it’s an interesting place where i am. it’s an even more interesting, and more exciting, and more fearful place where i’m headed. i’ve found myself more and more lately defining myself as an artist. what makes that the case? well, i personally think it’s the way in which i think and go about my life and direction that dictates that in most senses.
people have been looking up to me (i’ve no idea why… well, i do; and it’s flattering). one particular person was talking to me, and after a while of grasping how i was going about my life, and my approach to my art said “so you just throw caution to the wind?”. and well, when i heard that, i guess the old ross came back in and said “oh shit… is that really what i did? is that really what i’m doing?”. and i guess the way i was before (and like people need so desperately need to be in this day and age) was final result orientated. with so many opportunities, and so many paths in life, we are always told to be so careful about what we choose. we don’t want to fuck up. we don’t want to choose the wrong career, or path. so what do we do? we look carefully at the end result, desperately and as carefully as we can, decide what suits us best, and then go. it’s all about what the end result is.
but i’ve found that i, now… need to be wary of this. as an artist, there are so many intangible things that many people would not understand. nor would they want to try. and that’s fine. each to their own. that’s also important. people who know me, know that my performance in biloxi blues under alex billings at AADA last semester was one of my favourite performances. ha… i still remember the feeling when i’d finished.
now, i’ve just returned form fresno, and you same people know that it really did change me. for the four weeks, i did some of the most beautiful, most touching, deep and honest work i’ve ever done in my life. i can’t in words describe the experience. but if you go back to looking at things from an “end game” perspective”… my performance in the culmination as the doctor was not as sharp as i would have liked. so what does that mean? that i didn’t learn anything? that i’m no better an actor than i was when i did biloxi? that i wasted my time in fresno? that… because i wasn’t delivering my best performance, for that one hour, not even that… that few minutes… that that month with the steppenwolf ensemble was worthless?? sure. i could look at it that way. but what kind of insult would that be? to discount an entire journey, simply because the end result wasn’t what some people expected?
no. that can’t be it. one of the greatest gifts i unraveled this past month, was that really, the end result doesn’t matter nearly as much as people think. the journey is paramount. there will be times when i need to perform at the right time. and that is important in a world where artists need to eat. but i assure you, and myself. i am one thousand times the actor and person than i was before steppenwolf.
i want to add one more thing though. shawn paul looked me right in the eye and asked me if what i was doing was to “throw caution to the wind”. it took me a second. old ross, and i guess the ross that i’m becoming had a quick conversation before i said this. and this is the best way i can put it for everyone (including myself) to understand.
a little over a year ago… working for coke i wasn’t the happiest person. account manager. visiting clients, doing team meetings. leaving phone messages. restocking fridges. yelled at by the boss. his boss. customers. family. begging for the weekend, before it was over and needing to hit the road again. i told people i was going to hollywood. that i wanted to be an actor. people pleaded me not to go. people laughed at me. people told me i was insane. people couldn’t understand me. yet all i ever told them was that… “i’ll be fine.”
without setting foot on a plane. without knowing what aada was like. without knowing what was ahead. i didn’t know who dan was. who alex billings was. who athena was. who judith bohannon was. who jeremy was. who kane was. who shawn paul was. who justin was. who eric hunicutt was. nothing. no one. what the fuck was steppenwolf? yet i told people i’d be fine. i didn’t know id be sitting outside the hollywood sign thinking about steppenwolf and the person i was becoming eating lunch with friends. but i said i’d be fine. and at every turn… as scared as i am now… and stepped forward. and every step has had beauty i could never have IMAGINED before i left. i’m not done yet. i’m not safe yet. but so many people tried to stop me. and i wouldn’t trade what i’ve done and where i am for anything. at all.
maybe i got lucky? maybe i threw caution to the wind? maybe. but i doubt anyone is that lucky.
i prefer to say that i didn’t back away from that shit.
ps – thank you to everyone who’s been part of this. you know who you are.
sheesh. what am i doing? so back from fresno a day, then jump straight into a film set. it’s so cliche, i’m filming a horror flick with some really nice actors. i’m playing a bartender…
so, without really a full days rest, i get off to my call time of midday with amie and anastasia. we get there and find out we’re a little early. we have a few changes in outfits that the costume girl comes around to check later, but otherwise we sit and chill out in the back room where we have catered food and what not at our disposal. i wish i were a lead, then i could get one of the trailers like the lead guys have.
