When A Role Overtakes an Actor

If anyone ever wondered whether certain roles can wear on an actor, they can look no further than this clip featuring actor Michael K. Williams.

In a recent appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show, Williams, who had a small part in the film “12 Years A Slave,” speaks on a particularly emotional scene that was not shown in theaters. In it, Williams describes being dragged on a slave ship, and after reenacting the painful event a few times, how he breaks down screaming and crying. Take a look.

I witnessed a similar event while on a film set a few years ago.

In the Summer of 2011, I was a production assistant on an independent feature film. The basic premise of the film centered on two men, one who was a terrorist, the other a college professor. In one scene, the actor who played the terrorist, kidnaps the professor and is raging mad as he is driving a cab. As we were filming the scene and re-shooting it, the actor playing the terrorist broke down at the end of the scene and began crying. Some of the crew consoled him. It was clear he had been overcome with emotion.

Intense roles like these are not easy to watch — let alone perform. Roles that involve scenes in which anger, brutality, and violence are portrayed, can often be physically and emotionally draining. That’s often when we see some of the the greatest acting performances as well. When I think people hear acting, many often associate it with ‘pretending.’ He’s pretending to be that secret agent. She’s pretending to be that ailing mother. They’re pretending to be small town citizens in a 1950s crime drama. The difference however is that acting is not so much pretending as it is becoming that person or thing while the cameras are rolling.

It’s a subtle difference that can make a good acting job be looked at as Oscar worthy. It’s why actors spend so much time researching a historical figure and spending time with those who knew them; or reading articles about an event and visiting that place where such events happened. As we’ve seen though, it’s not always easy to become someone and assume the emotional baggage that comes with that role.

After A 20 Year Hiatus Arsenio Hall is Back

Arsenio Hall made his triumphant return back to late night television this month and the initial results have been promising.

In its first full week on the air, “The Arsenio Hall Show” won the coveted 18-49 TV demographic, which is certainly a good sign. Arsenio has had on a number of well known entertainers and musical guests ranging the gamut from Chris Tucker, to Magic Johnson, to Angela Basset and Kendrick Lamar. I only got see the first show, but I enjoyed it.
I will say this however. If anyone from “The Arsenio Hall Show” happens to be reading this (and just in case you are, I’d love to come visit Los Angeles) it’s not a good look to have ads literally in the middle of a show. As a matter of fact, while ads are common on internet streams and on podcasts (Hello, ESPN) I have never seen ads in the middle of a live show. It just seems jarring, which is why I took a photo of it. Also, it just had to be McDonalds? Maybe it’s just my television that saw this, or perhaps others saw it as well, but please, no more ads in the middle of interviews.