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Welcome back to In the Chair
This week on In the Chair, Will Brockman and Samantha Vita are joined by Method Acting teacher and Actors Studio member, Geoffrey Horne. Geoffrey shares about his time studying under Lee and the pressures he faced in the industry. Also featured on today’s episode are NYU Tisch at Strasberg alumni Caitlin Hammond and Simone Elhart! Tune in as this lively bunch discusses Method Acting, sensitivity, and the importance of self-care for the actor.
The Dangers of Type Casting
Geoffrey Horne studied directly under Lee Strasberg, was accepted into the prestigious Actors Studio, and has now been teaching Method Acting for more than 40 years. He recalls that, in a world that looked down on sensitivity, Lee was the first person to encourage him to be sensitive. “I felt like I’d found a home,” he says, “[sensitivity] came easily to me and I felt comfortable being that person. The sensitive boy.” However, after getting his big break in a successful movie, Geoffrey was perceived in a different way. Although he felt more connected with vulnerable and sensitive “nobody”, in the wave of his newfound success, Geoffrey was offered roles as the confident leading man.
“I felt like I was a character person. I may not have looked to them like a character actor, but that’s how I felt.”Geoffrey Horne
Geoffrey explains how his career suffered as a result, and how this sort of type casting limits the actor by ignoring the many complex and contradictory parts of human nature. When a value, or type, is assigned us as to an actor, we feel the need to cultivate it. “We cultivate our roses,” he says, “our roses are what we were told are good about us.” Geoffrey reminds us not only that doing so can feel like a betrayal of our true selves but also that, in the words of Mary Anne Morris, “your thorns are the best part of you.”
Taking Control of Your Career
“Make a plan, 2 hours a day, that I’m gonna work on what my real job is. Not my intern job, the job that I want: to be an actor. Two hours a day, every day, and just make yourself do that.”Geoffrey Horne
Geoffrey recommends deliberately setting a small part of your day, every day, to work on your career, but not in the way you might think. He doesn’t suggest taking time each evening to obsessively scroll through Backstage or spending breakfast updating your resume. Rather, he urges us to find ways to activate the imagination. These small tasks can include journaling, seeing a show, or simply choosing to watch an award-winning film to observe the acting instead of binge-ing the latest Netflix series. Geoffrey’s suggestion? Read one play a week – every week!
Caitlin explains that tasks like these help keep you grounded and motivated, especially when you feel helpless in the face of auditions and casting processes. “Do things that you can control,” she says, “Because so much of it is out of your control, the things that you can do for yourself are really important.”
The group also agrees that periods of rest are both beneficial to and, at times, necessary for your career. Another LSTFI Method Acting teacher, Tim Crouse reminds his students to let their fields lie fallow. Simone explains that, when given a period when you’re not actively training or pursuing artistic endeavors, you are still growing as an actor. “You’re learning other things,” she says, “you’re learning life, you’re learning business skills, you’re learning to be on your own without this structure of classes.” Sam remarks that, especially as a Method Actor, having rich life experiences to draw from is incredibly important.
Want more? In The Chair can be found on iTunes, Spotify, and Listen Notes!
Will Brockman: Hey guys!
Samantha Vita: Hi! How’s it going, Will?
Will: Good! How are you doing?
Sam: I’m doing well. Doing well, yeah.
Will: Are you excited to be back for our second episode?
Sam: Yeah! Are you?
Will: I’m so excited to be back. We’ve definitely had such a great response to our first episode.
Sam: Yes, thank you so much to everybody.
Will: You can catch up with that episode with Tim Crouse and Jenna Fink, if you missed that one, on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. And this week we have an exciting episode coming your way.
Sam: Yes, super excited for this one
Will: We’re gonna talk about some sensitivity, in a good way, and how to face the world.
Sam: Yep, talk about mental health within this industry. Talking about using –
Will: Parts of yourself.
Sam: – yeah, you know, the unique parts of yourself that make you you, and that get you roles ultimately. And we’re sitting down with Geoffrey Horne!
Will: We’re sitting down with THE Geoffrey Horne. Who is amazing.
Sam: He has a wealth of knowledge.
Will: One of my favorite people in the world.
Sam: Yes, exactly.
Will: I love that man.
Sam: Mark Rylance fanatic. I had to make sure to say that in the intro for him. I was like, “Mark, please listen…”
Will: So one thing that we did want to talk about is the title of this podcast, right Sam? We did have some questions from that last week.
Sam: We had some questions! Mainly from parents, friends, parents…
Will: What is in the chair?
Sam: What’s in the chair
Will: What’s that folding chair?
Sam: Well, it pertains to The Method.
Will: When you’re here at Strasberg –
Sam: There’s a lot of folding chairs in our lives.
Will: – there’s a lot of folding chairs because that what you do relaxation in. And we’ve definitely talked about relaxation in the first episode, but it’s part of the preparation process that we go through in The Method. We relax in these folding chairs for a specific reason.
Sam: Yeah, a very specific reason. Which maybe we could talk about with another guest some day! Maybe we could go through relaxation one day. Basically, it just prepares your body physically to get into a scene and to get into character. But we called it In the Chair partly because we think it’s really funny. And my other suggestion was The Meth Lab, so.
Will: Which we’re not…
Sam: Will didn’t like that one.
Will: I didn’t like that one. We’re in the chair.
Sam: We’re in the chair. So that’s we called it In the Chair because that’s where all the groundwork happens.
Will: And when we record it, we’re all… in the chair? We’re literally in the chair. It’s like you’re in the hot seat.
Sam: You’re in the hot seat, yeah. People were making a lot of weird analogies and I was like… Can we just all agree that this is funny and that we’re in a chair.
Will: We’re in a chair. So that’s why we’re in a folding chair.
Sam: That’s why we’re in a folding chair.
Will: Yeah, but the very specific reason… Do you not know this?
Sam: No, I know the specific reason. It’s because it’s super uncomfortable.
Will: It’s super uncomfortable and they’re also everywhere. So if you learn to relax in one, you can relax anywhere.