i guess i was a little surprised at the budget these guys have. its really well equipped… certainly the best ive been on, but i guess that doesnt say a lot. i look forward to getting my first imdb credit when this is over. anyway, 3pm rolls around and we’re still waiting… not so unexpected really. the lead actors are taking naps in their trailers as i have a chat to the assistant director. it’s actually a really great experience because the lead actors, the directors, producers, key grips and what not are all really friendly and happy to answer questions and chat about the process.
lunch rolls around and amie and i go for tacos. they were tasty.
after lunch we hang around for a little longer, before 5pm, then it’s time for our scene. now, as i head behind the bar, the 1st AD tells me to stand on a couple of foot high boxes… i felt a little like tom cruise… though not as powerful, rich and without the scientology. anyway, it’s basically the lead actors in a club experimenting with a new drug in town. i’m in the background at the bar serving up a few drinks and wiping down the tables. i have to say i almost had a ben stiller imitating tom cruise moment from cocktails… for those unfamiliar with it….
go to 5.00m
thank you AADA and steppenwolf for preparing me for the miming and improv bits. $30k well spent i say.
after our scenes, the rest of the day was pretty quiet. maybe it’s just that i’m new to this. i just can’t help but feel really at home on a movie set. the waiting didn’t bother me. and the learning… it’s just complementing the theatre training from AADA and steppenwolf. i can no longer understand how people can say “what’s harder? theatre or film?” it’s like comparing the difficulty of swimming vs archery. or something like that. whatever.
anyway… more later. or not.
i dont think ive ever written directly for a group, but i think this is a worthy first. besides, this is probably as much for me, as it is for anyone else. pardon the scattered thoughts ,like improv this isn’t planned and its just coming straight from me to the blog.
over the past four weeks, as john mayer predicted… i met some of the most wonderful people ive ever been lucky enough to be in the company of. he really assembled a crack team of teachers and students, and the energy of the ensemble was, and is overpowering. looking back over the work we did, from viewpoints, to shakespeare and improvistation working with you blew me away. the talent, abandon, surrender, laughs and intensity resonates with me like it was yesterday… oh wait.
ive been a bit down (like everyone im sure) at being back. theres something of a longing to be back i the studio doing character work. a little lost i guess? its been hard to think of anything else… the only thing thats been keeping me smiling, is the countless memories i have of each and every one of you specifically (i went through the list of names on the shirt). you know… i liken this feeling to that first time you go through a breakup as a teenager, and it feels like your worlds been turned upside down. theres that feeling in your gut and your heart that somethings missing.
i would like to thank all of you. you humble me beyond text, and i feel so lucky to have been a part of the intensive. all of you know my story, and how much it has meant to me to be in america on this journey… thank you for being part of what i know ill one day look back as some of the happiest and open times of my life.
i sit here looking forward to the future, and full of fear. yet i look forward in optimism. not since i was a teenager have i felt this clueless, scared, and overwhelmed. but this time… im ok with it. and am ready to move forward to the next free fall.
ps – its interesting that as an ensemble in the room, we all felt and listened to each other. and now all in different rooms, and different places… i get the feeling were all still listening to each other. thats some incredible kinesthetic response in six directions…
i went to a 7-11 tonight after my rehearsals. ive been working longer days even for steppenwolf standards. in fact, they’ve been going from 8am to midnight tonight. hardcore. funny though, not a word of protest. you find me another time and place where i could do that, and ill give up acting.
anyway… the 7-11. i was walking along with my friend amanda, when we were about six loud bangs, and a something fizz over our heads. now, this wasn’t like… in the distance. this was literally 20 feet away. i took a step back with amanda (such a gentleman, i took her by the hand), half not knowing what was going on. it wasnt until a black guy with a red bandana and pants down to his knees came running out of the bushes from where the sounds had made putting a gun in his back pocket, that i realised what had gone down. the guy sprinted past us, and into the 7-11, as amanda and i walked quickly away. it was more shock than anything. when you hear that kind of thing you think youll panic and scream, but it was more disbelief than anything. police cars came whizzing by quickly, followed by an ambulance. we didnt stay to watch.
who said fresno was boring?
in my first semester at the american academy of dramatic art, i played a general in “the love suicide at schofield barracks.” without being tough on myself, i thought it was poo.
