Episode 289: A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Joseph Pearlman is an acting and performance coach for Hollywood celebrities, musicians, and comedians—he helps his clients launch their careers and reach Oscar potential on set. Joseph also coaches presenters for all the major award ceremonies, including the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes, and Independent Spirit Awards.
Some of his clients include Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Amy Adams, HBO, AMC, TED Talks, Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions), Sian Clifford (Emmy nominated for Fleabag), Iliza Shlesinger, Eugene Simon (Game of Thrones), Skylar Grey (five-time Grammy nominee), Sherri Shepherd (The View), Alex MacNicoll (Transparent, 13 Reasons Why), Leon Logothetis (The Kindness Diaries), Michael Welch (The Twilight Saga), Julian Sands (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Cameron Douglas, and many others.
In addition to his work with performers, Joseph helps world leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, executives, and other industry leaders develop charismatic confidence, within seconds, for maximum impact on their audiences. Joseph had the pleasure of coaching Dr. Joanne Liu throughout her campaign to be the first person to win two terms as International President of Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Joanne has been on the front lines of epidemics like the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
Joseph Pearlman is also a contributor at USC’S Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), McGill University’s International Masters for Health Leadership (IMHL) executive program, TED, United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO), and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Joseph is a regular contributor to Inc. Magazine and Backstage Magazine.
Joseph’s Acting Academy was voted “Best Acting Studio” in Los Angeles by Backstage Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Joseph’s work with actors was also recently recognized by The Huffington Post’s national cinema, theatre, and art critic James Scarborough, and he was named one of the industry’s “Top Ten Acting Gurus.”
— SCROLL BELOW THE TRANSCRIPT TO SEE THE PODCAST PLAYER. —
- How acting is so much similar to embodiment work.
- You don’t have to sacrifice everything to be an actor.
- How to determine what will set you apart as a coach or an actor.
- Am I too old to be an actor?
- “You are so much more powerful at creating your path of an actor than what you think.”
- The limiting beliefs and stories that actors tell themselves
- “If it feels good, do it.”
- The fear-based herd mentality actor info that’s prevalent.
- Personality is 90% of the performance.
- “Show people what they didn’t know what they wanted yet.”
- Acting is you under the influence of the character.
- The mistake actors make is, “how am I supposed to play this character?”
- No character or scene description is something you ever have to obey.
- The markers of “good” acting:
- If it’s not fun, it’s not working
- It’s effortless
- Creating Impact
- You feel like you
- Joseph Pearlman’s thoughts about having managers/representation.
- Why Madelyn felt the burden of scarcity in the actor world.
- Must-read book: You’re on an Airplane by Parker Posey https://amzn.to/2vqid37
Connect with Joseph:
COACHING: receive personalized, 1:1 coaching from Maddy Moon to create your own feminine and masculine embodiment. Heal your heart, build confidence, create an online business (if that’s a goal!) or simply feel happier. Apply here: http://maddymoon.com/coaching
FEMININE SPIRIT SCHOOL: this school is the one-stop-shop for all things feminine energy! If you’ve been wanting to embody the feminine but feel stuck on the how, this program will take you through the entire realm from start to (well…we’re never really finished, are we?). Learn about the feminine/masculine, shadow sides, ancestral healing, boundary setting, empowerment, sensuality and sexuality, sovereignty and so much more. Sign up here: http://maddymoon.com/feminine-spirit
READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT
Madelyn: Welcome back to the Mind Body Musings podcast. This is your host Madelyn Moon. I say welcome back, but this might be your first time. You may be completely new to the Mind Body Musings podcast, and if that’s the case, welcome to the show.
A little bit about the Mind-Body Musings pod: we have been around for — this year will be the sixth year. I have had guests across the board to talk about hypnosis, tapping, feminine and masculine, loving your body, healing your body from amenorrhea and PCOS.
We’ve talked about near-death experiences. We’ve talked about what death and mortality can do to the love you experience in any given moment, just acknowledging that could happen at any time. We’ve talked about building businesses and loving yourself sexually, sexuality, loving others, polyamory, monogamy. We have talked about the gamut of life. But you know what’s one thing we haven’t talked about, and we haven’t dug really deep into? Maybe there’s been one show on this, but not nearly enough. And that is acting.
This year I started acting. I guess now it’s last year. Around the spring of 2019, I began acting, and I began acting because I realize how incredibly similar acting is to embodiment work. And the work that I do in the embodiment space, feeling the feels, letting them come up through my body, letting my body move me, letting pleasure ripple through from head to toe, letting grief fill every vessel, every cell, letting my rage, my Kali Ma rage — like the kind of rage that you stick out your tongue, breathe hot air like [breath] and just let your body care about something so much, that you’re not going to settle for anything less than what is the best.
