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Adventures In Acting - Perfection?!

Updated: Dec 29, 2023


This month's collection of acting-related thoughts and feelings:

 

Did someone order pyschopath?
BTS pic from the multiple award winning "Dead on the Vine"

 

"Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection."

Mark Twain - Writer of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"


 

Perfection - In Acting:


As if such a thing exists in acting!

Yet it seems appropriate to ponder on its role in the actor's (and all artists') "process".


We can often use that word senselessly:

"That dinner was perfection"

"The acting in that scene was perfection"

"This song is perfection"


Do we actually mean perfection or do we mean we really like it?

That thing felt like just what we needed to see/hear/taste in that moment.......


Maybe perfection is impossible to achieve but it’s good to try to do something good right?


The smart thing might be to have something clear to aim for in our work, even if we never achieve it, in fact it's usually better when it doesn't quite go as planned.


The 2 most heard statements in an acting class after I've witnessed some great work are:

"That was intense!" or

"That was unexpected!"

Isn't this as it should be? like great sport or any memorable moments in life?!


Sometimes the outtakes are just better!


As mentioned in April's Adventure (Practise in Acting) the common saying is "practise makes perfect" but practice makes…. better hopefully.


As Ansel Adams says:

"Perfection is the enemy of the good"


Ideally good acting training gives you clarity on what not to do and helps know which questions to ask yourself.


or as Thomas Kuhn says:

"the answers you get depend on the questions you ask"


Working/playing well decreases the chances of disaster and increases the potential “success”* on average.

*not completely messing it up.


So it's not actually perfection we should be seeking but some spontaneous, connected behaviour with clear parameters.

 

With that in mind:

After a long break, due to scheduling and world events, Cold read class is back thanks to popular demand, this time with cameras!

Working with page and partner we find what is already there in the scene and play with all the elements, relationship, backstory etc.

Best part is that it's all captured with a multi camera set up and you get the footage after class.


 

What's my motivation?


This month's scene is chosen by Writer/Director and all round go getter Dan Sloan.

See Dan's work (including "Made It" feat yours truly) here.


Dan says about this scene:


"This is vintage Succession, perfectly illustrating Kendall's desperation (and faux hubris) to fill papa Logan's gigantic shoes.

The way this plays out against Jerri's careful counsel is gold. And in a show famous for its "fuck off's", this features one of the most excruciating responses to one - or lack thereof."


Notes (for the 3 people that haven't yet watched it):


Succession is a gripping drama about the power struggles within the wealthy Roy family as they vie for control of their media empire. The show delves into wealth, ambition, and family dynamics, presenting morally ambiguous characters in a captivating narrative.


Also did you know that "succession" is derived from the word "success" and if you want to read more about the concept of "Success in Acting" click here after finishing you reading below.


Click on the video link below and then check my short interpretation underneath:

(Please be advised this scene contains adult language)


This "negotiation" scene is a real gift for any talented actor, as here Jeremy Strong gets the opportunity to convey Kendall's internal struggle to both assert his authority and gain validation from his formidable father, Logan Roy.

The layers of struggle and determination that Strong brings to the table are palpable, as we witness Kendall's relentless pursuit of success while battling the insecurities that lie beneath his polished exterior.


I will just look at what Jeremy Strong is doing in this scene although honourable mention to the brilliance of J. Smith-Cameron as Gerri who perfectly (or very cleverly) plays the anxious eyes of the audience with superb subtlety.

I'll refer to him as Jezza below, as if we used to play rugby together at school.


The moment before Jezza accepts the call we see Gerri's reluctant agreement that he should be a "bastard" for the duration of the call, so we are already prepared for some good old cringe worthy behaviour.


It's almost immediately excruciating how he starts the call, by standing up, letting out a deep sigh and uncomfortably leaning on the swivel chair like a child playing adult.


The first of many power plays is when Mr Polk (played by John Ottavino) suggests Jezza start the conversation, to which he responds by shooting a look that says "this poor guy" to Gerri, establishing that the performance is for her too.


Just to highlight:

Notice how the nervousness of Jezza is captured within the frame.

With no room to pace or change position we are informed of the heightened emotional state via the incessant finger tapping, blinking and facial gestures.


Now then, feeling in the zone and in mid flow Jezza is on a roll with big words and cooperate speak so is constantly checking in with Gerri for approval, which isn't obvious if at all present.


Crunch time comes when the issue of payment in full arises and with this Jezza resorts to a sort of "but come on man, really?!" approach which is less tough bastard and more "please don't take my lunch money".


Everything intensifies as Mr Polk's position is becoming less and less flexible and more solid with every passing second.

In a last gasp attempt to prove himself Jezza indicates to Gerri that he has a trick up his sleeve.......


His "trick" is swearing apparently! oh dear!

Gerri's eyebrows nearly shoot up into her hairline before.....


Maybe the most uncomfortable 30 seconds of silence ever?!


Skin crawlingly, stomach churning, fidgety, scratchy silence.

Whole civilisations are built and fallen in the space between words here.

It's an all out ouchy!


Gerri can't even look at him.

The call is ended with a stern "Good morning!"

We are left with the burning ashes of this "bastard" portrayal, which by all acoonts was a resounding flop on opening night, not making it to previews.


I'll end the observation of this scene here although i could wax lyrical about Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy (who joins after the call and who I would actually kill to play his part, so so good).


In conclusion, Jeremy Strong's portrayal of Kendall Roy in this scene is fascinating.

His performance showcases Kendall's multifaceted personality, capturing both his ambition and vulnerability in a way that for me as a viewer was when i actually had some sympathy for him.


Going from cocky, through rocky to shocky is one painfully delicious 3 min roller coaster of feelings.




Have a short scene you want to see simply analysed?

Click below to send link to scene:



 

Any acting related news or questions email me:


Thanks for your attention - and stay playful people.

Tom


 

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