I replay performances by brilliant actors in my mind, marveling over their mastery of the craft. Thoughts like, "Wow! How did they get to that place?", or "What tools did they use to create the physicality of their character?" run rampantly through my mind. Sometimes, marveling too much can bring you down and make you second guess your own talent. It's these times when I'll take note of a simple, amazing performance by a modern day master.
If you have the time, take a moment to watch James Earl Jones in this episode of "Frasier". His scene doesn't occur until the middle of the clip. It's worth the wait. We're so used to immediate results these days, that the thought of sitting through some great comedic acting for three minutes is nerve racking to some. Just chill. Enjoy the work.
I know what you are thinking. We're talking about James Earl Jones here, the man with the most commanding voice in show business. He's Mufasa, Darth Vader, and "This is CNN". He could read the ingredients to the label of processed food, and we would all be captivated. Only he could turn the words "Xantham Gum" and "Dextrose" into an awe inspiring performance. But, slow your roll for a minute. We all got our own thing. Maybe not the most commanding voice. Maybe we can't cry on cue. Some of us are not at that level, yet. However, we all have something to say. You may not think it's interesting, but it's no one else's process. The fact that it's uniquely yours, makes it interesting. Feel me?
What struck me the most about Mr. Jones performance is how you could tell that, as the character, he believed every line he spoke. Despite the fact that his character is blind, you could actually witness him visualizing his memories. You believe the history he shared with his wife, and the history he shared, listening to Dr. Frasier Crane's radio show. This is where I had my "Duh! That's how you do it!" moment. The lines create the history of the character. They are a map, as one of my brilliant acting teachers Richard Seyd would say. You just have to trust your craft, which is the scariest thing in the world.
We're all scared of sucking. But, when you take that leap and have that genuine connection with the material; that's when the audience and your fellow actors are with you. In turn, you inspire someone else. Now, if we can all get a shot to put our mugs on t.v. or the big screen to give people the chance to "marvel at our mastery".