The work of an acting coach is different from teaching. In my experience, working with brilliant, talented and smart actors; it’s a conversation, a deep investigation into the specifics of the story in order to create a three-dimensional character. I often feel like a tennis coach working with champion athletes competing in the US Open. My job is to make their game better, not teach them how to act.
The coaching process is just that; a process—a layering technique—discovering what’s not in the words. It’s asking questions and then asking more questions. Some questions have answers while others lead to more questions. This process is detective work, searching for clues in order to find how to merge the character and actor together in an organic way.
As actors, we are first and foremost, storytellers. An actor must know how to analyze a script, how to articulate what makes scenes work. Or not. If the scene doesn’t work, the actor must know what to say to the writer or the director to make it better. Being a star is a big responsibility. When a film doesn’t work, the actor, as well as the director, carries the burden of success or failure.
I’ve learned a lot working with great actors. First of all, they work harder than anyone else. They refuse to settle for being good—they want to be the best. They have so much discipline, and they are relentless in their pursuit of excellence. Nothing comes before that.
Everyone has to find a way to work with fear. Creativity is a volatile act. You don’t ever know where it’s going to take you. It requires a fearless willingness to be honest with the self. Truth is not the same thing as naturalness. It requires you to go beyond the known parts of yourself, beyond the familiar and into the to the unknown—always a scary proposition. You must be willing to ask questions that you sometimes would rather not know the answers to about yourself as well as the character. An actor must do a lot of work to make it look easy and spontaneous.The new technology in film today often places such high demand on a director’s time and focus that the actor needs to show up on the set with a fully realized character.