I’m not an actor

The title of this post is one of my character’s lines in ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  It’s my favorite line.  I love saying it.  I say it with conviction and a genuine sense of truth and reality.  Because it’s accurate.  I’m not an actor.

Why, you may ask, am I playing a lead in my film, if I’m not an actor?  (Go ahead and say it out loud.  I said you may ask.)  When I conceived of and wrote the first draft, I had no intention of playing the part.  I did write the other lead for a friend who is an actor and a terrific one.  I was thrilled when she agreed to do the part.

What happened was this.  I brought the script into my screenwriters’ group.  We perform readings of each others scripts, assigning the parts for the purpose of allowing other members to critique the work.  The writer can also hear how the dialogue works (or doesn’t.)  Generally, the writer doesn’t participate so he or she can concentrate on listening to the reading.

Now, in my case, I’m not that concerned with me listening.  I see it this way: I already know what I think of the script.  I want to know what my colleagues think.  Get some fresh perspectives.  For that reason, I try to cast the parts as closely as I can to the characters.  We have a diverse group of personalities and some members with acting skills.  Such as my friend who’s playing the female lead.

The first time I brought the script in, I knew that the only guy in the group who was right for the male lead was me.  The part was based on my stand up persona, I’ve played that character thousands of times.  So I read the part.

Now, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I really miss performing.  I had been missing it more and more while reading parts in my fellow writers’ scripts.  This one put me over the top.  It was me.  Almost like being back in my stand up days.  I was getting laughs with my timing, my cadences, my rhythm.  I realized that I really wanted to play the part.  And I knew I could.

The truth is, I do have some acting experience.  I took acting classes at a local university many years ago.  I’ve done some theater and I did local television sketch shows when I was a comic.  I did well too.  I got cast often when I auditioned and I got good reviews and compliments from others in the shows I did.  It has been a long time though.

My friends who are on our production team tell me that I’m doing well in the part.  I will do a good job when we shoot.  I’m preparing myself and I’m a perfect match for the part.  But that’s the thing.  My other lead is a very talented, well-trained and experienced actor.   She is practicing a craft and using technique to bring a character that I wrote to life.  It’s awesome to watch.  (By the way, I am always appalled when I talk to directors who express negative feelings toward actors.  I love actors!  They’re the ones who go in front of the camera, put it all on the line.  I can identify with that and I respect the hell out of the good ones)

Now, in my case, I’m not practicing any kind of craft.  I am doing what I do strictly with my personality.  I’m playing a fictionalized version of myself.  My true talent is that I can distract you enough with the laughs that you don’t even notice that there’s no technique involved.  I’m not an actor, I’m a performer.  There is a difference.  All actors are performers, but not all performers are actors.

There was another event that made me want to get back into performing.  In March, another writer friend had a public reading of a play that he wrote.  At the last minute he needed an actor and asked me to do it.  Two days before the performance.  The character was a good one, but I wasn’t really a match.  Not a part I would be cast in.  But I agreed to do it because he’s a friend and it would be fun.  I looked for one thing about the character that I knew I could play.  He had a fiancé who had been killed in the Gulf War and hadn’t been in a relationship since.  I thought he would probably be at least a little uncomfortable and awkward around women.  There it was.  That I can play!

To wrap this up, the reading went well.  I got to work with some terrific actors, I had fun and I was back in front of an audience.  That was so good.  After, a number of people complimented me on how well I did.  Very nice.  One of the other cast members, a working professional actor gave me credit for doing so well on short notice.  He said to me, “You’ve obviously done this before”.  It was flattering.  I also found it very amusing.  Because I’m not an actor.

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