Sam: You can relax anywhere. On the subway, in your apartment, anywhere.
Sam: Anywhere. It’s the beauty of The Method.
Will: One time I even relaxed in…
Sam: You relaxed in Pennsylvania? That’s impossible. I’m kidding, I love Pennsylvania.
Will: You know what, I love pretzels.
Sam: My best friends are from there!
Will: Really? Like Philly?
Sam: Westchester Philly area, Scranton…
Will: Well, you know that the last time that I relaxed in Pennsylvania, I was in Philadelphia.
Sam: This sounds like it needs to be a full episode.
Will: It doesn’t. And we’re gonna take a break in just a minute, don’t you worry. I was in Philadelphia for my high school theater teacher’s wedding. Shoutout to Amy Bower, or should I say Amy Richard! No, she hasn’t changed her name yet. Amy Bower and Justin Richard! I was singing with my good friend Isabella Bucci – Hi, Booch!
Sam: Should I give personal shoutouts?
Will: You should give personal shoutouts!
Sam: Katie Q!
Will: She wasn’t there! She wasn’t at that wedding!
Sam: But she lives in Pennsylvania.
Will: Oh, Pennsylvania people. Yeah, so I was relaxing in Pennsylvania and that was a first for me.
Sam: I’m really interested to hear this story once we go on break.
Will: Yeah! For sure! And you know what we’re gonna do right now, Sam Vida?
Sam: What are we gonna do?
Will: Take a break!
Sam: We’re gonna take a break.
Will: Which we’ll be back after.
Sam: In the Chairs!
Will: In the Chair.
Will: Hi, everyone.
Sam: Hey, how’s it going?
Will: Today we’re joined by our very special guest, Geoffrey Horne.
Sam: Geoffrey Horne: Actor, director, Mark Rylance fanatic, teacher, Shakespeare enthusiast, Geoffery Horne. Hey.
Geoffrey Horne: Oh, hi. Am I supposed to say something now?
Sam: Yeah, Geoffrey.
Geoffrey: Well, thanks for having me.
Sam: You’re welcome! So, we’re so excited to have you here today talking about The Method, and your experiences as an actor and as a teacher here. To open it up, I’ve always wanted to know about your early life as a young man in Cuba.
Geoffrey: So in Cuba, we moved there from Argentina when I was 5. I was born in Argentina, so that was a whole new life. 5 was kind of a big time, a big year. A lot changed. I started school in Cuba, but I already spoke Spanish so it wasn’t a problem. I went to a school that was both Spanish and English. I did my first play there. I played – is it a Mummer? Is that what they’re called, Mummer plays around Christmas time?
Sam: A Mummer play?
Geoffrey: A Mummer, yes. And that was it.
Will: [reacting to someone passing by] Oh, that was Bruce.
Sam: Yeah, that was Bruce, a music director at Strasberg. He’s waving.
Geoffrey: Good old Bruce. He had a nice vacation, he went to San Fransciso. He drove down Big Sur, he drove past. It was beautiful when he went. Highway 1, Big Sur. Anyway, so that was it. I went to school there, I grew up there. I came to the States when I was 14 to go to boarding school, because that was more or less what people did. Middle class children did that, Cubans, Americans. So we came up here and I started failing immediately up here.
Geoffrey: Oh, yes… Well, not exactly.
Sam: Socially failing.
Geoffrey: Socially! Well, I got kicked out of my first school when I was 16, just before graduating from high school, but then I went to college anyway. Then I got kicked out of my first college, that was Stanford. That’s when I decided to be an actor. I have no idea why. Y’know the syllabus that you get when you go to school, that tells you all the classes? I opened it up and it fell open to Theory of Acting. I said, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” I didn’t even notice that you had to be a sophomore to take it. So as a freshman, I took this class. I had no idea what I was doing.
Sam: They just let you take it?
Geoffrey: Yeah, they didn’t notice at this school. They didn’t pay any attention. So I took the class, and I was terrible. I was very confused about things. They said I had to buy a book by Stanislavski, and I said, “Stanislavski?” I went to the library and bought the wrong book, which I still haven’t read. I still own it actually, the book I bought. $5 in 1950.
Sam: You should read it! I’ll read it!
Geoffrey: Anyway, that was it. So I decided to be an actor. I know I’ve told you before the real reason I wanted to be an actor. My mother knew this woman in Omaha, Nebraska that she loved. She was going out and my mother was supposed to babysit her kids, her three kids. So this little boy walked in the room, he was 7 years old, and he said “You women stink!” and he slammed the door. It was Marlon Brando, aged 7.
Will: You never heard that?
Sam: No! You never told that story in my class!
Geoffrey: Well, I’m sorry! Now you know. Yes, he was 7, so my mother used to talk about him all the time. Mostly talk about his mother. She’d go see his movies and she would cry. I’d say, “What are you crying for?” She said, “Oh, it’s because I miss her so much.” She loved the mother, Marlon loved his mother too. Loved her. And she died, youngish. Anyway, that’s it, that’s Cuba. What else do you want to know about Cuba?
Sam: That’s Cuba?
Geoffrey: It was a beautiful place to live, wonderful place to live. I still think of it as home, although I haven’t been there since 1961.
Sam: Would you ever want to go back?
Geoffrey: No, I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so. “You can’t go home again,” Thomas Wolfe said. It doesn’t work. I don’t think it works. I lived in Italy for a long time, and I went back to Italy and it was just so different. It just didn’t feel right. It’s stupid, I know.
Will: No. I mean, it makes sense. It’s not just the place, it’s the amalgamation of the time, the place, and the people and everything that’s going on at once.
Sam: Totally. It’s never going to be the same as what it was.
Geoffrey: And to want it to be the same is foolish too. Why should I want it to be the same? Anyway… so no, I don’t think I will. But then tomorrow I could change my mind because I do think about it a lot, about going back. Especially when I hear the music. I think about going back. There’s a wonderful great performance thing on PBS about Cuban music. It’s so good, it’s so well done, just perfectly done by a Cuban American. He was born here, he’s really American, but he went back to Cuba to find his musical roots. It’s really a wonderful thing. I forget what his name is. He’s a musician; he lives in Tennessee; he has a group. I don’t know what kind of group he has. Anyway, that was fun. You ever see Buena Vista Social Club?
