I just came back from East of Main’s Monday Night Live event and had a fantastic time listening to some inspiring stories from the three panelists Lauren Lee Smith (The Listener, CSI, The L Word), Kristine Cofsky (Almost Human) and Teach Grant (Arctic Air, Almost Human).
The person whose story most stood out to me was Kristine’s. Lucky for me, the “similarities” in our names served as an interesting experiment in visualization. Kristine starting by speaking about how, growing up, she always felt a bit outside of the crowd: lingering outside of the circles frequented by the “popular kids.” I don’t think I’m the only one who resonates with that story. In fact, it sort of seems like a prerequisite to being an artist (in a weird way). Kristine shared that in the first four years that she was living in Vancouver, she really sucked at being an actor. She said that her career didn’t really start going anywhere until she let go of “the rules” that she thought she had to follow and found her own path instead. As she went off on her own journey, she realized that there weren’t actually rules to begin with. Perhaps we just create these rules as we try to make sense of an industry that relies on spontaneity. It is art after all.
I asked Kristine about the biggest change she made during that shift in her career. She responded that it was probably when she stopped comparing herself to other people. This has been something that has been on my mind a lot recently: discovering your essence and what you personally bring to the table. You bring you, and that’s just not comparable. I think that understanding how we personally “tick” is one of our primary responsibilities as an actor and artist. Being able to somewhat objectively step back and observe yourself – watching how you behave in different situations. It’s hard not to compare yourself to other people though, especially when you’re in a room with a bunch of people who look identical to you, but we have to know that although we may look similar, we’re all different. Also, you’re just not meant for every role, and there is more than enough to go around.
One of the biggest lessons I got from the night is that you never know. As in the case of Lauren, a rejection could be a blessing in disguise (if she hadn’t been turned down for a role in the feature “first daughter” with Katie Holmes, she might have have said no to “The L Word”). You never know where an opportunity is going to lead. In an industry such as this one all that you can really do is trust your gut and move forward with confidence.
That’s definitely some advice I need to take moving forward. All three panelists swore by the value of throwing it away after you read it, learn it, etc. I’ve realized that I tend to make things a lot harder on myself than they have to be. Perhaps it’s time to let things just be. Let go and let what happens happen. I think that’s advice we all need to hear from time to time. Or every day. Or every hour.
To each his/her own.