Am I Right… that actors pretend for a living?
Absolutely. We dress up and play pretend as a job. So why should we limit ourselves with regards to who we pretend to be? Why should we tell some stories and not others? Shouldn’t a great actor be able to transform into anyone? Totally. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea. And you already experience this all the time.
You probably know what your “type” is already. If you’re getting callbacks for Shylock this season, Hollywood is probably not going to call you to play Batman in the next reboot. That doesn’t mean that you’re not talented enough to deliver Batman’s scenes with truthful feeling and smart choices. You most certainly could. But could and should are not the same. You get that. You get how type impacts how we tell stories.
You know that two nearly identical actors could walk into a room–the same height and build, the same hair and eyes and skin tone, even the same outfit–and bring two totally different attitudes into the room with them. That attitude, that vibe, that essence has just as much to do with your type as your physical appearance. Where does that essence come from? Lots of places, for sure.
Realize there is another layer to your type beyond your physical appearance, your general vibe, and personality. Your type also includes all of your lived experiences. You carry them with you always. They may be invisible to you, and you may not even be aware of how they influence you. But they are there. And they are just as relevant as your type in how they impact the way you tell stories.
“In response to the common comment ‘it’s called acting’ – people largely accept that a certain authenticity of performance comes from drawing on lived, felt experience,” Shinn said. “For example, Mark Wahlberg has often played violent characters, so it’s not a surprise when you look into his personal history and discover that he was sentenced to two years in jail for assault when he was younger.”“The fact is, actors do more than ‘act,’ they draw on who they are to create real and compelling people. To act is really to mix acting and being,”
“The “it’s called acting” claim is, make no mistake about it, an argument for the status quo, for tradition, for the denial of opportunity, for erasing race. It expresses the thinking that gives awards to people who pretend to be disabled on stage and screen, while making it difficult for people with disabilities to attend cultural events, let alone be a participant in creating them. It is the mentality that loves West Side Story, but cries foul when songs sung by characters who speak Spanish are translated into and performed in Spanish.
“It’s called acting” is the response of those who perceive their long-held dominance, their tradition, as threatened, their own position as being at risk. “It’s called acting” sustains systemic exclusion. After all, as the saying goes, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality looks like oppression.” Privilege abounds in the arts, on stage, backstage and in the seats.”