Rage that comes from that place is good, and it’s real. It’s intuitive. It comes from somewhere deep within your heart. And guess what’s just like that — acting. Acting is incredibly similar to embodiment work and just feeling. You pair up feeling something with lines, with telling a story, and most importantly, with you — how lines, how the story, how everything relates back to you. And acting has been a way that I have, just like with embodiment, been able to find new parts of myself.
Playing a character who is more shy or more coy, or a character that is a little bit more reserved, it helps me access that part of myself that is reserved and is coy, that I wouldn’t be experiencing if I just walked outside on the streets as Madelyn. I’m not going to experience that because in those moments I’m related to myself as all the stories, all the preconceived notions I have about who Madelyn is. Whereas when I have a container to go into a different part of myself, I’m really still me.
I’m seeing how I, as a nurse, or as a cop, or as a lawyer, or as the best friend who’s cheating with her best friend’s boyfriend, I’m experiencing what it be like if me, Madelyn, did these things. And I’m also giving myself full permission to step into those aspects of myself. That’s what’s so great about acting and having these containers. Just like embodiment, it gives you a time, and a place, and a safe container to say, “Okay, for the next three days when I’m filming, I’m going to be totally stepping into this murderer, and I’m going to feel what it’s like to be a murderer head to toe, and access that part of my heart.”
Madelyn: What would I need to do in even real life to be pushed to the edge, that I would commit murder? What would need to happen? Knowing that you’re doing something for a role or for a particular purpose gives you that permission to go into that part that’s already there, that part within you. We talk about the light and the dark a lot in this podcast. We talk about being an angel and being a devil, being a protector and being a killer, being heart-open, being-heart closed, being in depression, and being in relation.
You have to have both. You cannot just have immense joy and not also know immense grief. Acting helps you to access deeper parts of yourself on the spectrum that you wouldn’t normally go to. Most of us are living our lives on this very steady straight baseline. It’s like, “This baseline, this is me. This is everything I know about myself. I’m a daughter. I’m a lover. I’m a coach. I’m an author. I am kind. I’m brave. I’m courageous. I’m dedicated,” all these things we pick and choose of what we are.
If something is not on that baseline, that list of characters that I don’t resonate with personally, it’s most likely not going to be something I’m accessing every day. There’s a part of me that does not get access, for example — let’s say the bitch, just a bitch energy. I’m not someone who’s — let’s use crazy bitch. I’m not a crazy bitch, so I’m not going to be going psycho on my ex-boyfriend’s ass when he’s not answering the phone. On a daily basis, I am not doing that.
I am pretty reserved when it comes to matters of the heart in that way, and I might close off more. So if I were to play a character for a short film that is a crazy, psychotic, ex-girlfriend bitch, then I’m going to give myself full permission to go into those places in me, that might be scarier to go into without that container. A lot of times people don’t go into these different parts of themselves, because they’re afraid of what they’ll find. They’re afraid of what they will find, and they’re afraid of what it will mean.
Acting is a way you can step into these parts of yourself, without having to overthink it. You’re not going to be overthinking like, “Why am I doing this?” Well, you’re doing this for the role, so that’s taken care of. Regardless, you’re doing it. Regardless, you’re getting into it. And if you’re really truly acting, not just pretending, you’re also feeling it, which means — uh, life hack. You’re going into these parts of yourself. You’re doing embodiment work, and you’re doing the acting. How cool is that?
I’m bringing on someone today to the Mind Body Musings podcast who is one of the first people that I discovered in my acting career — I’m going to use that word — who totally blew me wide open in self-belief, just like, “Wow, I can do this, regardless that I’m 28 and just getting started; regardless that I didn’t go to acting school. I can do this. I can do this without a rep, without agents, without a manager. I can do this, and not only can I do this, but I can love this, and I can succeed and create an acting career with it, a full-fledged successful acting career.” That’s what I want. It is within my grasp.
And all those stories about, “Well, to be an actor you have to struggle. You have to get by. You have to live with five roommates,” or, “You’re going to have to bend over backward and be in an emotionally manipulative relationship with an agent,” none of those things are true. You don’t have to do any of that. Unfortunately, a lot of actors are doing that because they don’t know any different. They haven’t met someone like Joseph, who we’re going to talk to today. Potentially their first mentor told them, “Well if you want to be an actor, you also need to be ready to sacrifice everything,” and that’s not true.
