Acting Reflections: And the Award Goes To...
It's that time of year again. The time where a select number of actors, directors, screenwriters, costume designers, makeup artists, composers, songwriters, and more are recognized for their efforts in a film, TV show, or limited series and/or special that premiered in the past calendar year. The time where we see everyone all glammed up in their extra Sunday best (or is it extra Friday night best?) and we "ooh" and "ahh" at their fashion choices (or gawk in horror). The time where we hear all of the speeches dedicating their successes and hard work to their loved ones, a special cause, or even the people in the industry that made it all possible. The time where we see hosts do their best and fail (or succeed) at making their guests and audiences at home feel comfortable and enjoy themselves in whatever capacity the night requires, primarily through comedy. Yup, you guessed it. It's AWARDS SEASON. The Golden Globes. Screen Actors Guild Awards. Critic's Choice Awards. NAACP Image Awards. The Annie Awards. The Visual Effects Society Awards. British Academy of Film & Television Awards. The Grammys. The Oscars. And not to mention the city/local area awards that occur as well (i.e. Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards, Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, etc.). They seem to be happening all at once this time of year, to the point where we are surprised that someone won that specific award from that organization after a social media share. It's easy to be caught up in the glamour and allure of awards season, especially the fashions, the speeches, and the potential performances. Or it's easy to get disgusted by the glamour and allure of awards season, especially the fashions, the speeches, and the potential performances. Yup, it's true. There are people out there who just don't watch awards shows. Why? The telecasts could be a minute or an hour too long to watch. They're showing off the seemingly 1% of people who lead exorbitant lives through their fashion choices and status. It's just a love fest or pat-yourself-on-the-back shindig with Hollywood. There's not enough authentic racial representation with the winners or the voters (or even a wide range of ages). It's not funny or entertaining enough (aka BORING). Their favorites aren't nominated for awards, so why should they watch at all? And so on. Personally, the only award show I ever enjoy nowadays is the Tonys. Specifically the performances of all of the show nominated and the people associated with bringing these stories to life onstage. It's fun seeing live theatre on display at an awards show, even if it's an abbreviated performance of the real thing. It gets me excited about the possibilities of coming to Broadway and seeing the shows for myself. Or even performing in them, if there's a role that's right for me. The same goes with the other awards, too. I always hope to be with a group of all of the people who helped make the film, TV series, limited shows/specials, and more possible because it truly does take a village to bring these stories to life. Particularly if they're high quality, heartfelt, thought-provoking, and truly something special that gets recognition from a league or academy of voters. It's a good feeling to be a part of an award-winning show or film that gets recognition and continues to stand the test of time for years to come. Can I let you in on a little secret? I always wanted to win an award. Especially for acting. I feel like the closest awards that show much gravitas were from high school when I won Most Improved Actress in 2006 at our Performing Arts banquet, and Best Ensemble at Silver Spring Stage's One Act Play Festival in 2017. That's definitely worth putting on a resume, right? Well, according to industry professionals, that's considered a big, fat NO. Even if you've received recognition from a local community theatre for a project you've done in the form of an award, it doesn't carry that much weight or prestige that industry professionals like casting directors or talent agents are looking for when to cast you in their projects. It's certainly a downer on my part. You'd think that after five years as a professional actor I would receive some form of recognition, granted I get plenty of compliments, praise, and not to mention opportunities to audition for more projects. I'm not sure if it's my technique that needs finessing, or if I'm just not that well-known to the world of the performing arts like others in my local community are. And they are just as talented as I am. Maybe I'm being selfish and petty here, and I admit that wholeheartedly. But somewhere down the road, I do want to win an award for acting. And not just because it'll look good on my resume. Even if it's just a nomination for acting. The need for me to be recognized by my community of artists is great, and it comes from a deeper place of finding & showing others that my career truly does mean something to me. But what happens after winning an award, especially after being nominated for consecutive times in a row? Do we stop, or do we keep going? Read on, and you'll see.