Geoffrey: Oh God, that’s so good. That’s so good. No? Nobody?
Will: I’ll put it on my list.
Sam: Still haven’t seen A Star is Born.
Will: The new one or the old one?
Sam: Any of them. Sorry, listeners.
Geoffrey: Now, if you’re interested in Cuba, you would like Buena Vista Social Club. All these old musicians. Famous American musicians. Ry Cooder. I don’t know many people, who they are. Anyway, he went down and he got them together. Some of them were really old. They hadn’t been able to play music anymore, and he got them all together. They end up going to Carnegie Hall and playing. It’s so thrilling when they get to Carnegie Hall. A huge crowd of Cuban-Americans were there with Cuban flags. It’s really moving, really great. Maybe more for me than for you, but it’s really wonderful. The music is really good, really good.
Sam: There’s a lot of good music in – do you have Netflix?
Sam: Well, there’s this series about Celia Cruz and her growing up in Cuba and her rise to fame. Their accents are very thick, so I have to turn on the subtitles. Yeah, Cuban accents are difficult for me.
Geoffrey: Well, that’s the Carribean for you. A little sloppy how we talk, a little sloppy.
Sam: So going off that, I know in class you talk a lot about your personality growing up as being very shy and being very soft-spoken and how the sort of roles you were put into didn’t really fit with your personality. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that and how you got around that. What you did to make the part more you?
Geoffrey: When I first tried it out, I was studying with Lee Strasberg. That was a miracle, how I found that too. But anyway, I studied with Lee Strasberg and I really worked hard. He was the first person that seemed to encourage me to be sensitive. I thought sensitive was a bad thing, like a lot of us are brought up that way – “Oh, you’re too sensitive”. So Lee said it was a good thing and I said, “Whoa, that’s fun.” I felt like I’d found a home. So that came easily to me and I felt comfortable being that person. The sensitive boy. What happened was… you want to know about the Actors Studio?
Sam: Yeah, I wanna know what brought you to The Method in general, the Actors Studio…
Geoffrey: Alright, well, I’ll ramble on. So I studied with Lee for a year and at the end of a year, I said, “Lee, can I audition for the Actors Studio?” He said, “You can, but you’re not ready.” That’s how he talked, very blunt. No folderol, no explanation, no nothing. So I studied with him for another year and then I said, “Can I audition for the Actors Studio?” He said, “What scene are you gonna do?”. I told him and he said, “Good,” and I got in. I got in at the same time that Geraldine Page got in, which was pretty cool.
Sam: That is really cool!
Geoffrey: She was wonderful. I got to play her son in a play years later, but that’s another story. Anyway, what happened was – it was lucky, I had this big break. I got this part in a movie and it was a big deal, the movie. It was very successful. I still felt like a nobody but, when you’re in a successful thing, people treat you like you’re somebody. So, I knew how to act like somebody. I could behave myself at a restaurant; I could go out; I could be polite; I could talk to people. But I still felt like a nobody. But because they’re treating you like somebody, they give you parts where you’re supposed to be a somebody. Does this make any sense?
Geoffrey: I still felt wrong for those things, and so my career faded very quickly because of that. They were offering me parts – one director that I hated more than anyone ever said, “You’re the young leading man.” I didn’t even know what that meant. I felt like I was a character person. I may not have looked to them like a character actor, but that’s how I felt. I was a sensitive boy. I was still young, I was 25 or 26. I was very young and I still felt like a boy. You’re supposed to be adolescent until you’re 25 or 26, now they’ve changed the ages.
Will: Really? Well, then I got time on myself!
Sam: Yeah, that makes me feel good.
Geoffrey: Yeah, that’s a fact. Adolescence goes on until you’re at least 25.
Will: That does make logical sense.
Geoffrey: I was hoping 85, but they said no.
Sam: We talked about that when you came in, I was like, “I don’t wanna be an adult, guys. What’s happening?”
Geoffrey: So that’s what happened. I was suddenly a young leading man, which I wasn’t. I didn’t feel like a young leading man. And instead of adjusting properly and adjusting the parts to myself, I betrayed myself by trying to do what they wanted. You know how your parents decide what you are?
Geoffrey: You’re the smart one, you’re the pretty one, you’re the talented one, you’re the athletic one, you’re the artistic one, and you can’t do anything but that. So one of the things that I was was the “good boy”, which I wasn’t at all. My mother one time… somebody from the Actors Studio – I don’t know how she ended up talking to my mother, but she did – said “Geoffrey’s very popular here,” and [my mother] said, “Yes, and he’s a good boy too.” I was 50 years old.
Sam: Geoffrey’s a good boy!
Geoffrey: I was a “good boy,” and so I did what I was told. At the same time, inside, I was betraying myself completely. I was betraying who that person was, which was this person who feels like a nobody. I’m sitting at the Actors Studio the day I got in, next to Geraldine Page, right next to her. I had seen her in Summer and Smoke while I was in college. She was this remarkable person, this wonderful actress, the sensitivity was so profound in her. I felt like, “What am I doing here? I don’t belong here!” When I was in the play with her in “Strange Interlude,” there was a great cast, and I had a very small part in it at the end of the play. That suited me – just a small part, in a play in which she was in nine acts. That was her play.
Sam: That’s a lot of play!
Geoffrey: It’s a really long play. A little boring too, but you can cut that out. Anyway, Gerry wasn’t boring. She was great. I don’t know, does that explain it?
Will: Yeah, I think one thing that you brought up that I hadn’t thought about was the ways in which people in real life “type” people, so to speak. You obviously always hear about it in acting, that people have a really one dimensional way of thinking about actors, but we do it in everyday life as well. And that’s not something that’s often talked about. It’s more interesting to think about the ways in which we contradict ourselves, because that is actual human life, because we all contradict ourselves.
