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  • Writer's pictureRay Watters


Updated: Oct 8, 2022

I had the honor many years ago of working with a professional British actor who was brilliant on stage. As we became better acquainted, he admitted to me that he was painfully shy around other people. This was a shock to me since I thought he had it all together and nothing scared him. What I learned from him was a very valuable lesson. As shy as he was, he did not feel it necessary to seek anyone’s approval. As a result, when he performed, his unique self came through and he shined as the character.

Another actor I got to know on a personal level (didn't get the opportunity to work with him) was Jack Palance. Jack is well-known for winning the Oscar for his role in the film, "City Slickers". You may remember him doing the one-handed push up on stage when accepting the Oscar. You may be surprised to learn that Jack was a shy man as well. He played villains and tough guys in films, but had a very soft side and was an accomplished artist. He certainly didn't seek approval. He did it his way, and was a success for many years.

This was hard for me to understand since I constantly wanted to know what others thought of my performance. But what I learned over the years is that seeking approval is not healthy for an actor.

We keep hearing from acting coaches and casting directors to “take chances”, “make it your own”, “have fun with it”…etc. etc. The question is, how is that possible if we’re concerned about what others think of us as actors?

It’s not.

I believe being concerned about what people think of us is a part of human nature. However, this can be detrimental to the actor. Further, trying to be like someone else ruins us as actors. You may be a fan of a certain actor but trying to be like him/her simply does not work.

One of my favorite actors, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, is Christoph Waltz. In my opinion, his work in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” was nothing short of brilliant. However, as good as his work is, he cannot be me.

We are each unique human beings. Nobody is like us. Each of us offers something different. When we try to copy someone else’s work, I believe we become boring. A good example is when actors will use as a monologue the court scene from “A Few Good Men” and try to copy Jack Nicholson. The fact is, Jack Nicholson is the only one who can be Jack Nicholson.

When given the opportunity to audition, I feel it is important to make choices and, after doing research on the material, make it our own. If I don’t take chances I will not grow.

A few years ago, I was invited to audition for a lead role in a film that aired on a popular cable channel. I had little information on the role except what was in the two-page sides. I made a choice as to how the character was to be played…a very friendly old man. Nope. The character was in fact somewhat of a curmudgeon. Nevertheless, I was invited to a callback and received a redirect in advance. I then played the role differently and booked the role.

Of course, we’re not always successful in auditions…that’s the nature of the business. However, when we bring our uniqueness to the audition, it gives the Casting Director something no one else has brought.

Check out another blog on this page about unique life experiences and how important that is to us as actors.

Be your unique self!

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