How I fell in love with acting by Mike Gomez

May 30, 2024

There’s no getting around feeling pretentious, self-conscious, and vain with a
healthy dose of imposter syndrome when I say I’m an actor. It feels like, “HEY,
LOOK AT ME!” No, really, please look at me. I act in theatre, on camera, but
mostly just in my head. When I was seven, I once stayed up all night to watch
and re-watch Seth Brundle, a lonely, misunderstood smart dude, try to seduce
a young, confident journalist by introducing her to the world’s greatest
invention, teleportation. His big eyes, eager moves and nervous charm soon
gets interrupted when he steps into a telepod, sending the shock of seeing a
common housefly locked inside with him. Disintegrating them as two and
reintegrating them as one. That night I abandoned sleep forever and became
the weirdest kid in Queens: David Cronenberg’s The Fly became my favorite
movie and Jeff Goldblum’s Brundlefly, my favorite character. From then on, I
learned what it was like to be Spider-Man web-slinging thru New York City. I
pushed my skateboard like Marty McFly pushing the pedal to 88 mph in Doc
Brown’s Delorean. I cried like the little boy crying inside Antwone Fisher at
Thanksgiving dinner. And I ran away as Simba did when Mufasa took his last
breath. I can’t climb walls or travel back to the future, but I can connect with
dramas and adventures. They take me away from myself for a short while and
when I come back, I discover more of who I already am.

An actor’s work is literally play. Playing to believe the imagination of a story to
realize what can’t be left to text and image only. In our witness of this
realization as an audience, we experience performance. There are many ways
and techniques, rights and not quite rights, methods and tried-trues in
theatrical performance. Classical or contemporary, devised and improvised.
The coveted use of method acting, to Meyerhold’s biomechanics. Kabuki
theatre and commedia dell’arte. German expressionism and post-war
modernism. Shakespeare, Stanislavski, Brecht. Adler, Meisner, Strasberg.
Memory exercises to line repetitions. Overdone rehearsals to cold single take
reads. Whatever the means of a performer, the process and work are masked
under whom we meet as characters.

Characters that leave us warm and estranged, reminding us to call our parents.
Characters denying pain, revealing our under-loved and bleeding parts.
Characters stealing our hearts, making us blush in classroom daydreams.
Characters failing over and over again, reaching out a hand to the losers we
feel like sometimes. Characters struggling to keep it together (Linda Partridge,
Magnolia 2000). Characters we hold our breath for. Characters full of love and
humor, inviting us to forgive and smile a bit more (Guido Orefice in Life is
Beautiful 1997). Characters born in darkness, characters we run and hide from.
(Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men 2007). Characters that break our
hearts and sour our eyes, characters we cry for. Characters we cry with.
Characters out of this world, reminding us to be human (Ellen Ripley, Alien
1979). Characters standing up for something, who we hope to see in our corner.
Characters so cool, so smooth, we imitate them in the bathroom mirror.
Characters so natural, so subtle, we forget they’re characters at all.

It’s in all these characters, we mostly see ourselves, and in all the actors who
play them, that mostly show us truth. Suspending disbelief for a couple of
hours, we enjoy the elaborate lies movies tell to experience truth in imaginary
circumstances. In these stories, we realize the importance of our big, tiny,
boring and fantastic lives. Giving the crazy job of communicating who we all
are to, what Sir Laurence Olivier would call, ‘silly masochistic exhibitionists.’
Or simply said, actors. One of most celebrated actors of all time, if not the
most, for curating a variety of lives in singular characters, is Marlon Brando.
Honoring his 100th birthday, this episode of Celebrating Cinema gives a nod to
the art of acting. And more than the actors who play them, let’s highlight some
onscreen characters that have made the whole dang fuss of movie making

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