Geoffrey: Mary Anne Morris, the poet, said something that I thought was really cool. I’ve always said in class, maybe you heard me say it in class, “Your secrets may be the most interesting things about you,” which is good, but what she said is better. She said, “Your thorns are the best part of you.” There are thorns that go out, but also thorns that go in. Dealing with those things, Kazan said something vaguely similar when he said, “Look back, but don’t look away.” Artists don’t look away, regular people look away. “Oh, let’s not talk about that.” “Oh, it’s Thanksgiving, let’s have a nice time. Let’s eat our turkey and stuff ourselves and not think about – oh, poor Uncle Charlie’s drunk again! Let’s not think about Uncle Charlie. Let’s talk about nice things!”
Sam: This is very real! It’s true, it’s real!
Geoffrey: When you’re with your grandmother, God bless her, you can talk about talk nice things. But in your own life, look back but don’t look away. And I think the thorns thing, I think that it’s a wonderful image. We cultivate our roses, our roses are what we were told are good about us. “I’m a good boy!” Okay, I’ll cultivate that so you think I’m a good boy, as if I’m trying to please my mother but you’re not my mother, are you?
Geoffrey: I wish you were, but you’re not! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fondle your knee there.
Will: That’s okay, that’s really okay, Geoffrey.
Sam: Yeah, it was fine, it was fine.
Geoffrey: So, now what was I saying?
Will: The thorns, we cultivate our roses but not our thorns.
Geoffrey: Yes, we cultivate the things that people have said we were or that they like about us. “Oh, you’re so nice, you’re such a nice person!” Okay, I’ll be nice. Want me to be nice? Okay, I’ll be nice. I’ll be a little puppy dog for you. And yet, I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel that nice all the time. I got so angry at a woman – I let her by, and she looked at me like, “What is wrong with this man?”. I thought, “Could you say something? “Like, ‘thank you for letting me past’?”.
Sam: You yelled at this lady?
Geoffrey: No, I didn’t. I thought of it though. No, I should’ve yelled at her but I didn’t. She looked at me with this ugly look on her face, like, “Ew, what’s wrong with him?” Anyway, I’m trying not to swear for the sake of the podcast.
Sam: We appreciate it, you’re doing great.
Will: We can always bleep it.
Sam: That would be really funny.
Geoffrey: Restraining – that’s another important thing, to restrain oneself. Marianne Moore also said this wonderful thing about acting, “The deepest feelings are inside of us,” and then she said, “Not silence, but restraint.” To have feeling and then hold it back is so wonderful. I think it’s so wonderful, actors that do that. Anthony Hopkins does that so well, like, really well. Gerry was emotional, Geraldine Page was emotional all the time. There was always this sense that something was gonna happen when she was acting. With Kim Stanley, you never knew when the tempest was gonna explode but you knew it was there. So there was restraint, until the tempest. That’s great, too. Wonderful.
Will: Well, with that being said, I think this is a good point to take a break and come back with two new guests.
Sam: Special guest time!
Geoffrey: Oh, is that what this is?
Sam: That’s why there’s two other people in this room.
Geoffrey: Is that why you were so quiet this whole time?
Sam: They’re just an audience. They just emailed us being like, “we wanna sit here and listen to Geoffrey.”
Will: They are our live studio audience.
Caitlin Hammond: I actually paid them to be here. I’m funding the whole podcast.
Geoffrey: That’s really good!
Will: We’ll be back after the break.
[MUSICAL INTERLUDE, ADVERTISEMENT BEGINS]
“Shakespeare Downtown is the place to be during the summer months for an exciting Elizabethan excursion. Founded by Strasberg teacher and member of the Actors Studio Geoffrey Horne, this theater company takes over Battery Park’s Castle Clinton and transforms it to this side of the Atlantic’s answer to The Globe. Check out shakespearedowntown.org for updates on performances during Summer 2019 and consider giving a year-end donation to fund a great artistic endeavor in New York. Once again, that’s shakespearedowntown.org.”
Sam: And we’re back, people!
Will: We are back with two very special guests this week. Hi, guys! We’re here with Simone Elhart and Caitlin Hammond.
Simone Elhart: Hi!
Will: How are you guys doing today?
Simone: We’re great!
Caitlin: I don’t know why my voice just sounded like that, but I’m good.
Will: Good. So could you guys tell us just a little bit about yourselves so our listeners get an idea of who you are?
Simone: Okay, cool. Simone here! I am currently a senior at NYU Tisch. I did my first three years of training here, in these beautiful red doors at Strasberg. After I finished the Practicum program here, I moved to the Stonestreet studios at NYU Tisch, which focuses more on film acting and film production. So, I’m currently studying there, and then next semester is my final semester as a student, and I have to go out and… y’know…
Simone: Try it in the real world!
Sam: Trying is hard man!
Cool. Hey, Caitlin!
Caitlin: Hello! I studied at Strasberg for three years also. I finished in 2016, so that’s psycho, and graduated early in the winter of 2016. I did a very similar thing to Simone, I did three years at Strasberg and a semester at Stonestreet, and then tapped out because NYU is expensive.
Sam: I loved the lean-in!
Caitlin: That’s why I’m going part-time next semester, because a lot of cha-ching…
Caitlin: It just dawned on me that I will have been done with school for two years this winter.
Caitlin: The existential crisis!
Will: Actually, kind of going off of that…
Sam: Going off of your existential crisis…
Will: No, but really, one thing we were talking to Geoffrey about before the break is being sensitive in the midst of an industry that is very hard and is very demanding of you as a person, in every way that you could think of. How have you found it, in the short amount of time that you’ve been out of school? Just being an actor who has to stay sensitive?
Caitlin: It’s really hard. I think it’s hard to find a way to stay sensitive and not let yourself be down, if that makes sense. You finish school and all of a sudden you don’t have a structure, you don’t have a schedule. You’re out there in the real world competing with so many other people. It depends on how you look at it, but you have to find a way to have a little bit of grace with yourself and not be too hard on yourself, because it’s really easy to be down and say, “oh, it’s been a year and I haven’t made it, so I’m not going to.” It’s very easy to spiral into that thinking of “you’re not doing enough,” or “you’re not being enough,” or “other people that graduated the same time are doing so much better than you,” and “why aren’t you at that level?” So I think it’s a challenge to wake up every single day to wake up and be good to yourself and not let that overcome all the things that you are doing and are being.
