Rainn Wilson discovered acting in a high school drama class, then moved to New York to study in NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, notes a new Los Angeles Times article [Revenge of the nerd, By Fred Schruers, March 22, 2007].
He “filled the next decade with theater work, including Shakespeare and off-Broadway, but he found that world even phonier than Hollywood.”
The article quotes Wilson: “It’s all under the auspices of, ‘We’re all artists trying to bring these great plays to life’ — that’s pure hypocrisy. Like with movies, it’s who you know, what makes sense for the box office and if you’ve got a name that will sell tickets or drum up some publicity.
“There were certain theaters that wouldn’t even let me audition after working that hard and that long there — roles that I was perfect for.”
The article adds that Kathryn Hahn, his costar in ‘The Last Mimzy,’ thinks “Rainn radiates confidence. I think the experience in New York fortified him in that way. You either say, ‘I’m not going to chase after this anymore,’ or you say, ‘Dammit. I’m better and smarter than the rest of them.’ And I think he chose ‘B,’ and I’m so glad he did — he’s an unbelievable addition to our pop culture vocabulary.”
[Photo: Hahn and Wilson in “The Last Mimzy.”]
It’s not enough to have talent
Larry Moss [acting coach to Helen Hunt, Hilary Swank, Michael Clarke Duncan, many others] says about some of the career-building aspects of getting seen and known – especially based on looks:
“There’s a lot of fantasy about acting, that if you’re attractive and meet the right people, you can have a career. That’s true to an extent, but that can be a nightmare, because the person that gets it on looks alone, they end up a disaster…”
He also commented, “Stella Adler, a teacher I had in New York, said it’s not enough to have talent, you have to have a talent for your talent. I think that means going to classes, working on your voice and body, reading great plays, novels, history… you have to have an ability to understand people, and understand life.”
See more of his quotes on Acting page 4.
Also see his book The Intent to Live: Achieving Your True Potential as an Actor.
Not “working out” by actually performing on stage or on camera, or not even being allowed to audition [like Rainn Wilson mentions] must be a major hurdle for emerging actors.
But other artists also have the need to “be seen” and show their work. Not getting that can lead to deep self-criticism and self-doubt.
Creative & self-critical
As I note in my article Being Creative and Self-critical, criticism can be destructive and self-limiting, eroding our creative assurance and vitality. Many creative people, even when they have achieved recognition for their talents, may experience self-critical thoughts and insecurity.
Engaging in a creative venture often brings up questions and uncertainties related to personal identity: Am I qualified? Do I have enough experience, strength, talent, skill? Will the work be good enough? Will I be good enough? [More in my article Identity and Creating.]
All that may be especially true for actors.