Thu 6.26.2014

Olivia Munn Shares the Secrets of Acting Success: Talent, Hard Work and Hope

“What we do…It’s a love affair we have.” – Alfred Molina

Part two of the recent Los Angeles Film Festival’s Coffee Talks series was sponsored by SAGindie and focused on the craft of acting. The panel featured four funny and talented faces from the film and TV world.

A room filled mostly with actors were treated to an hour-long conversation featuring panelists Alfred Molina (who is also celebrating his new movie Love is Strange, featured as a Gala Screening in the Festival), Olivia Munn (HBO’s The Newsroom), Demián Bichir (The Bridge, Weeds) and Abigail Spencer (Rectify).

All the actors began by revealing their “when I knew” moment, recalling how acting became integrated into their lives, and the inciting incidents that sparked their career paths.

Alfred Molina admits to being a very nerdy child and not really having a place amongst the other kids in school. When he was 9 or 10, he decided to join the drama club and join the rest of the outcasts. While it was a trade he fell in love with immediately, he confessed, “I was a terrible actor, but a relentless show-off.” He went on to say no-one in his family cheered him on to pursue acting and that his father told him “movie-stars don’t look like you.”

Olivia Munn is part of a big military family and is first-generation American, so she definitely didn’t find support from her mother and father when she expressed interested in the Hollywood dream. She was one of several over-achieving children, who all went on to find success in very practical industries, and she was forced to go get a “proper education.” After majoring in journalism at the University of Oklahoma, Munn got an internship at the NBC affiliate in Tulsa. This jumpstarted a career as a side-line reporter, but deep down she just wanted to move to Los Angeles and chase her dreams of acting. Finally, her mother granted approval.

Demián Bichir was the only panelist who came from a theatrical family that supported his acting passion. Both of his parents studied theater and put Bichir on stage at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico at a very young age. Bichir had other career aspirations, namely professional soccer. His father once told him, “I know you love soccer, but never forget theater loves you more.” Bichir went on to find success in theater and film in Mexico, but struggled when he moved to New York to pursue a professional American career. After a breakout role in Steven Soderbergh’s Che, Bichir began to find success in the states.

Abigail Spencer is the daughter of five-time U.S. Surfing Champion Yancy Spencer and didn’t experience any discouragement from her family, although she admits her father had hopes of her following in his footsteps and becoming a surfer. Spencer got her big break in 1999 when she landed a role on the soap opera All My Children, but says she struggled for a few years after that because working in that aspect of the industry “left a bad taste in her mouth.”

All of the actors agreed that the profession features some of the most insecure personalities, and that’s part of the gig. It’s a profession with ups and downs, uncertainty and endless competition, and Munn dished to the crowd a dose of reality stating, “Just because you want it, doesn’t mean it works out.” She finished that thought by adding that if you want to work in this industry, be willing to compromise and not always chase the leading roles or let your ego get the best of you. According to her, the three things you need to succeed are “Innate talent, the ability to work hard and the hope that one day, the stars will align.”

Spencer reminded everyone that “there’s not a finish line,” and to be open to the journey. Constantly wanting to learn and grow as a person can only strengthen your abilities as an actor.

Molina says he still gets extremely nervous, especially on stage, but there’s nothing else he could ever imagine doing. He expressed all aspiring actors should “Love this job, and eventually it will love you back. What we do… it’s a love affair.”

Chris Lombardi / Intern Blogger