My friend Warren Ellis wrote a fantastic short story called Dead Pig Collector, and today I get to record the audio version of it. I’m not sure when it will be released, but if you wanted to hear me read you a new story, now you know that you can look for it in the Mysterious Future.
When I was a kid young actor, I got by on my instincts and ability to take direction. As I got older, I began to realize that instincts only go so far, and I felt a need — a very strong need — to formally study the craft of acting, and to gain a deeper understanding of the art. I spent years studying in various programs, most of them based on the Meisner technique. I learned how to break down scenes into beats, how to understand what my characters wanted and needed, and how to make emotional and intellectual connections to my characters, as well as the other characters in the scene.
One of the fundamentals of Meisner is “keep it simple.” It’s something a lot of inexperienced actors don’t do, because they (understandably and incorrectly) believe that unless they are doing something with every line, every beat, every reaction, every moment, then they are not acting. The trick is that almost all of acting is reacting to things going on around you, and letting those reactions happen naturally, through the lens of your character’s needs, wants, fears, expectations, and circumstances. The very worst thing for an actor is to get caught acting, so the other trick is to know all of that intellectually, and then let it all go so it happens emotionally, naturally.
I have nearly three decades of experience performing as an actor in all sorts of productions, from dramas to comedies, from stage to television, from period pieces to contemporary ones. I feel very confident in my ability to do the work an actor needs to do to be prepared and to create a believable character. I haven’t always been in fantastic works of art, but I’ve always done my best to bring something meaningful to the piece, and do justice to the writing (the number of actors who don’t understand or respect that the thing we’re doing existed as a thing long before we ever held the pages in our hands, and should be respected as a result, is staggering).
I’ve been working on The Big Bang Theory this week, and I’ll be on Stage 25 Monday and Tuesday next week, before I return to my corruptible, mortal state on Wednesday. This is the first episode I’ve done (and I’ve done a bunch) where I finally feel comfortable as an actor, like I know what I’m doing, like I deserve to be there, like I’m not going to get cut for screwing up the jokes. You see, all that stuff I said about being an actor? It’s true, but working on a show that’s shot in front of an audience is fundamentally different from everything else we do as actors. I was talking with John Ross Bowie today about it, and he said, “single camera and theater can not prepare anyone for what it’s like to be on this stage when the audience is in the seats,” and he was right. I often tell people that it’s like playing baseball: it’s very different being in the outfield than the infield, even though you’re playing the same game.
Today, during our run through, I pushed a line too hard for some reason, and after the scene was done, Chuck Lorre reminded me that I didn’t need to do that. “This is one of those times when you can just let the words do the work,” he said. He was right. Letting the words do the work is the difference between a scene being funny and obnoxious, sentimental and sappy, clever or obvious. It made so much sense to me, and even though it was something I knew, it was something I had forgotten. It was like putting a quarter into an old videogame (let’s say TRON) that you haven’t played in years, and after dying on the light cycle level, realizing that you remember the pattern, but had forgotten it because you didn’t need it until just that moment.
I’ve been an actor for as long as I can remember, but in recent years, the majority of my creative life has been spent writing and producing. I’ve been using different tools in my creative toolbox, and I was grateful to Chuck for reminding me where I left the tools for this particular job.
- Anne: The weather guy just said there’s a 70% chance of rain tomorrow.
- Me: I just checked Weather Underground, Weather.com, and the Weather Channel. They all say 79° and sunny.
- Anne: Yeah, I just checked that too. I think he made a mistake.
- Me: I think he’s the worst weather guy ever.
- Anne: I think he’s confused.
- Me: Yell at the TV that he’s a stupid dummy.
- Anne: …
- Me: He won’t hear you, but he’ll know.
… the best part of my life began.
Happy anniversary, Mrs. Wheaton. I love you the most for one thousand times.
I have an official award, fuckers.
About a year ago, I cleaned out my garage. I came across dozens of artifacts of a life spent in the television and film industry, as well as clear evidence of my love for nerdy things going back to my earliest years on planet Earth.
I posted pictures of that stuff on Twitter, and I’ve been meaning to collect them all here ever since, but … reasons.
Today, though, I am back in the garage getting everything out of it so I can have it converted into a clubhouse for playing tabletop games, Rock Band, and poker. I’m also putting my homebrewery in there, guaranteeing that it will be the most awesome thing, ever.
I’m almost done. I have probably two more hours of work, so I’ve been peeking into some of the boxes as I move them out onto my patio. This picture was in a box that’s filled with similar memories:
I love that I found this. I have a lot of great memories from working on Toy Soldiers, and the people you see in this picture (and our awesome director, Dan Pietrie, Jr.), are the reason.
That’s me from 1977. Please note that I’m wearing my grandmother’s fancy gloves to complete the look.
I really like Uber, and I’ll take Uber over a taxi every single time I can. I really like being in a clean car, with a friendly driver who genuinely cares about my experience, because I’m rating them and that matters to them. Basically, they work a little harder to give me better service, and I pay about a 5% premium for that.
Earlier this week, though, I took Uber to and from the Stone Company Store in Pasadena, and both drivers gave me this aggressive sales pitch that made me very uncomfortable. They both wanted me to contact them directly when I needed an Uber car, so they could drive to wherever I was, wait for me to request an Uber car, and then they’d answer the request.
Both times, the pitch was a very hard sell, accompanied by boasts about their clients in Bel Air or Beverly Hills, and left me feeling like I’d rather not ride with either of these guys again. When I’ve hired a driver, I just want that driver to get me where I’m going safely and comfortably. I don’t want to feel like I’m getting a high-pressure sales pitch when I’m basically a captive audience.
I’m putting this out there because I want to know if this is happening to anyone else in LA or any other cities? Is this some new kind of official Uber policy? Or did I just happen to get two seemingly random guys who were working off of almost the exact same script?
We’re having work done on our house, and today they’re in the attic over my office. It’s so loud I can’t think in there, so I’m in my bed with my laptop, still in my jammies at 1:30pm. Talk about dressing for the job you want! I’m living the dream, surrounded by my very happy dogs and one very unhappy cat.
Our cat, Luna, is all black, so she spends October 28-November 1 inside every year, for her safety, because some people really suck. This doesn’t really bother her on the 28th, but by the middle of the day on the 29th, she makes it really clear that she hates us and would very much kill our faces in our sleep with murder death.
Now, because of the loud work in the house, and the construction crew walking in and out the front door, Luna is confined to the bedroom with me and the dogs, where she can let everyone know how truly and completely pissed off she is.
For much of the last hour, she has: tried to lay down on top of my hands while I type, made pancakes on my stomach while showing me her butthole, groomed my beard, bitten my chin, hissed and swatted at two of our three dogs (which Marlowe thought was an invitation to play, which was quite a disappointment to them both.)
Now she seems to have temporarily tantrumed herself out, and she’s at the foot of my bed, pointedly facing away from me, ears shoved back in righteous indignation and furious anger.
And people wonder why I’m a dog person.
Anyway, I’ve just taken a break from writing to watch some YouTube, including one of the most important videos I’ve ever seen from John Green. It’s something I needed to see today, and I think it’s something at least some of you will want to see, too. Take a few minutes and watch it, and I think you’ll be glad that you did.