If you've read my previous posts, you can see how truly vulnerable I am and I don't hold much back. The same is true in this week's post. It goes back to being raised in an unhealthy household, which in turn led me to feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness because of the abuse, bullying, and emotional distress I endured for a long time. If anything, acting provided an outlet for me to release all of the fears and inhibitions that I long kept inside because of not being in a healthy environment for most of my life. Deep down, as I kept on going to auditions and failing, with a few successful casting opportunities, the times I kept on crying to my mom and her asking me if it's what I truly want to do for my life hit me like a tidal wave. There was nothing else I wanted to do. Being an actor is what made me happiest. I can do this. But maybe there was another reason why my mom's words haunted me for so long. It was not only because she was scared of the path I put myself on. But it was also MY fear of being labeled a failure or worthless because of how many times I had to prove myself to my loved ones and not getting enough love, appreciation, or respect for all I had to offer from my loved ones. If I didn't make the honor roll in school, I was deemed stupid and a failure. If I didn't graduate college, I was deemed lazy and a failure. If I didn't lose weight, I was deemed ugly and a failure. If I didn't reconcile with my sister or late father and have a relationship again, I was deemed too emotional/overdramatic and a failure. If I didn't get a job or helped out with finances, I was deemed ungrateful and a failure. If I didn't get cast in this big show or project that's certain to change my life, I was deemed worthless and a failure. And it's just about the same with all of you reading this. If you grew up in unhealthy or even unsupportive environments, chances are you had to do a lot of proving yourself to the people who matter the most to you. Even they're the people who don't seem to give a damn about you to begin with, like bullies, absent or abusive parents, strict teachers, trolls, or any of the critics out there who seem to matter to you. Like it or not, each of us has to prove something to others in order to measure our worth by how they respond or appreciate us. It's especially true as an actor. We constantly have to go to countless auditions, callbacks, and rehearsals in order to prove ourselves capable of doing what we do so well, let alone landing the job. And there's plenty of competition out there that's doing the same thing you are: proving to the casting team they are worth it to be a part of this show, film, TV show, or project that they're auditioning for. It could be for the lead, supporting, ensemble, or even background roles. There may not even be performing a monologue, a dance combo, or a 16-bar cut involved. Headshots and resumes can say a lot about what we have to prove to those behind the tables, and if we have what it takes. The roles you're most proud of, the companies/organizations, training, and what your headshot says about you can either make or break an audition or casting decision. And if there's an ultra-big project out there with the A-listers you want to audition for but don't make it past the final callbacks, or even at callbacks at all, it's certainly to be an uncomfortable discussion with your loved ones when they ask you "what have I seen you in?" or "have you done anything lately?" It's as if we have to make proving a part of our vocabulary in this business, and in our overall lives if we're to show others that our life does matter and we we can make a difference. Even if it's in a field that doesn't promise financial security 24/7. Proving. Proving. PROVING. Why the hell do we have to prove anything to anyone at all? Isn't just being who we are enough for them to be satisfied with what we can offer, even if it's not an absolute perfect representation of who they want us to be? Well, unfortunately for today's society, we are considered NEVER enough for anyone's satisfaction, whether that's in a career, romantic relationship, or even friendship. And any type of connection or relationship that we get involved in. For me, I had to do plenty of proving to people that I am worth something to them. Or what I have to offer is enough for them. And you know what's sad about this? I'm still doing it. Even to the point of doing my absolute perfect auditions, callbacks, rehearsals, and performances where I can get some form of recognition - the press, social media, well-known industry professionals, and yes, awards. I kid you not. Whenever there's a review on the show I was a part of, or a reporter, I want to be a part of it and be credited because of the one chance I get to prove to my loved ones & followers that I have worth and my career is for real. I get disappointed when I'm left out of the review, or even criticized for not being talented enough and brought this show down. It's strange, isn't it? We go into a career or job thinking that the prestige, honors, and financial security are enough to prove to everyone that we are fine where we are, and the things we love to do is supposed to convince them how much meaning it has in our lives. Especially if they're the ones that don't see it. But whenever we see the things like dollar signs, fancy clothes, benefits (i.e. healthcare and pension), fame, notoriety, and of course, the awards, we may veer off course from the center that lights us up with so much joy when we do what we do so well. Maybe that's what so many of us in our respective fields struggle with the most as we start to get going make strides, or even go full-stream ahead with our careers. Even yours truly has a problem with this. I get so caught up in the glory, fame, and even wealth of this career (or very rare cases of wealth and financial security, in this case) that I forget my center of why I do what I do so well. But here's the thing I know you're probably wondering: "What the heck is the CENTER?!" Well, to quote a dialogue from one of my favorite films: "Who are you, Jack Frost? What is your center?" "My center?"