Madelyn: You can have a healthy love life and a family life, and you can make lots of money and be successful. You can have a side business or a full business. You can do a lot of things and be an actor. Depending on how deep you want to go into the world, you may need a give and a take, because the deeper the no, the deeper the yes. If you deeply want to say yes to something, you do deeply have to say no to all the things that aren’t that. And when I say all the things, I don’t mean you can no longer be in a relationship or work out. I mean stop scrolling on Instagram aimlessly, or stop listening to the voice of fear when you have, just as accessible, the voice of love and the voice of courage.
So today Joseph is going to teach you — yes, you, everyone listening to this, regardless of whether or not you are an actor, or you’re even interested in acting — how your personality is what makes you unique and different. And I talk about this on the show all the time in the world of coaching, the lens of coaching, that if you want to be a coach, the thing that’s going to set apart from others is your personality — the same with a writer, the same with a speaker.
Anytime someone is creating something, and they’re looking around and saying, “Well, so-and-so created something just like it. This person did that too. Why even bother?” Well, that’s because your personality, who you are, your quirks, your love, your interest, your disdain, your anger, what keeps you up at night, these are the things that make you, you. And these are the things that determine who your friends are, how people see you, if you’re going to be a successful actor or not — being yourself.
So that should take off a very big weight, especially to all you actors listening to this. You’re going to love this episode. If you have an actor friend, anyone who’s taking acting classes, send them this podcast episode.
Joseph Pearlman is an acting god. In reality, he is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and he is an acting and performance coach for Hollywood celebrities, musicians, and comedians. He helps his clients launch their dream careers and reach Oscar’s potential onset. Joseph also coaches presenters for all the major awards ceremonies, including the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes, and Independent Spirit Awards.
Some of his clients include Zooey Deschanel, Amy Adams, Ridley Scott, Sian Clifford, Iliza Schlesinger, Eugene Simon — who was in Game of Thrones — Skylar Grey, Sherri Shepherd, Alex MacNicoll, Leon Logothetis, Michael Welch, Julian Sands, and Cameron Douglas, along with many, many others.
In addition to his work with performers, Joseph helps world leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, executives, and other industry leaders develop charismatic confidence within seconds for maximum impact on their audiences. Joseph had the pleasure of coaching Dr. Joanne Liu throughout her campaign to be the first person to win two terms as the international president of Doctors Without Borders. What? That’s amazing.
Madelyn: Joanne has been on the front lines of epidemics like the Ebola crisis in West Africa. That’s so much pressure, to have to take the podium, and speak, and lead such a big crisis. Wow. Yeah, okay, a side note on that. That’s just amazing. Joseph is also a contributor as USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Doctors Without Borders, McGill University’s International Masters for Health Leadership executive program, TED, United Nations, World Health Organization, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Oh, my goodness. He is a contributor to the world.
Last but not least, Pearlman Acting Academy was voted best acting studio in Los Angeles by Backstage magazine’s Readers Choice Awards. Joseph’s work with actors was also recently recognized by the Huffington Postnational cinema, theater, and art critic James Scarborough, and he was named one of the industry’s top-ten acting gurus. You’re going to find in just a moment that he is charismatic and charming, and really just kind, which I find very refreshing, now being in this space for a little under a year, which is not long at all yet.
I am a student, and when I get into something, I really dive deep, and I go in immediately all the way. And I’ve met a lot of teachers already, and some of them are pessimistic, and some of them are discouraging, and some of them are just downright harsh and cruel because they can be. Because even if they are that way to get what they want, with their egos involved and some manipulative tactics, actors are still going to be eating out of the palm of their hands, so they abuse that.
I’ve heard stories of managers having somewhat narcissistic and emotionally abusive relationships with their clients, and their clients kind of just bend over backward, and do whatever they say, and don’t ask for what they need, and don’t set boundaries, because they want so badly to succeed. And that’s heartbreaking, and I’m really grateful for Joseph for bringing in his love, his love as a father, and as a teacher, as a coach, as an actor, as all the things that he is.
And he’s fueling the acting space to bring more love to it, because entertainment is a way that we connect, and we feel joy, and we feel free from the burdens of our day-to-day life. And we want to make sure that people who are providing such entertainment — the directors, the actors — that they’re feeling good, too, because when they feel good, we feel good. So get ready for this exciting, exciting interview. Put on your acting seatbelt, and let’s head on over.
