In a recent interview, Jason Lee – a Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute alumnus – gave us the inside scoop on his latest role in Eighty 12! A brand new indie television series, Eighty 12 is a coming of age story directed by Louis Rocky Bacigalupo. According to the director, the show is “an astrological drama” and follows twelve characters, each based on one of the astrological signs. Jason stars in the series as Libran, a foreign exchange student based on the sign Libra. Rather than follow a single protagonist, Eighty 12 honors the entire ensemble. Over the course of seven episodes, the characters each deal with their own issues and challenges as their stories interweave.
Free for Prime members, Eighty 12 premieres on Amazon Prime on April 20th, 2020. With only seven episodes, each running approximately twenty minutes, this show is perfect to binge while stuck at home! Jason tells us that, while the director hasn’t officially announced whether or not the series will continue, ideas for a spinoff are already in the works.
Modern Day Success Story
A true modern day success story, Jason shares how he was cast in this new series. After finding the audition listing on a Facebook casting page, Jason submitted his materials and followed up with the director. Nearly a month later, he received a reply. The director asked Jason to come in to read and, assuming he’d been invited to the next stage of the audition, Jason readily agreed. When he arrived, he came to find out that the reading was not an audition, but the first day of table work in pre-production. Jason had been cast based upon his resume and his reel alone!
While stories like Jason’s are rare, they hold an important message. “Your reel is important,” Jason insists, “your headshot is important, yes, but also your reel. You can showcase your talent and what kind of characters you can play.” Bacigalupo later told Jason that a particular clip from his reel was so like Libran’s character in Eighty 12 that he knew the fit was perfect.
Many students and recent graduates worry about having insufficient material for a reel. It is important to remember, however, that your footage can come from anywhere. While professional productions may seem ideal, your reel can be comprised of student shorts, low-budget projects, even material you write and produce yourself. What matters most is that your reel captures your range and abilities. Looking for a quarantine activity? Try writing yourself a short scene or monologue. Play around with material that represents you well and shows off your acting chops!
Lessons Learned at LSTFI
Jason admits that the lessons learned in his time at Strasberg are countless. “I didn’t follow a single teacher throughout my time [at LSTFI],” he says. Instead, Jason chose to study with different instructors during each semester of his study. He describes The Method as a toolbox, with different techniques and exercises readily available if and when you need them. One tool Jason used on the set of Eighty 12 was stage combat! When his character gets into an altercation and is ultimately punched in the face, Jason was able to apply not only the sensory work of sharp pain but also the practical skills from J Allen Suddeth’s stage combat class. While few other lines of work require feigning violence, an actor never knows when safety techniques might be necessary on the job. Jason says, “Many thanks to J Allen!”
The most important lesson that Jason learned from The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute is how to be himself. A naturally warm and friendly personality, Jason is known at school for his positive energy and demeanor. His Method Acting teacher George Loros, however, gave him a gentle warning:
The first time I took George Loros’ class, he told me that ‘being nice doesn’t make you a great actor’.LSTFI alumnus, Jason Lee
Jason went out straight away and bought himself the book, No More Mr. Nice Guy. Laughing about the experience, Jason explains that George was not telling him to put on a tough exterior, or that kindness and positivity would hinder his career. Instead, George was simply reminding Jason to be himself and to be truthful – to not put on a smile out of obligation. Jason says, “we [as actors] care a lot about what other people think and about pleasing other people.” From George, Jason learned that “there is no one answer.”
Managing Expectations During Quarantine
To compare is to despair. Because everyone is different and everyone’s journey is different.LSTFI alumnus, Jason Lee
The lessons Jason learned from George Loros are applicable in many ways. In an industry with so many variables and elements beyond your control, it is important to acknowledge that everyone will have their own trajectory and move at their own pace. No two actors will have the same career. This same lesson – that “there is no one answer” – is true in life and crucial to remember now amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many people, actors included, are experiencing a great deal of anxiety about making the most of their time in quarantine. Social media is filled with evidence of new hobbies adopted and old projects completed thanks to the abundance of free time that comes with quarantining. Actors, in particular, feel the need to emerge from this period of isolation having made significant progress in their career. Pressure seems to come from all directions, encouraging actors to memorize new audition material, create a website from scratch, and the like. But Jason reminds us that we can be productive in ways beyond those which relate to our careers. To those experiencing this pressure and anxiety, Jason urges, “you need to allow yourself to rest” and stresses the importance of “taking care of yourself, physically and mentally.”
For those who feel restless during this time, or who look to productivity as a mode of coping with stress, a busy schedule or self-prescribed routine can be a wonderful thing. The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute has published several articles providing suggestions for actors looking to stay creative or keep up with their practice. But those who do not seek, or are unable to maintain, the same level of productivity they would outside of quarantine should not feel shame. Jason’s advice rings true, now more than ever: “To compare is to despair. Because everyone’s different and everyone’s journey is different.”