It’s funny with all the social network pages that we still have a snobbery of acting technique. Of success. You would think that with the ability to read others thoughts we’d realize that we’re all about the same in our insecurity. But, there is this thing with actors where we rate each other’s value on whether or not we feel the actor or actress in question has talent, don’t we? Yes we can like them personally, but don’t we have a hierarchy in our minds about how we stack up against them? And then doesn’t the amount they work play a big part in that? Do you ever find yourself saying things like , “Sure he’s on that show but he sucks and the show sucks.”
What does it matter? How does it really reflect and relate to your world? Why can’t we just see another actor as someone else doing what we do? Why is there always the knee jerk reaction to compare?
We love the misery.
Misery? Yeah, misery. Schadenfreude. That thing that likes it when we see another actor fall from grace.
Actors are not your competition. I will tell you a story. I was on a major network series. During it I befriended an out of work actor who was my age and always distracted by his lack of success. We’d go out to dinner, clubs, order take out and sit in the apartment and I’d pay because that’s the unwritten rule among actors. Whoever is working (really working not a one-off job) pays for everyone, (especially if you get stuck at a table where talk of the job dominates the conversation). That means everyone, your buddies and their dates. So we go out and have fun doing different things and I pay. Every time. And it’s not 50 times but it’s enough times for me to think we are friends. By the way, I like paying because it means I’m working.
So as life goes, after a while we hang out less but remain friends that just don’t see each other a lot. 2 or 3 years later he becomes somebody. Like a guy on the biggest show of that time. The world at his feet kind of fame. I end up guest starring on the show and guess what…? He suddenly doesn’t know me. In fact when my wife, wants to say hello the day she visits, he says “You know, that was a long time ago…” and decides he really doesn’t want to say hello to my wife.
Money doesn’t change you, it lets you be who you really are.
I was beneath that guy. So far beneath, my wife wasn’t worthy of a hello. Yes you can say there were a million reasons he didn’t want to say hello, sure…I just can’t think of one that makes any sense. Regardless of how poorly he treated me during the week on the show, he can’t say hello to my wife? We were friends. We hung out. He was a sad sack when he wasn’t working, we did things to cheer him up. Then when he gets working, he’s just too big to say hello.
I also happened to bump into a guy I did a series with 18 years ago. A failed series. But as he stepped off the stage from taping an interview on the Oscar show for AMC’s Shootout last week, he yelled my name and hugged me. He invited me to his house in Italy. He stood firm as his handlers were ushering him out of the room and talked to me, and when I introduced him to a friend, not even my wife, just a friend, he warmly said hello. Yes I’m talking about George Clooney.
So what’s my point?
The insecurity of the early days that creates that competition doesn’t actually go away when you get famous. You don’t automatically get a deep sense of fulfillment and calm and treat people better. When someone else works it has no bearing on your talent. When someone else gets a job you were up for it doesn’t mean they’re better than you are and you should hang your head around them. And most importantly; Another person’s success isn’t your failure.
Let them be who they are and be happy for them when they work. Learn all you can from their journey if they are willing to share. Austin Nichols sites Jake Gyllenhaal as one of his best teachers, and they’re the same age.
Please, please, save your self from the bitterness of the typical competitive American mindset. The only exclusion to this rule is if you’re stupid enough to waste your talent on being a cast member of a reality show where you’re in competition with your fellow cast mates. Then you deserve to become the monster they want you to be. Actors don’t need to look at other actors to know where they stand. You need only look in the mirror and say “What did I do to become a better artist today?”