As part of my ongoing quest to explore what it means to live a creative life, I periodically invite kick ass creatives to come play with us on the blog. First, I ask them five questions about creativity, and then they get to ask you something…
… and that’s when the real fun (and wild generosity) begins.
All the World’s a Stage (or a Starbucks), and Kids Aren’t Really Weird… plus, our biggest, shiniest giveaway yet!
I met television and film actor Eric Naroyan on Twitter when he was giving my bathroom makeover video two thumbs up. Because, yeah, I did that. I filmed my bathroom redo as part of my Beckoning the Lovely project, and right about the time I was wondering if maybe the video was too long and way too much information, Eric said it was the best movie he’d seen all year. (Okay, that’s not exactly what he said. I’m paraphrasing… but I’m sure I have the sentiment right.)
I asked Eric to play with us not only because he’s smart and funny (you should follow him), but because actors have to be creative on cue, muse or no muse, and that’s badass. When I asked him for a bio, he gave me a list – a list! Be still my beating heart! – and I knew he was my kind of
- When I told my family that I was going to become an actor, their response was “you’re so funny…are you being serious?”
- My first big co-star role was in Season 7 of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and the entire day of filming was cut.
- I screen tested at Warner Bros. for a super secret film and the casting director said to me “You look so much like our lead. In fact you look too much like our lead.” Damn you Mr. Bean!
- Moments before filming a scene on a well-known daytime drama, the star of the show told me, “I’m not saying any of this (and scratched out his lines with a pen), just follow my lead.”
- Most actors want the big roles… I love the small roles and could be eternally happy landing “under-fives.”
- I’ve written two screenplays and I’m hard at work on my third.
- I’m a bit snarky…that comes through in an upcoming national holiday commercial this winter.
- I truly love my agents – Annette Robinson and Jenn Costa at Artistic Talent.
- I’ve been married for 19 years and my wife swears I love our dog more than her.
j: Life is demanding. What are your tricks for getting into a creative space?
Eric: For me, finding that creative space is a combination of inspiration, focus and the unknowing participation of others. A lot of the work that I do as an actor is observing people, their quirks, and how they react in everyday situations. I watch (without being creepy) and squirrel away certain things that I myself would not normally do, but someone who I’m playing on stage or screen would absolutely do. In fact, right now I’m watching a woman wait for her drink at Starbucks. She’s tapping her foot, arms folded. The Barista just called out a drink for someone else and the woman let out a huge sigh with a spin move. That’s gold!
In any given week I could have as many as three auditions and each one, no matter how small or big, requires the same preparation. There’s a hundred other guys (in commercials, a thousand) auditioning for the same part, and I want to bring something very real to the casting session.
A few of my tricks? A great cup of coffee, a busy location with a comfy chair, and whatever character I’m trying to capture will always be part me and part someone else within earshot and my line of sight. As for life’s demands? Priorities! Do you want to land that co-star role or clean the gutters? And as for distractions, I’ve become very adept at holding a serious conversation with a look of concern on my face while running lines in my mind. Shhh.
j: What’s the weirdest thing that inspires you?
Eric: Kids (“Weird”, because I don’t have any). There is an unfiltered truth to children that we “mask” as we get older. When kids get upset, they cry and they confront. When (most) adults get upset, we fume, boil, try not to let others see how we really feel, and occasionally “lose our shit.” I watch great actors and they always have both the truth and the mask. Kids also have a sense of fearlessness in the way they react in public. That is a very inspirational place for an actor in a director/producer callback.
j: How do you deal with critics?
Eric: Actors are ten times more brutal on themselves than any critic. I’m far more comfortable with constructive criticism than I am with compliments. I’m a realist, and I know that if I have any shot at getting better, it’s about listening, changing and making adjustments. As far as criticism coming from a destructive place… it fuels me.
j: What energizes you, solitude or engagement?
Eric: Engagement without a doubt! I’ve had the chance to work with amazingly talented people, some big name stars and others that I know will become huge. There’s no better feeling than having a director say, “I really liked that, let’s check the gate.” For me the ultimate energizer is improvisation. Being on stage in front of a live audience and not knowing what is going to happen… the only thing that comforts you and energizes you is the fact that the audience wants your best, and you’re surrounded by people you trust, admire and share the same sense of humor with. That 30 minutes is like a shot of adrenaline that lasts for months.
j: A bad script, a portable chalk board, a feather boa and 16 cans of coffee beans (1 of which is filled with beans excreted by the Asian Palm Civet): What will you make?
Eric: Oh Judy you make this far too easy! The first thing that comes to mind is a British game show we would watch on PBS late night called “Russian Tea Roulette.” Six of Great Britain’s most well-known socialites are gathered in a living room setting for a game of high stakes charades. They’re split into teams of two and begin playing a double elimination structure. The camera continually cuts away from the game to an English butler brewing four cups of Earl Grey and three cups of coffee, one of them being the “special blend.” It’s a game of nerves as both members of the losing team must choose one of the three cups of coffee in hopes of avoiding the unpleasant aftertaste while the winners look on enjoying tea and freshly baked scones.
Now it’s your turn. Here’s Eric’s question for you:
What’s the one thing in your life that you love, you use daily, you take for granted and would be crushed if it were gone tomorrow?
Answer in the comments section (or just say hello), by Friday, December 7th, and Eric will pick one commenter to win a $100 gift card to www.Kiva.org, an organization dedicated to alleviating poverty around the world. (I’m totally giddy about this giveaway. It’s huge! It’s Eric’s idea and his funding. Not only is he smart, funny and badass, he’s fantastically generous. Go to Kiva and check it out.) The winner will have his or her choice to fund any micro-loan(s) they deem worthy!
Seriously, how cool is that? (Tell me in a comment, so you have a chance to win!)