Madelyn: Joseph, is it so good to have you on the Mind-Body Musings podcast. As I was telling you before we hit record, I have a friend — someone else who I actually had on the podcast before to talk about transformation, and life, and growth, and sensuality, lots of fun things we talk about on the show. He was getting into acting, and I was getting into acting, just last year.
And I had this concern, that we will definitely need to get into today, about, “Am I too old? Am I too old? I don’t have representation. I’m not a child actor. I’m 28 years old. Is this even worth getting into?” And he was like, “Forget all of that. Just read this article and listen to this podcast,” and all of it was by you, and thank god. First impressions are everything, and I think my first impression into acting, so to say, was you. It immediately made me feel like, “Okay, let’s make this fun. Let’s try it out. Stop with all the fears, and let’s just dive in.” So first, just a piece of gratitude for what you do in anchoring people in having fun in the acting space.
Joseph Pearlman: Thank you, Madelyn. Thank you very, very much. That was beautiful. I am honored to be on your podcast, and so happy to hear that something I put out there helped somebody else. That’s all I want to do. So thank you very much for inviting me on. I’m really excited to not know what’s going to happen next and go on a fun little adventure with you. And I love what you said. I just wrote it down, “First impressions are everything.” It’s something we can pick up on later, but I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s beautiful. I think that’s so in life, and also in acting. So thank you very much.
Madelyn: You’re welcome. It’s so interesting, because if I had read any other article really — we don’t know, but if I had read another article that said something like, “Well, unfortunately, if you’re new to acting, in this day and age you probably aren’t going to get started,” I might have, at that moment, that day, been like, “Never mind.” But instead, I didn’t read anything like that. I read something that was like, “You can do this on your own.”
One of the things that I always see whenever I’m searching for you, or doing my homework on the articles you’ve written, is about how you can basically create — you are so much more powerful in creating your acting career than what people think. You are not helpless. You can make it happen how you want by doing different types of things, doing different work that you’re not going to be reading about in most articles about, “This is the path of an actor,” which sets you apart from the rest.
Joseph Pearlman: 100 percent. You can reject all of that — I’ll call it crap because it’s crap, because it’s fear-based. It’s limiting. Someone else has an agenda when they’re saying that kind of stuff. I’ve worked with actors who I’ve helped to get their careers up and running in their 80s, in their 40s, in their 50s. Pardon my French, but that there is so much bullshit going on there, and I believe it is a lot of like I said, fear-based advice spread actor to actor.
If you listen to casting directors who teach acting, there are ulterior motives there, and you’re going to get a lot of weird bias. So I like wiping the table clear of all this stuff that is limiting. I wrote a piece once called Why You Should Stop Listening to Other Actors, not because — they’re the most wonderful people. It’s just there’s a lot of fear-based advice being spread actor to actor. Yes, first impressions are everything, so I’m really happy that you came across that piece when you did.
Madelyn: Yeah, me too. That’s one of the things we’re going to talk about also, are stories. I notice that there’s a lot of stories actors tell themselves. Before we get into that, tell us about how you got into showbiz, so to say, and the work that you do now with actors.
Joseph Pearlman: I know you will, but hopefully you’ll pick up on this story thing. I think it was the writer Yuval Noah Harari that says stories can be really poisonous sometimes when we get attached to stories. Don’t get too attached to the story. I can’t remember what it was he actually said, but something like that. Please remind me of that. I grew up in Boston with a mother who taught at Harvard Business School, and a father who was a psychiatrist — you know, a very sort of academic family, surrounded by musicians and doctors.
It’s a very sort of academic pressure-cooker environment, but a really interesting growing-up experience in Boston. I always just gravitated towards theater, acting. I was a bit of a naughty child and acted out in any way that I could. It’s lucky I made it through the school process. So yeah, I didn’t study acting until I went to New York University. I went to an all-boys New England prep school high school that didn’t have really great acting or film department — as a lot of those places tend not to — and got into New York University.
At the time I think I was so naive that I didn’t even know that I could, when I was a junior, go to college and do only theater and acting. So I got into New York University, was at New York University, and then went to study at RADA for my final year there. Then I moved to Los Angeles after I graduated for a year when I was around 23 years old and interned with a cousin who is a long-time casting director. Her name is Nancy Nayer. She was named head of casting at Universal Studios by the time she was 21 or 22.
I was an intern for her for that year, when I went to L.A. after I graduated NYU and completed that RADA program. I sort of learned the casting business but was really miserable in Los Angeles. It was so far removed from everything that I knew, everything that I was comfortable with back east. So I went back in about a year and was lucky enough to become a member of the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge at Harvard University.