"If Man in Moon chose you to be a Guardian, you must have something very special inside. But at my center --"
"-- there's a tiny wooden baby." "Look closer. What do you see?"
"You have big eyes...
"Yes! Big eyes, very big, because they are full of wonder. That is my center. It is what I was born with, eyes that have only seen the wonder in everything! Eyes that see lights in the trees and magic in the air. This wonder is what I put into the world, and what I protect in children. It is what makes me a guardian. It is my center. What is yours?"
"I don't know." There's a reason why you decided to go for the career which brings you the most joy, whether that's your eyes seeing the wonder in everything you do every time you work so passionately at what you do so well. Or how much hope you bring to others. Or having a sense of fun and amusement in what you do. Or how much sincerity and truth you express in your words and actions. Truth be told, it could be any of those things. And not a single one of them has the words "fame," "fortune," or "glory" involved as your center. It started out as a single moment or instance that inspired you to do whatever it takes to learn, grow, and thrive at your respective career. Not sure of what your center is? Well, it's time to look at some resources that may give you some guidance as to where your center is. And what better resource to look for the centers than acceptance speeches? Acceptance speeches? Really, Nessa? Yes, really. Not all of the speeches are focused on themselves, but rather the people, events, or places that inspired them to discover their center for what they do so well. Let's start with Emmy winner, Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). She first dedicated her win to the creator and director of the show, Amy Sherman-Palladino. And then she spoke about someone special who made this win, even her very existence, possible. “My grandmother turned toward a guard — she was in line to be shot into a pit — and said, ‘What happens if I step out of line?’ and he said, ‘I don’t have the heart to shoot you, but somebody will.’ And she stepped out of line,” Borstein explained. “And for that, I am here. And for that, my children are here. So step out of line, ladies. Step out of line.” “Everyone is talking about the strength of a woman. And my grandmother is the strongest woman I knew. She’s the most amazing person with the most amazing story. We talk about the strength of women now and it’s bullshit. These women have always run the roost and I come from a long line of bulldozers and I’m proud.” Now, let's turn to Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton, Moana, Encanto, among MANY things!). In this infamous speech, he dedicated this award to the one person who stood by his side throughout his career and the songs he breathes life into. And mentions an immensely important word that should always remain in the world. "My wife's the reason anything gets done.
She nudges me towards promise by degrees.
She is a perfect symphony of one, our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
until they're finished songs and start to play.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us that nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers.
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall and light from dying embers.
Remembrances that hope and love live longer.
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
As sacred as a symphony, Eliza tells her story and fills the world with music love and pride." Next, let's look at Glenn Close (The Wife, Dangerous Liaisons, 101 Dalmatians). She looked to the one person who raised her and opened her eyes to how much things need to change for women all over the world, no matter what they're career is. . "You know, it was called The Wife. I think that's why it took 14 years to get made. To play a character who is so internal, I’m thinking of my mom who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life. And in her 80s she said to me, "I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything." And it was so not right. And I feel like what I've learned from this whole experience is, women, we’re nurturers, that’s what’s expected of us. We have our children, we have our husbands if we're lucky enough, and our partners. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, "I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that." Now let's look at Viola Davis (The Help, Fences, How to Get Away with Murder). This beloved actress described the best place to find stories, and how this career is one of, if not the only, profession to uncover the secrets and mysteries of humanity. "You know, there's one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place and that's the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life."
