LA Film Festival Wed 6.26.2013

LA FILM FEST 2013: Typecasting to Training – Advice for Actors

“My choice selection is either going to jail, being in jail, or coming out of jail. If my character is not even high, I’m excited.” So describes Andre Royo on the difficulties of being an African-American actor in this year’s Coffee Talks: Actors.

By Wendy Chuong / LA Film Fest Guest Blogger

The 2013 LA Film Fest brought together Garcelle Beauvais, Joe Manganiello, Gina Rodriguez and Andre Royo to discuss, through hilarious personal anecdotes, the triumphs and challenges of working as actors.

Gina Rodriguez opened up the panel with a discussion about being offered only stereotypical Latino roles, to which Royo followed up by listing each of the actors’ potential stereotypes rapid-fire, with Manganiello as the “big hunky dude [who] saves the world,” Beauvais as “left your husband,” Rodriguez as “pregnant teen” and Royo himself as a “junkie for life.” In the effort to play characters beyond those stereotypes, the actors discussed their training and growth process in honing their craft.

Manganiello found theatre to be the best training ground by forcing him to rely on his own interpretation of a character without, for instance, costume designers and directors to help. He likened his character interpretation process to making Jambalaya, with several different ingredients. For his role as a werewolf on True Blood, Manganiello observed wild wolves, researched dialects, and read the books the series was based on in order to get into the soul of his character to the point of being able to respond to the script and other actors instinctively.

Manganiello mentioned knowing his characters so intimately, that often he and the director are at odds about how a character should behave, citing a scene in True Blood as his example. The director asked him to deliver a line to his female co-star, and Manganiello recalled thinking, “Like some big country dude driving a truck is going to ask a girl for directions.”

Beauvais added on by saying, “I took an improv class at the Goundlings, and that was the best experience any actor can do.” The improv class allowed her to be open to script changes and learn how to respond naturally on The Jamie Foxx Show. Still, Beauvais found reading a script several times also to be beneficial in breaking down characters, adding, “It’s important that I know the words so I can let it go.”

In her own form of Jambalaya, Rodriguez found her character process to be a combination of Manganiello’s and Beauvais’. Starting in theatre at NYU, Rodriguez embodied a character by first learning how to respond naturally as that character, then reading the script multiple times and finally, picking up natural gestures.

All four actors agreed on working as much as possible, whether in feature films or community theatre, as vital to an actor’s growth. Manganiello suggested gaining theatre experience in order to build trust in yourself and your talent, thus allowing an actor the confidence to break stereotypes and do more diversified work. Rodriguez found such confidence also in her training at NYU, citing the skills she learned as a tool-belt always available for reference. Their final suggestion to aspiring actors: get out and just act. Act anywhere and let the craft train you.