry on screen. It’s almost like being an emotional drug dealer “What can I do you for today? You need tears for a breakup, tears for a suicide scene, tears for a dying boyfriend, tears of a struggling addict? Step right up we’ve got em’ all right here at a price you can’t beat…usually free” I feel very comfortable doing that. I also feel very comfortable being that dominant, sorta sassy girlfriend on screen that tells it like it is. She’s sort of bitchy but you like her anyway. I’ve only been offered that twice, but it fit like a glove. A lot of people see me and from my look try to push me toward sexual roles or comedy. And that was when the light bulb went off.
When you go out to LA, it is all about the look. Gino Calabro recently made a post with this statement on Arizona Actors and it was reconfirmed by someone later in the week. That when you first start out, you get cast for being you. It’s not until you’re established that some director looks at you and says “I wonder what she could be…?”
That is why everyone tells you to know your look. Know WHO YOU ARE. Suddenly, I was going back through my notes feeling helpless call over again. Ok so I’m not the blonde bombshell and I’m not a Jessica Rabbit and I’m not the next Lucy Lu and I’m not Kate Winslet, so who am I?
Can you tell I still don’t know? Maybe that is because I never answered one of the questions – what roles do you want to do. All of them. That is the honest answer. I want to transform into anything and everything that I want to be. I want to do dark and gritty performances, I want to be a Bond Girl, I want to be like Leslie Mann and do fun comedies, I want to be sexy like Olivia Wilde, I want to be smart like Jodie Foster! Why shouldn’t I? The only person limiting myself here is me.
I’m frustrated that I don’t feel that I fit into a “type” I’m not a soccer mom or a sorority girl, I’m not a business type or a stripper, I’m just me. Weird, quirky, little me. I worry this will hurt me in a professional market and have been considering making some changes. If the drama is my niche then I have to cut the ish out with the low-cut shirts and the eyelashes and the lip gloss. No casting director is going to look at Snooki and see Charlize Theron. As I was pondering this self-image reinvention, I started thinking about Hilary Swank whom I mentioned earlier and how she goes all in, even for an audition, she goes all in. She showed up to audition for a role with her head already shaved to play a boy. She booked it. She lived in her car, made calls to agents and managers from a pay phone and got ready at local parks and YMCA’s because she knew who she was. She is an actor.
I am an actor.
I can be anything that I want to be, I can look however I want to look, talk in whatever accent I want, but that core always comes from me and I know who I am. I am an actor. I am ever-changing and ever-growing as I continue to absorb new knowledge and learn from those greater than I. As Winnie the Pooh would say, “I’m short, fat and proud of that,” I am stubborn and insecure, I am passionate and intelligent, I am fierce and loving, I am a warrior for truth, but the coolest thing about who I am, is that I am my creator. Just think about the power in that statement. You are your creator. There is no other artist, no other designer, no other director or person that can make you who you are.
That is why it is my core belief that acting is not about becoming someone else or pretending, it is about looking inside of yourself to find those pieces, those memories, those unexplored places to become a full, complete version of yourself. You come to know yourself and define yourself through experience. What a great gift we have been given as actors, to freely be able to journey into our inner realms, our souls, our past lives, our forgotten childhood, to discover and remember who we are as humans. I don’t intend to waste that gift. It is like being you’re own Superhero, master of your own universe, savior of your own soul. Be unapologetically you and don’t ever be afraid to live in a world of endless imagination, limitless versions of you, alternate endings and a place where there are no mistakes, just the journey.