Will: ‘Cause one thing that I’ve found, in the short few months that I’ve been out of school, is that you have to have a plan – which is something Geoffrey said to me at the end of our Practicum semester. I do now but it’s still not foolproof, and there’s no way that you can completely execute 100% of said plan because you can’t demand that the industry gives you certain jobs. You can’t demand that certain things are going to happen at a certain time.
Caitlin: Yeah, you have to be able to check in with yourself and change what you need and change your expectation of the situation and be okay with that.
Sam: Perspective is totally everything. I’ve only been out of school for a short amount of time too but, for me, I loved what you said about how it’s all about the way you think about it. I mean, someone could seem as though they’re doing better in a conventional sense, but at the end of the day nobody knows what that means, and your journey is very different than everyone else’s.
Will: And time works so different for so many different people. I always think about Helen Mirren, who didn’t really get great roles until she was in at least her 30’s and was still acting before then. It’s not like she wasn’t acting, but she wasn’t Helen Mirren. And there’s people who work in their 20’s for a few years, who then just stop. Both are fine, both are valid, but you have to be kind to yourself because you don’t know what’s coming your way or when, and that’s one of the more difficult things.
Simone: One of my favorite quotes, that I actually think about a lot as I go through school, I learned here either in my freshman or sophomore year. It might’ve actually been a Geoffrey quote. He said in class, “stop comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides,” and I think that is something that I think about in every aspect of my life at this point, because it’s so easy. Especially in a city like New York where everybody’s stomping around in their Gucci heels and their Burberry jackets, you think, “those people have it made, and they know what they’re doing.” It’s so easy to look at what they’re wearing or the way that they’re walking and think, “Oh, their lives are great.”
Caitlin: Or what they post on social media.
Simone: Yeah, social media is crazy. I think there’s a benefit in that, when it comes to your career. You have to learn not to sit here and look at people who you perceive as having “made it” and think that they feel comfortable. Everybody has a different definition of feeling comfortable and feeling artistically fulfilled, so – in times of darkness – I often tell myself to stop comparing my insides to other people’s outsides.
Will: It’s not even just in your career, it’s in every aspect of life because it can really weigh down on you. I look at some people we went to school with and I’m like, “How are you such an adult already? How do you already seem to have everything going together? How do you?” And they obviously don’t. Something is going on that’s making them have an easier go of it, whether they have funding from mom or dad that makes their lives a little bit greener or something else. Or, it’s not always that. Sometimes it’s just that they’re sacrificing one area of their life to make the rest of their life look different than my life does. Everyone’s on their own path and doing stuff in their own time, which is so, so easy to forget because there is no one-size-fits-all, especially post-grad. I think in America, especially, we have this academic structure that is so rigid until you graduate, and then it’s like… you’re off a cliff.
Sam: Yeah, then you have no structure.
Simone: I feel like I’m bringing all the quotes that I learned here in this building, but another one of my favorite pieces of advice that I was given freshman year… I remember it was right before our winter break Freshman year and we were in Tim Crouse’s class. Love him, he was in your first episode. He told us before we went on break, because we have about a month off here if you’re not doing J-term. He gave us some advice about the importance of letting your fields go fallow and how, if you are given a season where there is no training and there’s no specific artistic or acting endeavors, it’s beneficial in a different way. You’re learning other things, you’re learning life, you’re learning business skills, you’re learning to be on your own without this structure of classes.
Sam: Especially in The Method, just living and having real-life experiences.
Simone: Right, because experiences are just so important when it comes to the arts and being an actor. So that’s another one of my favorite pieces of advice that I learned here. A lot of people, if they do have a period where they’re not working or they’re not training, it can start to feel like, “I’m not doing anything, I’m not working.” For example, this semester I haven’t been able to be in any projects beyond classes. I started to get this feeling where I was like, “you’re not really auditioning, you’re not really doing anything, why aren’t you?” I’ve just tried to relax into the not doing a show, or not being in a project, and tried to learn what I can outside of that. I think that learning to relax into where you are right now, and trying to learn as much as you can from there, and not pushing yourself or being anxious about not having something yet…
Sam: It’s important to have life.
Will: Caitlin and / or Sam, I don’t know if you guys want to speak to this, but I find that there’s times where I’m living on Actor’s Access and doing everything that is possible, and then there’s times where I’m like, “I need a week off, my brain needs to stop,” and then you start to feel a little guilty and you feel bad.
Sam: When I rest with myself, I think, “You’re doing the most you can, you have a really tough job, you’re interning at Strasberg, you have friends, you’re a daughter, you have a lot going on.” When I rest with myself, I’m fine with it and then I look back and I’m like, “you know, you’ve got it going on.” But when I go on social media, like Caitlin was talking about, or I don’t know… you just walk around New York and sometimes there’s difficult situations. It’s a stressful city and it gets you down and you start having negative thoughts. That’s when I start to feel bad about myself, not when I sit with myself and look back at what I’ve accomplished.
Caitlin: Something me and my other close friends, who are also actors, have talked about a lot was appreciating your breaks. It’s something that was really hard for me to do when I first graduated, because you never feel like you’re doing enough to appreciate the time that you’re not doing anything. So, learning to just accept a day where you have nothing going on and to just let that be and take that time for yourself is something I’m still working on – being able to appreciate your time off.
It does get easier, because you do find a routine for yourself the longer you’re out of school and you do find things to fill your time. You figure out what you need and what you don’t need. Having a day off used to feel like, “Well, what can I do today? Because if I’m not doing anything, I’m not gonna make it.” and “If I don’t go on this audition today, then it’s never gonna happen”. It’s something we say to each other all the time whenever one of us is getting super stressed out about “oh, y’know, I have nothing going on.” Take a deep breath, appreciate your break because this just means that, in three weeks, you’re gonna have ten auditions that week because that’s the way the business works.
