Q: How do you help actors to master auditions?
A – I do a lot of exercises that help people realize what comes up for them when they face casting directors. What needs do they have, emotionally. Sometimes, there is so much pressure – “I should be this. I should do that. I should. I should. It pounds them on the head. Casting directors want you to succeed. They want you to make contact with them. They want you to say hello and appear like someone who would be nice to work with. They appreciate it when you take a moment before you begin. It’s a sign that you are a professional. You are taking your time; you are not trying to please. You are doing your job. The needier you are, the less attention you will get. You come in with NEED written all over your t-shirt and its like forget it. No one wants to be around that.
Q: How can an actor drop that feeling of NEED?
A – It is not a quick fix thing that you can learn overnight. You’ve got to know what your relationship is to the third world, to the people who are watching you. Can you be free to do what you want to do in front of these people? Or do you need love, approval or parenting?
I believe that it is possible to be free – to a great extent. And when you are free, you can have a lot of fun. Little kids are out there just playing in the playground and having fun. The more fun you are having, the more people will want to watch you. Even if you are playing a tragic scene, you can still make fun choices. Even if you are playing the violent, bad guy. A fun choice is a choice that excites you. It’s something that you want to do over and over again.
Q: How did you get started with coaching?
A – I was an assistant to Wynn Handman, a famous acting teacher. He is 90 years old at this point and still teaching. He has probably trained more successful actors than anyone in the business: Denzel Washington, Alec Baldwin, Mia Farrow. I learned how to teach with a master, and it was like serving an apprenticeship. So I am not just an actor who became a teacher. I served a long period with him and then started my own business here in NY. Then I moved out to California where I met Lucille ball, and then I became head of her talent program at Paramount. After Paramount, I became the head of talent development at 20th Century FOX. My background is interesting because I know what it takes to make it in this business and also what film acting is all about. It is a different domain than theatre.