And then after that, I moved to Brooklyn, moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn, and started a theater company called Mandala Theater Company, which was sort of a neighborhood fixture. We had the support of all the neighbors. So I did theater. I wrote. I directed. I acted.
Madelyn: How old were you here?
Joseph Pearlman: I believe I was maybe 24, something like that, 23 or 24-ish.
Madelyn: Wow, that’s so ambitious for being 24, I think.
Joseph Pearlman: Thank you. I wish somebody had said that at that point, because I felt like, “What am I doing with my life? I don’t have it all figured out, and I need a job.” There was also a huge part of me that, after — academia was not a very fun thing for me. I don’t think it was very healthy for me. There was this need to remove myself from that type of environment. I think for a good year to a couple of years, I really just kind of caved in a little bit. I just spent a lot of time by myself. I did a lot of reading.
It was just not the best environment for me, so that’s when I started the theater company and was trying to do things on my own terms a little bit more. Anyway, I met my wife on the streets of Park Slope, Brooklyn, which is a whole other story for another day. It was a very cool experience. We bumped into each other randomly. She was doing an interview for an NPR station in Vienna, an NPR-like station. She interviewed me on the street. We bumped into each other again randomly a couple of months later.
She came back to Park Slope. We bumped into each other again, and the rest is history. So I met her. It was maybe around 2003, 2004-ish. And I had an opportunity in Los Angeles. We got married in Big Sur, California. We ultimately moved to Los Angeles in 2004 for a gig, and then stayed here. I always had a knack for helping actors on the side when I was New York University and RADA, just sort of helping them work through their scenes and their performances.
I interviewed for a job at a small boutique acting studio in L.A., and I got the job. That was the first — I had no thought that I was going to be an acting teacher or an acting coach. I didn’t necessarily want to do that. I thought it would be a good way just to sort of get involved in a new city, as I’m just trying to find my legs. So it was this wonderful small boutique acting studio, where I sort of cut my teeth working with actors.
We had a young Ryan Reynolds, a young Amy Adams, a young Zooey Deschanel, and Sherri Shepherd. And it was like Skylar Gray, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter. I just sort of worked with these folks — they were young at the time — for some years, and ultimately decided to start my own studio a couple of years later. Again, the timeline is — I’d have to ask somebody who thinks about that stuff in a better way.
I started my own studio, and a lot of those folks stayed with me, and I just built up the studio that I currently have, just word of mouth, just helping actors, actors referring to other people. I started writing articles for Backstage, never did any advertising at the time. It was just to help actors get results after they were working with me, and it just took off and grew from there. I don’t want to bore you with —
Madelyn: No, it’s such a beautiful arc. It’s such a beautiful story of how one thing led to another, and you allowing yourself in that journey to have it unfold and see where your heart was going, what was feeling good.
Joseph Pearlman: Thanks, Madelyn. You know, it presented a lot of synchronicity events. I think it’s beautiful, the way you just said it, just unexpectedly and surprisingly feeling good, triggering all of these beautiful synchronicity moments. I look back on it all, and time doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s just these beautiful connections I made with these wonderful people over the years. And here I am, and I don’t have anything figured out. I just know if it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, maybe sit back and think about whether you want to be doing something or not. Yeah, that’s kind of what happened, and it brought me to today.
Madelyn: Okay, amazing. So let’s go into these stories. I want to hear a little bit more about the stories. You, having worked with people like Zooey Deschanel — which I just love her so dearly. When I do sing, which is very rare, I channel my Zooey Deschanel voice. She’s the closest voice that I can get to, that I enjoy the way that I sing as her, her type of singing. Which also, again, I was listening to the podcast that you were on today.
You had said something. You were talking about how you want to be the type of actor to make bold choices, so that eventually people say, “I want to have a blah-blah-blah type,” and Zooey Deschanel became that actress that — she had told you that now she’s looking at papers where there are auditions, and people are writing, “I want to have a Zooey Deschanel type,” which I think is so beautiful, especially the part about making bold choices.
Joseph Pearlman: Yes, okay. This is a great thing to talk about because it’s at the heart of everything with regards to acting. I tell people all the time — and again, there’s a lot of information that’s spread actor to actor, fear-based — I call it herd-mentality information — that you should really wipe off the table. One is that you sort of figure out, “What’s my niche? What’s my type?” Well, you know, 100 other actors could have that niche, could have that type.
