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What's My Motivation?
December 2000

Last issue I discussed what carried more weight on the show: the script, the directing or the acting. I had said it was the writing and that the actor had to work with what the script and the director requested of him. Here are some further questions I've received since then:

How does an actor's perspective on his TV role change when he's also a writer?

I don't think it changes his point-of-view of the character, because it's understood that after a while of performing the role, the actor should have a handle on how the character would react to certain situations. Whether the plot idea is his own or that of the producer, the actor will write a script with the hope that he will give as good a story as any script writer, while keeping true to the characters. In the end, even if the idea is the producer's, the actor has a chance to put his own spin on the story. The producer can change it, but it's still a chance for the actor to project his perspective.

How about as a director?

Most actors want to direct, because they feel they know the character better than a director who is not an actor. More so in the past than now, there would be actors who would complain that directors were people who never acted, and hence never knew what it took to delve inside a character. The end result being that they just never understood what the actor saw - and never connected with the character the way the actor did. These days more actors are directing and the relationship is more of a team effort.

There's a lot of passion in acting, a lot of emotion. Many actors love the field because they can connect emotionally with the characters. In many cases it's an outlet, a way to connect deeply with something and have people be touched by it.

So a good director will know this and tap into it, working with the actor to convey the idea. For example, a director might say to the actor, “Okay, you're a firefighter working at this blaze for six hours. You're tired, but it's a part of the job and you live for this. It means something to you to get the fire under control. And now you're told that you have to go back into the building. You're tired, hungry and hot….” Then the actor does the rest, using those influences to help him dig deep within himself to draw out the emotions needed in that scene, all the while keeping within his character's persona.

I think this is where the phrase, “What's my motivation” comes from. Essentially the director's job is to set the right mood so that the actor can delve into it and make it real.

How about when a producer is acting?

The producer-actor has the ultimate power on a show. In this case, not only is he the producer, he also stars in it and comes up with the ideas for how he would want it to progress. The only people he'd have to respond to is the network and/or the studio. So he knows exactly what he wants in his character, and it gives him more control and freedom to express himself. Sometimes that could cause a clash with the director, but if the producer chooses wisely and in his favor, he and the director can get along very well.

So there's plenty that an actor can bring to the role of a director and even a producer that he feels might be more inline with what the characters need in a production.

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