Sam: Right, when it rains, it pours! You have three auditions in one day, and then you have a week with nothing or a month with nothing.
Caitlin: It’s all about, again, being kind to yourself and being able to appreciate that.
Will: I think also one thing that you touched on, that is super important to have, is a support system – a network of people who get the life and who understand what you’re going through as well, and who can sympathize and keep you in check. Can you talk about that and/or other self-care tactics that you’ve employed over the past few years to keep yourself from spiraling down?
Sam: I also wanna open it up to Geoffrey, too, because he’s had a lot of experience with this.
Geoffrey: Well, you said so much stuff! It’s funny that you all say “the industry”. We used to say “the business”. It’s gotten bigger. It’s not a business, it was a business before. We said business. Well, that’s the next AA expression that I taught you – don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. It made me think that I had three communities that I belonged to. One was here at Strasberg, one was the Actors Studio, and the third was AA, and those are communities in New York. New York is a scary place, can be, especially when you feel a little lost, and to have community is so important. Peter Sellars – not the actor, but the director – came and spoke here one time. He was wonderful, and he talked about… he’s a crazy director, he did a Mozart opera and had people carrying Kentucky fried chicken through the thing. But anyway, he’s a wonderful man and he talked about community and how you should have lots of communities. I think that’s important because there’s a tendency to feel all alone here.
The other thing that I think about for actors on having a plan is that you have so much free time. You haven’t had free time before, for a long time. None! And you may have to have job-jobs, but you still have a lot of free time. You don’t work 24 hours a day. Harvard Business Review put out this thing. My wife gets it, I don’t get it. I don’t read it, but she told me it was in there. Make a plan, 2 hours a day, that I’m gonna work on what my real job is. Not my intern job, the job that I want: to be an actor. Two hours a day, every day, and just make yourself do that. It’s hard sometimes, to make yourself do it. You’d rather play on Instagram or Facebook, or watch something dumb on television, but just to do that. Just to make yourself do it. You just sit down and, even if nothing happens, just sit there at the desk for 2 hours. Just sit there, and then something will happen. You’ll say, “well, I’m so bored now, and I’m not gonna do Facebook now, I’m just gonna pick up a play and read a play.”
Caitlin: I think you gave us a list, freshman or sophomore year, of things actors should do. It was like, “Memorize something every day, always be reading a play, journal…”
Geoffrey: A play once a week. Tim Crouse still does it. I taught him a long time ago.
Caitlin: “Keep an actor’s journal, see movies, see plays, watch TV.” It was this whole list of things you can do where it’s not, like, “go on 8 auditions a week!” It was like, just go sit down and read a play! Do things that you can control. Because so much of it is out of your control, the things that you can do for yourself are really important.
Simone: I think one thing that I have been trying to reframe in my mind this semester, especially moving more towards TV and film, is the idea of… watching TV and film in my past life was more of a lazy thing to do and I’m trying to reframe it into choosing award-winning films and being specific about what you’re watching. And yes, it can feel relaxing to sit and watch a movie, but it can also be very active as you’re observing the actors, or the way that the filming is going. You can do something that’s restful in body, but active in mind. I think trying to – when you’re scrolling through Netflix, instead of watching…
Caitlin: The Office for the 8th time.
Simone: Right, for the 8th time – watch… recently they just put a bunch of Oscar-nominated and winning movies back on, Make choices about watching films that are good instead of just watching the same kind of stuff over again. Just make those active choices so that something that can feel like a break can be an active research.
Will: That makes a lot of sense. I found when I was in school, I was so drained at the end of a studio day or after rehearsal, because you’re just so in the environment of, “I’m surrounded by good material, I’m surrounded by people who are working on their craft and doing their stuff,” that by the time I got home, I was like, “I need to switch my brain off and watch Real Housewives.”
Caitlin: But that’s also an option!
Will: I mean, that’s totally an option but, as Geoffrey was saying, because your schedule starts to flip a little bit, the time in which you’re actually working on your craft reverses to a certain extent after you’re out of school. You have to make those active choices. I was – who was I talking to? Lola, I think, recommended…it’s called Bodyguard on Netflix. It’s a new series with Richard Madden. I’ve only seen one or two episodes of it, but you get drawn in. It was so cinematically beautiful and the acting was there. It was like… 30 minutes go by and you don’t realize it because you’re actually watching something of quality and substance, and you forget sometimes how valuable it is to just be surrounded by stuff that’s actually of worth.
Geoffrey: Can I say something about this? I mentioned Geraldine Page before and I loved her, I really loved her. She didn’t get started until she was about 28, I think that’s the age. It might’ve been older. She studied in Chicago at the Goodman Theatre, then she studied with Uta Hagen, and then she studied at the Actors Studio. By the time she got to the Actors Studio on 56th, she was already established. But Summer and Smoke, I believe she was 28 when she did it. Kim Stanley got her first job when she was 28, first paying job. Sometimes we forget that they had long careers. Now, Kim quit because she didn’t like being an actress anymore, but she could’ve gone on working for a long time. Some of the people that start young don’t last very long, or even if they last a long time, what made them lovely when they were young… I won’t mention names but they start young, and they’re good, and then they don’t get better.
Geraldine Page, her constant desire was to get better. Always. She said something – can I just read this? In Follies of God, you know about Follies of God? James Grissom’s thing? “I don’t like talking about the work,” she said, so she wouldn’t like this conversation right now. “I like preparing for the work. You walk around either before getting a part or in the early stages of working on a part, and you see people. You pick up voices, hear snatches of music, read books, read poetry. All of this combines to create the character. It’s very solitary, and very personal. It’s all mine until I share it with my acting company, and then with an audience who don’t care how I got the character, only that I’m sharing it with them.”
Sam: Whoa. That’s my favorite thing I’ve ever heard.
Geoffrey: Isn’t that great?
Sam: That’s how I feel about it too.
