How does nervous excitement affect your acting work?
“With any film and even theater, you never get over being scared and overwhelmed, because it’s a new character and that brings on a whole new set of circumstances.”
Alison Lohman is talking about one form of anxiety that actors experience – and anyone, of course.
Being scared or anxious are feelings we may try to avoid or stifle.
But there can be value in that kind of energy, she points out:
“That’s the exciting part of it – it’s those nerves that bring you to a higher level and makes you more hyper-aware.
“It makes your performance better.”
[Quotes from Hollywood Reporter, Mar 5 2003]
In an interview about her role in ‘White Oleander’ (2002), Alison Lohman talked about the kinds of anxiety many actors may experience in their careers.
She commented about facing a sold-out audience at the world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
“I’m really nervous. I’m one of those people who kind of likes to be anonymous. I don’t like attention.”
Then why choose acting?, an interviewer asked.
“There’s two kinds of actors, those who like being celebrities and those who like being private, like Michelle [Pfeiffer], for example.
“I want to be like that; I don’t want to be revealing personal stuff, which is why this (interview) makes me so weird.
“It’s like, how do you talk about why you identified with your characters without talking about yourself and your life?
“I still haven’t figured that part out, and I’ve been thrown into this. And it scares me.”
Lily Sullivan, like many actors and other artists, has talked about struggling with confidence.
“There’s always pressure. In my job, I have to be vulnerable and re-create moments that people do in private…
“I definitely battle with being confident.
“But, in a way, I can now recognize and still do what the fear is telling me not to do.”
She says her character Miranda Reid in the TV series ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ – set in 1900 – has helped her find more courage.
“Miranda doesn’t accept the expectations of women in that time…”
Psychotherapist Mihaela Ivan Holtz works with creative people in TV/Film, performing and fine arts.
In one of her articles she notes:
As a creative or a performer you know too well that moment when you have to ‘show up!’
Perhaps it’s right when you step onto the stage or when you are about to present your creative ideas to a room packed with important people.
It’s that moment when you almost feel drunk on the cocktail of your emotions – a mix of fear and courage at the same time, flooding all that you are.
This mix of fear and courage can take you right to where you hope to be – that emotional space where your feelings blend just beautifully in a powerful mix, you flow into your performance.
- See more quotes in my article Actors and artists dancing with fear and courage.
Psychologist Eric Maisel notes in his book Performance Anxiety that fear can show up even before an event like an audition, and this anticipatory anxiety may be hidden, so you don’t even recognize it.
You decide, for example, not to go to the audition, telling yourself, “Oh, I’m not right for that role,” or “I’m sure that part’s pre-cast,” or “That director’s never liked me.”
You’re as worthy as anyone else
Acting is not for the faint-hearted – even though many actors identify themselves as shy or introverted.
Author Monroe Mann says, “If you want to succeed in this business where the supply for actors is high and the demand is low, you better get any trace of negativity or pessimism out of your system from the outset…
“If you don’t think you are just as good, and just as worthy of success, as the stars, then you are doing yourself a grave disservice.”
Varieties of ways to deal with anxiety
Anxiety can show up in various ways, not just “nerves” or stage fright, and it can undermine your self-concept, self assurance and drive.
If it is too strong, maybe you should look into getting help: cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or nutritional supplements can all be helpful.
See my related site with articles, programs: Anxiety Relief Solutions