Actor’s Roundtable 2013: “You got to know your sh*t, and then let it go.”

I’ve always wanted to be an actor, but I am ashamed to admit that it is only within the last year that I have become genuinely interested in studying the history of the craft. It is only recently that I’ve started reading actor autobiographies, and started watching interviews and started watching movies. It’s only recently that I’ve started going to plays, reading plays, reading fiction with an eye for the craft.

I think at one point I definitely had a sense of insecure entitlement… if that makes any sense. I felt that somehow I had a right to just be a good actor. While I was interested in reading all the great acting books, I think on some level I was interested in learning because of what this dedication would communicate to others about me and who I am. I was disciplined and I wanted to make sure that everyone knew it. I talked about this a little bit in my previous post, but I  feel like I’m now starting to rediscover the passion that was brimming under the insecurity. I’m discovering a more passion-based (versus an insecure scrounging for approval-based) healthy obsession with my work. It’s so much better to be interested versus interesting.

Anyway, I just finished watching the actor’s roundtable discussion, and I wanted to share some of the most memorable sections with you.

The discussion began with a discussion about fear.

Michael B. Jordan: [I had a] fear of success a little bit. Fear to dive all the way into it – not knowing how it’s going to turn out. Scared of yourself in a way. What you’re able to do once you let the chains go and really dive all the way into it. That’s the worst fear I’ve had. Just to let yourself go.”

I completely resonated with this quote. And it sort of leads into a story that Matthew McConaughey told about his first leap into acting.

“I didn’t study acting before I got my first job in Dazed, and that was a movie where I was in a few scenes and Rick would invite me to set and we’d sort of improvise the scenario. And I went into another picture after that where I really studied all the lines, and after doing that I was like man, you were really stiff, and I was like ‘man I felt constrained’ and I came up with this wonderful idea in my head: ”Hey, maybe you’re not the kind of actor who needs to study lines.” You just know your man and you just show up and you get up on set and you just do it. And if you read the script after you know your man, you read it that day, you read and it’s like “of course that’s what I’d say.” You read it one time and you lay it down… that’s it.

So I  go do to this film, Scorpion Spring. I have this idea: I’m not going to look at anything. I know what I am, drug lord on the mexican border in texas. I’m not going to look at anything. So I go down to set, take a look right before, [I want to] stay fresh and loose. So I go down to look at it [and] it’s a page and a half monologue, in Spanish. And I felt this trickle of sweat go down my neck. And for whatever reason I looked down at it and I said… “Can you give me 12 minutes?” Why I said 12 minutes I don’t know. But I walked off – mumbling. I haven’t watched it yet but I know it’s bad.

But I said never again. You got to know your shit and then let go of it.

There sort of seems to be this delicate balance between these two extremes. It’s about walking into the fear, but then it’s also about being prepared. You need to know your shit before you let it go. It’s one thing to be a confident actor. It’s an entirely different thing to have something behind all of that confidence.

I want to conclude this post with something that I actually misheard. Near the beginning of the discussion, again when they were talking about fear, Josh Brolin  said: ”There’s always fear, you recreate yourself in every movie don’t you?” only I heard you recreate yourself in every moment don’t you?

What I thought I heard really stuck with me and I jotted it down on my piece of paper before I went back and realized my error. I think that we do recreate ourselves in every moment and I think that there is a lot of fear ingrained in that. What are you going to choose moment-to-moment? Are you going to choose to be the same version of yourself that you’ve always been? Or are you going to choose something different? Are you going to choose something great?

“Fear is the greatest motivator. And it’s important to use it. It’s artillery” – Jared Leto

Bringing it back to the beginning of this post, it’s really motivating to watch these people who have had a lot of success in this industry talk about their experiences, and watching them left me with a feeling of calm. We’re all just people and if, despite all your work, you still don’t feel confident… maybe you just have to fake it until you make it. Just be the person you want to be. Recreate yourself into the kind of character who is successful. Do the work and then relax into it.

Watch the roundtable discussion yourself:


  1. I love this a “healthy obsession “

  2. haha, thank you. I thought that it was a good way to put it.

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