as an actor, one of the biggest traps you can fall into, is playing the character. don’t play the doctor, don’t play the general, don’t play the lawyer, etc. what that means, is that if you play the title of what they are, they lose their humanity. which is boring. who wants to see a general that is all army, and hard, and without feeling? who wants to see a doctor who goes by the book, and has no personal stake in his patient? who wants to see the lawyer, who just goes by the rules, and works for the money? no one. people want to see the ONE time the general breaks down. people want to see the one time a doctor needs more than anything a patient to respond because it’s all he’s ever worked for. the one time a doctor begins to love a patient in an unprofessional manner and just can NOT be “just a doctor”. the one time the lawyer breaks the rules, because for the first time in his life, he’s determined to do the right thing even if it means his job. right?
so… now that i’m here at steppenwolf, i’ve been handed a role as a doctor. a doctor who has to determine (in the year 1957) whether or not a woman is insane, and whether or not a lobotomy would be the best course of action to “treat” her seemingly violent, delusional tendancies. i’m a great doctor, in a poor hospital, and this operation would bring in millions of dollars of funding. now… as part of my personal history, i’ve made it so that i have performed a lobotomy on a soldier of war before, with disastrous results. it was my fault, and it eats at me every day.
i’ve laid down some good ground work… and i have to get to class…
but i engage in it every morning. im not the most flexible person in the world, so right off the bat, this stuff is going to be tough for me. but most annoying, is the fact that people will say as a result of this, it will benefit me more. so advocates of this stuff will forever be preaching to me the wonders of yoga while they grab their ankles behind their backs and lick their calf muscles while i struggle to touch my toes.
but not even that… i think its the fact that they have such stupid fucking names for the poses. i hate them all. downward dog, upward dog, sun salute, childs pose, healthy cow, shaft toucher, im not shitting you. these are actually fucking names (i made the last one up). and i hate that the instructor comes around saying them in a soothing voice, while im in unbearable pain. its fucked.
then we go on to do fitz-morris stuff. if you dont know what it is, then im in the same boat. but apparently its supposed to help you focus on your breath. now through different positions ,(not so different from yoga), youre bent into pretzel like shapes, and your body begins to tremor. now, ive had people come around and make adjustments, and i might have a little body tremor here and there… but as a beginner, im completely thrown off by some of the people in the room who are having seizures. theyre bent up in pretzels and yelling, calling out, and screaming as though theyre being exorcised of all their hellish satan spawn demons and im there wondering wtf.
now, id like to add that im not a hater, but for once im just going to say this stuff probably isnt for me. ive given it three solid weeks of daily routine, and its just not working.
self exploratory. and technique exploratory. below, is something that was explored before i came to steppenwolf, and was part of my self exploration. i hope my mother doesnt see this.
for me, there are a few things over the past six months that have stuck out for me in terms of my progress as an actor. maybe not as an actor… but more a person who can act. no wait, forget, just call me an actor… when the semester at aada finished, i found myself a little lost. the non stop work had suddenly stopped, and with six hours a day free, five days a week, i suddenly found myself anxious for something to do. for me, right now, there’s only my craft. nothing else seems to be of pressing importance. but i no longer had set classes, no set teachers, and books on their own dont seem to provoke learning as much as classes, and ensemble work.
without thinking it as a step, i found myself on a day to day basis questioning myself. what i was doing. how i was doing it. how i felt about what i was doing. how i felt about my environment. what i thought of the choices id been making. i began to completely break down everything there was to know about me. initially, it was very surface information. things anyone could deduce from sitting with me for ten minutes. wants to be an actor. has black hair. eats avocados with his bare hands, etc. but with repetition and really searching for the truth in what motivates me to be the way i am, a much, MUCH deeper perspective of myself opened up. id never really given much credit to “soul-searching” i guess… but learning some of the things i did about myself absolutely fascinated me.
but after a few months of that, i began to get itchy. it was almost as though the self exploring fueled my desire to act even more so. suddenly all the things id discovered by myself, and all the questions id been asking, i wanted to throw into my acting repertoire. but i needed something… i dont know… to work with my new found knowledge. be it a script, a monologue, acting books. suddenly so many things that never made sense in class from uta hagen, from meisner, strassberg, were vivid and simple.
im rambling. heres a piece of work i did the other day. this steppenwolf intensive is exactly fucking that.
funny, i was working a shakespeare monologue yesterday taught with jeff perry (founder of steppenwolf theatre with gary sinise, and co)… and i had to stop and pinch myself. im getting notes from jeff perry. win.