Geoffrey: That’s great! And so to be solitary, that’s the thing. It’s hard for actors because we like being with people. When we’re solitary, we say, “Wait a minute, I’m not alive if I’m solitary!” But it’s good. If you just can manage. Maybe you can’t manage 2 hours right away, but maybe half an hour. You’re gonna say, “I’m gonna wake up tomorrow and, before I do anything else, I’m gonna spend half an hour doing something that has to do with acting.” And don’t pick the easy one, which is to watch a soap opera because maybe you’d like to be on a soap opera someday.
Sam: I think that’d be good!
Geoffrey: I was on a soap opera.
Sam: Which one?
Geoffrey: As the Worm Turns.
Sam: The Worm?
Geoffrey: World. I think it doesn’t exist anymore.
Will: Who was it? You were telling us about this a while ago. It was someone – oh, was it Ellen Burstyn? – that was on a soap opera for a while and she just decided to do some exercise every single day and use that time to be useful?
Geoffrey: That’s what she said. She said, she was studying with Lee Strasberg and she said she was in a soap opera. The material was terrible, of course. So she said, “Every day I wanted to do some sensory exercise to work with my job on the show.” By the way, she’s almost 86 and she’s gonna do this play 33 Variations. And she worked on it at the Actors Studio in front of us. I hear she’s an established actor, she’s won all the awards in the world, and here she is in front of a bunch of us dopes, and she took such risks. The character has ALS –
Will: Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Geoffrey: Lou Gehrig’s disease. She didn’t do the text, she just went through the five stages of the disease and said poetry. It was so moving and so striking, and it’s just the fact that she’s who she is and she took a risk in front of us. She’s not even doing the play until sometime next year, and she’s already working on it here at the Actors Studio. It’s just very good, it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. She’s like that.
Sam: Prep work is very important.
Geoffrey: Yes, anyway, it’s very impressive.
Will: One thing I’d like to hear a little bit about before we go, is that we’ve talked a little bit about self care, but can we talk about how The Method specifically will impact your ability to be sensitive about certain things… how am I trying to say this? Maybe certain things you shouldn’t go towards if you’re in a certain place –
Sam: It’s a very personal technique and, if you’re going through a hard time within your emotional life or your mental health, it’s not always easy to tap into certain sensory exercises.
Will: Yeah, protecting your mental health and being smart about the ways you use the technique.
Sam: Using The Method smartly! The correct way!
Simone: I have been exploring a lot this semester the differences in pushing yourself. I think there’s this idea in acting, especially when it comes to certain teachers, where a student will express that they are uncomfortable and the teacher takes that as a “Good! I’m pushing you out of your comfort zone!” And there’s a difference, for me, between a healthy way of going out of your comfort zone and trying something new in a supportive environment, and being pushed out of your comfort zone in a very forceful way.
Like you were saying, it is a very personal journey as you’re trying to figure out… you know, you don’t want to hold back and never try anything new. You want to push yourself and grow, but I think it is a personal discovery of learning where your boundaries are and, on certain days, certain boundaries might be stronger than others. It’s about learning the ability to say, “No, I’m not gonna try that exercise today. I don’t feel comfortable trying that today. Can I try this instead or can I work on something different?” I think, for me, it’s been a semester where I feel that some of my teachers, not here at Strasberg, enjoy that feeling of a student saying, “I’m uncomfortable,” and then they say, “Good! Go from there.” For me, when I say I’m uncomfortable –
Sam: You really are!
Simone: Yeah, like, I’m not the type to say, “Oh, this feels funny,” or “This acting exercise feels funny!” No, it’s “I’m very uncomfortable, I don’t feel safe right now.” I think I’ve been attempting to learn the language to express that to an educator and say, “No, this isn’t me feeling, like, silly in this exercise. I’m actually drawing a line.” You know?
Caitlin: You’re never gonna do your best work if you feel like your shutting down inside. ‘Cause if you don’t have any emotional life present and you’re shutting down, how are you expected to give anything to someone else in a scene or in life?
Simone: Right, I think it creates an environment that then, next week when you come back in, you might feel uncomfortable. Even if it’s a completely different exercise, after that experience, you can kind of feel uncomfortable attempting to open up again because of what happened the last time. So, I think it’s really important to learn when being uncomfortable is, “Oh, this is new, I haven’t experienced this before,” and when uncomfortable turns to, “No, I would like to stop and go a different direction.”
Will: And also, understanding the difference between uncomfortable and unsafe. Because those are two very different things that exist on the same spectrum. if you’re entire mental health is going into a place where you venturing into unsafe territory, that’s a different thing than, “These are unlocked emotions that I haven’t accessed for years.” That’s a very different feeling.
Simone: I think the biggest thing about that is learning to communicate that and ask questions. I think that was one of my favorite things about being here at Strasberg – there is a lot of real emotion that comes up. We work with a lot of very sensitive, like we were talking about, very sensitive feelings and things like that. I think one of the things that I appreciated was, here, they really encouraged the dialogue around that and asking questions like, “How can I improve this?” or, “I feel like when I start doing this, I’m losing it. How do I…?” Asking how and around, and being able to take, “Today, we’re going to be doing this sort of exercise,” and then adjust as you feel the most yummy-gooey-actor feelings. So I think that’s what I appreciated a lot about here – that open dialogue and that open communication around all of that, and I think that is so important when it comes to training.
Sam: Totally. I think that’s the beauty of The Method too. If you need to get somewhere emotionally, you can use a different sensory exercise. You don’t have to go to your hardest. There’s not one route to get somewhere, or you don’t have to use it at all!
Geoffrey: As a teacher, there’s a thing that comes up. Sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s resistance in dealing with something and when you just become a bully and try to force someone to do something. Sometimes it’s a little bit unsure, unclear. Am I being a bully here, or am I trying to overcome that actor’s resistance? I guess some people are bullies by nature and so they will bully, so there’s that.
Caitlin: You’re not a bully, Geoffrey.
Geoffrey: Not yet. I’m working on it.
Sam: Geoffrey’s a good boy!
