Film is a collaborative endeavor. Writers write for directors and actors. Actors act for other actors and directors. And directors direct for actors and ultimately the audience. More often than not, a singular vision is surrendered in service to a larger revelation. That mutual revelation is the miracle of movies.
In tribute to that notion of community, we continue our series of interviews with actors who respond to our monologue specific questions in an effort to bring helpful tips and insight to you. In this month’s installment, Bryan Mordechai Jackson was gracious enough to share his thoughts.
Bryan is an actor living in Los Angeles. He began learning his craft at age ten, eventually leading him into a performing arts high school and onto a degree in acting from NYC. Since moving to LA a little over a year ago, Bryan has landed two feature films, a mockumentary and a thriller, plus representation across the board from a well respected agency and management company.
Thanks Bryan for taking the time to answer the following questions!
What is your favorite movie monologue?
That’s a tough one… don’t be scared but I love villains. I think they have some of the best monologues of all time. Their warped psyches contain gobs of conflict, strife and tension that makes any situation more dramatic and palpable. The dark sides of these individuals is a proverbial playground for actors. Unhinged though they may be, there is often thought-provoking philosophy in what the villain says and believes. So, I have two favorites that I’ll share. The first is from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the devilish Aaron the Moor turns himself over to his enemies because he’s knocked up the queen (oops). Despite his sinister nature, there is a small gleam of humanity as he endeavors to save the life of his son:
The second is by Kevin Spacey from Seven, as he justifies his dark deeds.
What most attracts you to a monologue and inspires you to perform it?
Monologues with strong action or intent tend to draw me in the most. As opposed to a character just telling a story, which I think is often a weak choice for an audition especially. The character must have a strong point of view, or else the monologue is probably not interesting past 30 seconds. Brevity is also important. Short, sweet and simple is my philosophy. A monologue that is under a minute in which the character has a specific point of view while beginning in one place and ending in another is a good formula for success that I look for in the writing. I also tend to look for an unexpected twist, usually at the end to help break up the momentum and throw the audience a curve ball. Unpredictability is part of what makes monologues fun for the viewer.
Do you find a monologue more or less difficult to perform than a two-person scene and why?
Monologues are certainly more difficult in my opinion. In a two-person scene an actor is able to organically react to stimulus offered by the scene partner. In a monologue, that is often not the case. Not to mention the nature of monologues themselves are unnatural. How often do we see people actually speak in a monologue type style? Rarely. That is partially why I feel the point of view of a monologue needs to be strong, because therein lies the justification for the character to actually be talking this way.
What actors inspire you the most?
This list is quite long and borderline cliché. So I’ll just say that any actor that I watch and believe inspires me, because it’s true!
Who are some of your favorite playwrights and/or screenwriters?
Well… for the S’s we have: Shakespeare, Shaw, Shanley, Stoppard and Sophocles. See where this is goin’?! Oy.
Do you like to perform well-known monologues or lesser known ones?
Almost always lesser known monologues. Chances are the audience does not know the material, and thus do not have preconceived notions of how the performance should be. Lesser known pieces are also more malleable and can be poignant to current events, so an actor can pick specific material in a thematic sense for an audition.
When performing a well-known monologue, how much of the original actor’s performance influence yours, if at all?
Personally, I tend to shy away from observing original performances for this reason. It’s much easier said than done, though. The level of influence tends to be proportionate to how iconic the original was/is. There’s so much good material out there that some actor has not branded into the minds of the audiences. If there’s no way around knowing/observing an original performance though, the actor should do their best to make the words their own.
In your experience, how much do you think monologue choice influences how a casting director or audition panel perceives you?
I would say the choice in material is at least 20% of the equation, leaving 35% for talent, 25% for type, and another 20% for seemingly random stupid factors the actor has zero control of. It does depends on the project too. Contemporary work doesn’t belong in a classical audition and vice versa. As long as the actor owns their specific point of view in performance it can be interesting and leave a good impression with casting personnel. Even if the actor does not book the role. Ideally the character is suggestive of what the actor was called in for. An actor should also have a monologue in the arsenal that is their essence and not necessarily a drastically different character. Many times casting professionals are more interested in who the actor is as opposed to the material. Me personally, I have a monologue that’s both funny and serious very close to my own personality, and another that’s more theatrical and character focused.
What is the worst experience you’ve had auditioning with a monologue and how did you work your way through that difficulty?
One time my cell phone rang. Fortunately it was on vibrate but it was still a huge distraction in my pocket. I quickly reached in and tapped the silent button, and pressed on to the best of my ability. Now I always remove my phone from my pocket before auditioning.
Describe your best audition with a monologue and why you felt the audience responded so well to you.
It was with the monologue I use as my essence piece. The one closely representing my personality and type. It was under two minutes, both serious and funny with a twist at the end in which we see a different side of the character. I know the audience responded well because they said so while I was still in the room. They loved the piece and asked about it (which they never heard of before) and told me I nailed it.
What is the most important advice about auditioning that you have ever received from a manager, agent, fellow actor, teacher or friend?
Preparation is the key. Auditioning is a complicated beast and there are things an actor has control of, and things they do not. Thus an actor’s best chance at getting booked is to kick ass at the things they can control. Memorization and responding to the given circumstances of the monologue/scene is a good place to start. Being comfortable and professional in the room is also key, as actors are being judged on how they carry themselves. Try entering the room wearing a smile. The casting folks are usually nervous too and smiling while giving a brief general hello helps break the ice. Being prepared will help relieve anxiety so the actor can be more themselves and/or someone else. It’s much easier to be spontaneous and unpredictably interesting when the actor is comfortable with their preparation and themselves.
If you could only choose one monologue to perform what would it be?
It’s from Jack and Jill by Jane Martin. It has served me well for many years.
Any words that you personally would like to share with your fellow actors out there?
The monologue is one of the most essential and difficult skills of developing one’s craft. It is at its core a great test to the actor. To be alone and yet responsible for carrying many along a journey. It is born of an almost unnatural need and makes up the raw building blocks of interesting performance. Even material with two or more characters frequently speaking are a kind of monologues unspoken. The monologue often brings the subtext into the realm of literal dialogue, which is a dangerous proposition considering how much we think but do not say.
If you’re having trouble unlocking the meaning of a particular bit of dialogue in a monologue, rest assured that when you do find the answer, you’ve often found the golden nugget of the monologue’s performance.
Most actors should have at least three monologues at their disposal, if not more. Comedic, dramatic, character and classical are all broad categories to consider having material ready for.
Thanks again to Bryan for his fantastic insight on the craft of acting. If you would like to find out more about Bryan visit http://resumes.actorsaccess.com/bryanmjackson or http://www.imdb.me/brymjack.