The thing that you’re really trying to figure out is high-level marketing and branding with regards to, “What’s the thing that nobody else can compete with? What’s the thing that you do that nobody else does, that someone’s going to have to create a type for?” I believe personality is 90 percent of the performance. The person you are is 100 times more interesting than the greatest actor you could ever hope to be. I believe it wholeheartedly.
For some time, Zooey, she projected this sort of nerdy, indie, dorky kind of thing, and I think a lot of folks didn’t really know what to do with it. And it wasn’t obvious that that was the thing that she’s going to use, and her reps are going to use to sell her when they pick up the phone. But there was a time where — I really knew that Zooey made it some years ago.
I was putting her on tape for a feature film, and she kind of looked bummed out when she walked in the studio and we were about to start our session. I said, “Hey, Zooey, what’s up? You seem a little bummed.” And it was before TV became as big as it was, and she said, “Oh, I’m just doing so much TV right now. I’m doing a lot of TV.” I think she had just done Weeds. “I haven’t done as much film work as I wanted to do, and my reps just gave me this.”
She had a piece of paper in her hand. I said, “What is it?” She handed it to me, and then she sat down. On the paper was the character description, and it said, “Looking for a Zooey Deschanel type,” and she’s like, “See? What I am supposed to do with this?” For whatever reason, she was — I don’t know what — too expensive or booked out for that time. But they had to find a second-rate copy of her because they couldn’t work with her. And I said, “Zooey, you made it. You’ve just shown people something they can’t live without, that they need to get a copy of.” It was kind of a beautiful moment.
Madelyn: And she was bummed by that?
Joseph Pearlman: I don’t think she really realized the implication of it. She wasn’t ungrateful for the opportunity and the work that she had; it was just she wasn’t doing what she really wanted to sink her teeth into at the time, and saw, “Here’s a role. Why can’t I do it? Why do they need someone who’s a Zooey-Deschanel-like actor to do this?” It was one of those confirmation moments. One of my favorite quotes is from Diana Vreeland, former editor of Vogue. “Show people what they didn’t know they wanted yet.”
It’s like, “What is that thing, personality, behavior? What are your core values? What do you stand for?” There’s a lot of questions I go through when I work through this with actors. What’s the thing that somebody is going to fall in love with? And it’s not the obvious things, and I think a lot of actors are sort of chasing the niche, and the type, and all that. I see that as a potential dead-end.
So yeah, her personality is really everything, and it was something I saw oozing from her from the first moment I met her. I feel like everybody has that potential. Part of what I’m doing is — let’s clear away the brush, the bullshit, the stuff that we’ve kind of masked it with. There’s a beautiful Shel Silverstein quote that I love. I’ll read it very quickly. “Underneath my outside face there’s a face that none can see, a little less smiley, a little less sure, but a whole lot more like me.” And yeah, I get that.
Madelyn: You can’t have that smile.
Joseph Pearlman: Every time I say it, I’m reminded to take a breath, that it’s okay. I can put down what I think I should be saying or what I think I should be doing, and just do me, just be myself.
Madelyn: That brings up another question. Let’s say that you’re going after a part, and this part has a character description. It’s a woman who’s torn between two worlds, this or that, and she has this history and past, and two children left at home. And she has to work this job that she really doesn’t love, to get by. You really get into this character’s head. You can feel what she’s going through. Then there’s the moment you go into the audition, where you’re bringing all of this, quote, baggage that you’ve created for the character, Sherry.
And you want to bring yourself into it too. Whenever I go into classes, and I sit down, and I’m hearing the teacher talk about really breaking down who the character is, and then I go in, and we do a test audition. And then I bring more of whatever I am, my quirky self, a little bit humor to it. And then afterward the teacher may say something like, “But that’s not what this character is about. This character is about,” blah, blah, blah, “this thing, and a lot of you all missed that.” I’m confused right now as a newbie actor, of being like, “Okay, I bring myself. But also, if I’m bringing myself, am I actually acting as that character?”
Joseph Pearlman: This is a really good question. It’s you under the influence of the character. Under what conditions would it be possible for you to feel that, for you to be that? And I think the mistake is to think like, “How am I supposed to play this character?” Or, “I want to do justice to the writing.” Of course, you want to do justice to the writing, but you’re not playing yourself. It’s you under the influence of it. We’re all human animals, capable of relating and identifying with a whole breadth of experience that we haven’t even had yet.
One of the most important things to do when you first get a script is to immediately let go of your idea of who you think that person is. Your best choices are never going to be found in the script, and this is where a lot of teachers, and a lot of classes, and a lot of methods really miss the boat big time, and where we pick up the slack. I’ll say to people, “How often in life do you say — the words you say, how often are those words a match for what you feel and what you mean?” Not so much.