And lastly, Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment, Steel Magnolias, Sweet Charity). After waiting 26 years for this moment, she ended this unforgettable speech with a powerful message for artists everywhere to live by. “Films and life are like clay, waiting for us to mold it. And when you trust your own insides and that becomes achievement, it’s a kind of a principal that seems to me that works with everyone. God bless that principal. God bless that potential that we all have for making anything possible if we think we deserve it. I deserve this, thank you." These are a small number of speeches that aren't entirely focused on themselves. They go within themselves to share what their center is in order to hopefully inspire others to discover their own, and it starts from their own humble beginnings, the people who raised & taught them, and the lessons learned from going after their heart's desire for such a long time.
It's not focused on the fame, glory, high fashion, or wealth that comes with it. It's focused on the hard-work, sacrifices they and others made for their careers, lessons from their upbringing, and the anecdotes that would hopefully encourage others watching to never give up on what brings them the most joy, which may turn out to be their life's work. Maybe it's the idea of seeing themselves on stage, screens, or on computers/portable devices that drew them into this world. Maybe it's the desire to tell authentic stories through their craft that drew them into this world. Maybe it's the people, lessons, and opportunities that came into their lives that drew them into this world. Maybe at the end of the day, they've already proven their worth through the hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and belief in themselves that drew them into this world. And allowed them to succeed on their own terms. Because at the end of the day, winning awards is one thing. Keeping going onto the next adventure and still learning, growing, and thriving is another. Their center is not based on fame, fortune, publicity, or any of the extras that comes with being on award-winning projects or opportunities which change their lives. It's the people, places, and things that helped shape their own centers, and it can be anything they want. Their wonder. Their hope. Their curiosity. Their courage. Their kindness. Their sense of humor. Their open-mindedness. Their fearlessness. Their love. Riches and glory are fleeting, but the core centers should always last forever. (It's a thrill to share with you my acting reflections for my fifth year as an actress, but I also know that these are my observations and suppositions. You are welcome to share your input on this or any of my posts, even disagree with me. But I still won't tolerate any hate speech, disrespectful language, or divisive commentary that causes harm to another individual. We need to be kind to one another, especially now. More than ever. If you can't find it in your hearts to be kind or respectful to others, I will block you.)
Maybe after writing this week's post, I can actually start to see what my center truly is. And it doesn't lie in just winning awards, being recognized, or even respected in the community. While those things are nice extras to have, it shouldn't be the driving force to keep excelling at my career. My driving force, my CENTER, stems from a deeper place. And it's from speaking and owning my truth. I want people to see how authentic I am, and the audacity I have to speak words with power and an ounce of sincerity. It can be in the new works I stumble across, or even in the classics. I'm not meant to be a copy of someone else. I tried that, and failed miserably. I'm meant to be an original. And so are you. Can I let you in on one more secret? As much as I long for the chance to win an award, the idea of it scares me for one big reason: The role I won the award for is going to be the only thing I will be recognized for, and I won't have the chance to grow and move forward in my career with other opportunities that come my way. And it may scare you, too. Think about it: After winning a major award in your career, there's the fear of not being able to work again after putting in all of that blood, sweat, and tears into what you did for that one role. Even if you go through life without ever winning any awards, never underestimate how truly talented and capable you are of stepping up the challenge of performing at your highest level. Always take the time to up your game after each project is complete or you decide to step away from a long-running show. Don't be afraid of failure. Be afraid of standing still. That can be just as much of a disappointment as anything else. And no matter what awards you end up winning... Just know that I'm proud of you for pursuing and flourishing in this career. And you are exactly where you are meant to be right now, even if it does't feel like. Knowing that you are enough and you have nothing else to prove is worthy of all the awards in the world. Just make sure your speeches come from the heart and the people, places, and lessons that helped you along the way. And have those words uplift, inspire, and even scare others to go towards their ultimate dreams. Don't hold anything back. It truly does take a village. Don't ever forget it.