What Actors Want

Occasionally, while watching a show, I'll remind myself that when actors look at a script, what grabs them isn't necessarily the same thing that grabs us viewers.

It's the different between production and product.

For example, there may be an episode with an incredibly important minor character, so important viewers become attached to the character. But page-wise, the character actually doesn't have that many lines/scenes.

Another complaint for many actors is "I didn't get to emote!" No sob scenes happened in the episode; the actor didn't get to show off his/her skills.

I can somewhat sympathize with these reactions. For the actors, the script represents a job/money. But I really respect someone like Jerry Orbach who said, of Law & Order, "It's a lot more fun for actors to cry and rant and rave, or have a drug problem or a drinking problem. Once in a while I get jealous of people who get to do real histrionics. But that's all right. That stuff's only about awards. It's not about people watching. People are very loyal to our show, and they want to see the case resolved in an hour."

I think this is possibly the coolest quote ever. And underlying this quote is a very important truth: the product (episode, movie) may actually benefit from a restrained performance; quite often, a non-histronic performance may result in something far more deep and emotional than would have been produced IF the actors were able to "showcase" their talents. In fact, "showcasing" (look what I can do!) may actually result in a WORSE product.

But trying to make this clear to actors must give directors a complete headache.

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