Sometimes yes, if we are matching our words to our feelings, but a lot of the times no. We’re these human animals, so we say things that are a mismatch for what we feel, so why are you making choices based on the words in the text? There was a beautiful quote, and it sets the stage for what I want to say next. It was Martin Landau. I want to see if I can grab it. It’s right here.
Martin Landau said, “In a well-written script what people say to each other, the dialogue, is only what a character is willing to reveal, willing to share with another person. The 90 percent he or she isn’t willing to share is what I do for a living.” That doesn’t mean you’re going rogue and bending the character around you, but it means that you are figuring out, “Under what conditions would it be possible for me to be this loving person, or this hateful person, or this vindictive king or queen?”
Joseph Pearlman: Not because you’re a son of a bitch, or a bad person, or you as a human being are capable of doing that. It’s this healthy exploration of finding the thing. The best choices are never going to be found in the text, but they’re going to be born from it. A lot of actors will make an understandable mistake of looking at a character description in an audition, or looking at a scene description, and thinking, “Oh, those are my acting instructions,” or, “I need to obey that.”
Let me say this. No character description, no scene description, is ever your acting instructions. They’re not to be ignored, but they are in no way for you to obey. As an example, let’s say you’re playing a doctor, or a lawyer, or someone in the military. The trap would be to play her doctorly or lawyerly or to have an idea of who you think she is, before allowing that incredible discovery to go through you. And finding the thing that you ultimately will hear the producers say — the producers, when they actually book an actor, they’ll say something to the effect of, “It wasn’t at all what we were looking for. It was nothing like what anyone did. It was better.”
You’re elevating the art, versus obeying, fitting in, backing off. So yes, and we find our way in with the work. What I do with the actors is I do this really fun exercise called I am one who… where, Madelyn, all you need to do is to say the words I am who and just to start to talk as her. And I start to guide the actors to these emotionally hot moments, and within seconds I could say to you, “Do you feel like you’re acting?” And they’ll say no. I say, “Is it fun?” Yes. “Does it feel like yourself?” Yes.
So yeah, I’d be so thrilled for you to come to watch the work sometime, whenever you want, because I love talking about it, but I love even more showing people. And it’s this incredible discovery where you use your words to create the reality of the character, and all of a sudden this incredible thing emerges at the end of the work. Like I said, that will never be found in the text. I’m not knocking anybody, but I think there’s a higher art form; there’s an elevation to the art that I don’t think a lot of people get.
There’s the next level to it, a creation/discovery level. I always tell actors this. I think acting classes wherein half the class you watch your performance, is a big mistake because it is not necessarily healthy for every actor to be watching or force-fed their performances. Great actors know the work is great because they feel it. You want to be trained to feel it, never to have a teacher say what they think you should do, or comment on what wasn’t working.
And the markers are this. It’s very simple. I want to give a gift of telling you and your audience what this is. Great actors know the work is great because they feel it, and these are the four things that you feel. One, you ask yourself — and it’s binary. There’s no thought as to, “Is it this, or is it that?” You know immediately. One, if it’s not fun, it’s not working. Cathartic, empowered, invigorated, alive — whatever your version of fun is if it’s not that if you’re not feeling that, something’s off. Number two, if it doesn’t feel effortless, it’s not working.
Madelyn: Oh, I love that.
Joseph Pearlman: Your best acting, Madelyn, should feel as easy as if you were playing yourself, just like the conversation we’re having right now. I do not have to put effort in to be myself, and nor do you. It should feel effortless, and that’s terrifying for actors who expect every moment to feel like birthing a calf. I always use that horrific image, but to feel every moment should feel like squeezing something.
So, one, it should be fun; two, it should feel effortless. Three, you should have an impact. Effect change. Find an opportunity to surprise your partner, because as Hitchcock said, this is everyday life with all the boring parts cut out. So to have an impact, it’s like, “Are you standing behind a piece of plexiglass just yakking to somebody? Or are you stepping in and causing the color in their face to change? Are you pushing, pulling?” Impact.
And last, your best acting should feel like you. It should feel like your version of it, and that’s the differentiation. You’re not playing yourself, but you’re leaving your mark on it. You’re doing your version of it, not the way you think it’s supposed to be. That’s really doing justice to the writing. It’s elevating the art and doing your version of it, not playing yourself. It’s so fun. It’s such a fun thing in practice. I hope it’s as fun hearing about it or having this conversation. I’m hoping it will be.