Caitlin: I guess I should say something now. Well, with the whole idea of mental health and taking care of yourself, I think people forget that when you’re working on emotional memories, it’s supposed to be something that you work on a bunch of times and figure out how to get to a point. When we were in class working on an emotional memory, we do it four or five times the same thing and go through it to figure out – God, what is the word? – the touchy points. So then you can then use it, and know how to use it, when you need it right there on set or on the stage. You have to go through for yourself and figure out which ones work – maybe you have three that you use – and figure out, “What are their touchy points? Which ones can you do all the time, which ones do you not want to work on if you’re feeling a certain way?”
That’s your job as an actor, that’s your job to prepare that for yourself. You can’t be reckless with your emotions, because that’s so much of what Method Acting is. It’s using your own emotional experiences in your work. You own those, those are yours! No one else can say, “You have to use the most traumatic moment of your life because you need to cry.” You could use a really happy memory and use that to get that same emotion to come out. I always feel like if you’re in a scene with someone, as long as you’re relaxed and as long as you’re listening, the emotion will be there.
Simone: The brain, I feel like, does it automatically, especially if you’re very relaxed. Things that you’re seeing in your partner will remind you of things you’ve seen before or a feeling that you had. So, I agree. I feel like if you relax and really try to take in your experience, your body is pretty smart and will do it.
Will: I think the core of what I learned here and from you is what we started the episode talking about. When you understand the parts of yourself that are the sensitive parts – that maybe make you different, that make you you – and you have the ability to use that at your will, at your disposal, you become alive onstage and you don’t rely on tricks or old habits and stuff like that. That’s what really is the core of Strasberg’s teaching.
Simone: One of the things that Geoffrey used to say in class all the time that I also bring with me is the idea that you don’t have to try to make yourself interesting, you are interesting.
Sam: I never heard that one, I needed that one! Why didn’t you tell me that one?
Simone: Some really beautiful talks about just relaxing in yourself and trusting yourself, because you are interesting!
Geoffrey: It’s very hard though, isn’t it? It’s very hard.
Simone: Oh, it’s very tough. I’m still trying all the time!
Geoffrey: Because we’ll always think, “Oh, this person’s so much more interesting than I am!” It’s so hard not to do that! At some point, you stop caring. That’s the mercy about being over 80, you stop caring. I don’t care about whether I’m interesting or not, but you have a long way to go before you’re that comfortable about that. Even now, if I were to act now, I would still worry about whether I was – “Is this too long? Am I being boring?” Until I give myself something to focus on that’s more interesting than my pathetic negative feelings. Just be there.
Will: And with that being said, I think that is a good place to take a break, and we’ll be right back.
[MUSICAL INTERLUDE, ADVERTISEMENT STARTS]
“One of the most exciting programs at Strasberg is the Young Actors Program! Young Actors at Strasberg is an intensive and diverse program for students in grades 2-12. Our program explores the creative process and helps develop skills and acting technique, teamwork, and leadership as it applies to stage, film, and theatre. Do you know a young person in your life who would benefit from method acting training? Find out more info today at youngactorsstrasberg.com. That’s youngactorsstrasberg.com.”
Will: So welcome back, you guys. We’ve reached our final and perhaps favorite segment of the show.
Sam: Yeah, the only segment.
Will: Well, everything else is a segment, it just doesn’t have a name!
Will: Here we are at the Long Loud Sound!
Sam: The Long Loud Sound Segment! Where we give a long loud sound –
Will: Which is a part of relaxation, to just let go of…
Sam: Something that we’re frustrated with, something that we’re kinda done with, something we’re over in the media, in your life, something going on in your life…
Sam: So William, you wanna start it off?
Will: Yeah. I’m gonna give a long loud sound to Melania Trump’s Christmas decorations.
Sam: Oh, I didn’t see them.
Will: I don’t know if you guys saw these, but do you remember last year when she had literally just like empty twigs filling the West Wing?
Sam: I’m not gonna say I’m surprised. I didn’t see it…
Will: So this year –
Caitlin: …but she is an empty twig.
Will: She is an empty twig.
Sam: Snaps to that!
Will: She has these literal red trees, they’re just red artificial trees that are just lining the wings of the West Wing, and –
Sam: Just red trees?
Will: Just red trees. And they kinda look like people from The Handmaid’s Tale. Do you know what I mean?
Will: Subtle. And I have one thing to say: I don’t really care, do you?
Sam: No. I’m gonna give a long loud sound to a certain actor that didn’t write Geoffrey Horne back when he wrote to him, and that’s all I have to say. I also have more serious things, but I’m feeling a little light tonight.
Simone: Feeling cheeky today!
Simone: Yeah, I give my long, loud sound today to the set of a CBS show that’s outside of my home right now, because –
Will: Well, that’s what we think it is.
Simone: We’re pretty sure, based on the actors and the people we see around, we’re pretty sure. But they make getting home and getting out of my home very complicated. And it’s also a constant reminder of the business and what I have to eventually attempt to do, so having them outside my window yelling “action” and “cut” all the time is very triggering… is what I will say.
Will: But at least you’re close to Alan Cumming.
Sam: And his toy poodle.
Simone: Yeah, Alan Cumming and his beautiful toy poodle do stand outside my door very often, so I’ll deal with it.
Will: Maybe you’re see Bianna.
Simone: Maybe I’ll get lucky.
Sam: And Caitlin!
Caitlin: I was gonna give my long, loud sound to the MTA.
Sam: We have nothing else to say about that!
Will: We know that. We feel that.
Will: Geoffrey? What are you giving a long, loud sound to?
Geoffrey: I’m gonna give a long, loud sound for Big Boy, my cat, who’s very sick and I have to go after we finish to Whole Foods to buy him some very expensive salmon because that’s the only thing he will eat.
Sam: The things we do for the ones we love. Well, we hope that Big Boy gets better and we thank you so much for being on the show today. Thank you so much, Caitlin and Simone.
Simone: Thank you so much!
Will: Come back anytime!
Sam: Literally anytime.
Caitlin: Do we do the sound now?
Will: Sure! Ready?
[long, loud sound]
Caitlin: God, we don’t do that enough in our normal lives.
Sam: I feel exponentially better.
Will: Thanks for listening, you guys.
Simone: Thank you so much!
Will: We’ll be back next week.