Last night at California Lutheran, where I teach, I opened a new speaker series that is part of my ongoing campaign to help younger artists bridge the gap from student to professional, and my first guest was Jack McGee. You all know his face because he's been so damn busy for the last 30 years. He brought with him a tape of the show we worked on when we met 20 years ago that brought a collective "oh my god!" from the audience at our youth and a warm smile of memory to my mom's face. Like a true cliche, a, "man, was I ever that young?" slipped out of my mouth as I watched. Yikes.
I played clips of The Fighter as his introduction and Jack crossed the stage to big applause, sat down and spoke for an hour before he inhaled. His earnest and heartfelt dialog about his journey created nothing less than a steady gentle hug of encouragement to the artists in the room. He was outrageously funny and sharp in his descriptions of people and situations and always with an eye on handing over the lesson he learned from it. It was a special night with one of those rare souls in this biz who has learned, and earned, all his good fortune the hard way. And as we walked to the car while he was discussing classes and such he'd like to do at the school with students, he scolded me for giving him a gift. He had a blast and that was enough payment.
I have always prided myself for making atleast one friend on every job I've ever done. It's one of the lovely perks of this business. I met Jack in 1989. Here we were 20+ years later sitting and talking and having a blast. Nice, nice stuff. You see, I had a lot of tension about him showing up. It is, after all, award season and this is his time to capitalize on all the attention being paid him due to the film's nominations. No one could blame him for cancelling last minute because he now had to go to an awards something. These events are the very things we hope for because they put us in the company of folks who could make our acting lives so much easier. He didn't cancel, and yet, he could of. There was a something, but he chose to spend the night with us. When I asked him why, he said very simply; "cause I told you I'd be here. I'm not gonna disappoint you for some other thing." That puts him outta the box for Hollywood. Made me feel like a million bucks.
Treat your fellow actors like people and not rungs on the ladder of your success and 20 years later you'll be able to settle the argument about what success is very quickly.
I have two more talks in March and April. March will be Doug Jones, April is TBD…schedules and such…