Are You In Character?

Some of the most beautiful actors in the world are character actors. I'm not talking about physical beauty. I'm talking about the beauty that comes from being able to inhabit a role so fully and lovingly that the audience never forgets the experience.

It used to be that character actors were more often supporting players rather than leads - although there were some who became major stars - especially in the 1970's. These days television, which has become just as important and respected as film, has an abundance of terrific character actors in leading roles. But ultimately it doesn't matter, whether they're considered stars or supporting players, character actors are some of the best of the best!

Great character actors will work forever. Time is much kinder to them. You can be Steve Buscemi, Judi Dench, Lawrence Fishburne, or Frances McDormand and as you age people will watch your performances without any ugly, little thought bubbles popping up about how much older you look or how much plastic surgery you must have had. The reality is that after a certain age those gorgeous leading men and women start battling the crueler side of nature and both Hollywood and the audience can be unforgiving.

It's very important to understand the benefits and power of being a character actor because if you happen to fall outside the narrow spectrum of what Hollywood considers a leading man or woman, and most people do, you shouldn't spend endless hours trying to look like one. It's a waste of time, a distraction and can get very, very frustrating and depressing.

I've seen too many supremely talented young actors twist themselves in knots trying to prove to Hollywood that they're hot enough, sexy enough or good-looking enough. Enough for what? You can't prove anything to to Hollywood except that you're desirable because of who you are not what you think they want you to be. Embrace your individual beauty as an actor. Become the greatest actor you can possibly be. Blow them away with how prepared, interesting and unique you are.

If you're fat, scrawny, goofy, weird, or comically cute- that's great! There's actually more work for you in your field than for the very few "beautiful people" whose reigns tend to be glorious but far more brief and limited.

Shelley Winters was a Master. She started out as a "Blonde Bombshell" but deliberately turned herself into a character actor because she wanted more challenging roles. This chameleon strategy doesn't always work but in Winters' case it was a brilliant move. She won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this role in A Patch of Blue. You'll also see Elizabeth Hartman, a talented but tragic actor, in her film debut. She was completely unknown when she was cast and this big break won her much acclaim. Wallace Ford, a strong character actor whose work spanned many decades, appears here in his final role.

A Patch of Blue was ahead of it's time. Set against the backdrop of the growing civil rights movement, it tells the story of interracial love at a time when the very idea was incendiary.

Hartman's leading man is the gorgeous, charismatic Sidney Poitier, a true star and a pioneer in film. He was the first African-American to win an Oscar. There'll be a lot more of him on future posts.

This  excerpt starts off with Poitier and his brother, played by Ivan Dixon - a powerful actor who deserves better than being best known for his role in Hogan's Heroes - argue about Poitier's growing relationship with Hartman's character.

**strong language

1 comment:

  1. I like the advice you gave. Very realistic and encouraging.