Madelyn: Oh, my god, yes. I mean, absolutely for me on this end of the spectrum, I’m just loving the anchor of remembering this is to be fun. For me, especially being new, that’s why I’m just doing it. I’m not, “Should I do this? Is it a waste of time? I don’t know,” none of those thoughts ever pop into my head. Every audition I go to, I’m having a great time. This world is so new to me, so I feel very lucky in that way, that I haven’t been doing this for many, many, many, many years.
While that would still be great, and it would probably serve me very well to have that much experience, and to be more in the industry, at the same time I can see the bright side in that everything is so new and shiny, and different. My inner student gets to really play right now because I’m learning from people like you about this industry, and how it’s actually very similar to my day-to-day life in the embodiment work that I do, and being a coach.
Everything you’re saying about, “What is going to set you apart, being an actor, is who you are,” is the same thing in the coaching world. There are so many coaches. What’s going to set you apart from the other coach? It’s your personality. It’s the same exact thing, and it should be effortless. If you’re doing certain things in your business that is not fun, why are you doing it? Because your audience will smell it. They’ll feel it. They won’t want to hire you. It’s all so related.
Joseph Pearlman: I think a lot of actors feel like they’re supposed to suffer. They’re supposed to endure abuse. They’re supposed to take that. And that will do more to shut your career down than anything. Let me just say this right now, just to kind of clear the desk. There is nothing that will limit you or your friend, should you truly love acting, from having a career if you want it, especially today. It’s always been that way, but especially today, where the content is limitless.
Whoever’s listening to this, at whatever age you’re at, know that it is possible to launch your career in a fun and meaningful way, at whatever age you’re at. I think it was years ago, the ’70s or so, that Gene Hackman started his career in his 40s. Let that stuff go so you can fly and have fun with it. Honestly, that kind of stuff — how is somebody saying something like that useful? It’s not. It says more about where they’re at. Really anything is possible if you truly love acting. I wrote a piece about that once. Do you truly love acting? Okay. It kind of flushed out some folks that were like, “Wow, I don’t think I really love this. I think I’ve just been doing this on autopilot because I feel like I’m supposed to not let go of this thing that I once loved that I don’t.”
Madelyn: Martyrdom then. It becomes martyrdom. It’s just like, “Well, I’ve got to do it because that’s what I’m here for, and I’ve put so much time and effort into it.” I want to make sure that I ask you about this, about managers, representation, because I needed to hear this message. I know so many other people listening to this need to hear this message. I am really hooked on the idea that it’s better to have representation, and managers, and an agent, than it is not to have one. What are your thoughts about having reps?
Joseph Pearlman: I would say it’s the opposite. I think the thought that I need to have reps, or actually trying to run after reps and get them, can do more harm than good. It’s something that — reps do not make an actor valuable, and here’s why. I wrote a piece called Why You Should Stop Looking for Representation, and this is what’s going on. Some years ago I noticed this trend. Why are some actors going out for 50-plus major film and TV auditions a year, and some actors who are just as talented, who have reached that Olympic level — because it’s not enough to be good; you have to be great. Why are those actors only going out for zero to seven major roles?
What’s the difference? Well, here’s what’s going on, Madelyn. 99 percent of all agents and managers are not going to do the one thing that’s necessary to get you into an audition room and to compete for roles. They’re not willing to pick up a telephone and pitch you. 99 percent didn’t know that it was their job to use a telephone, and the 1 percent, the wonderful reps, the agents and managers that do, would never think to not use a phone.
That’s the only way they’re able to have careers as agents and managers, because those 99 percent of reps that don’t use the phone, never knew that they were supposed to, are afraid to pick up the phone, and do the equivalent of just kind of throwing gum on the wall and seeing what stick in the form of submissions. Actors will just feel that somehow they need to find reps — and that also sometimes releases them of responsibility for doing it on their own, because you can.
You actually have to do it on your own. No great rep is going to want to be sought after by an actor. They’re going to want to feel like they came across them in a synchronicity type of way, whether it’s through a referral or seeing their work. What I’m doing with the work is I’m saving actors from wasting ten years of their life by just singing with some agent or manager that they pursued, and then nothing happens. They go out for zero to seven major roles a year. So it is possible.
Here’s one of the biggest misunderstandings as to how this industry works. An actor feels they’re supposed to get an agent or manager, and then once they have an agent or manager, they’re going to be getting them auditions and doing all the heavy cutting, and that’s not what happens. What I’m helping the actors that I work with do in the career work is realize that casting directors don’t cast actors.
They have a very important job to do. They bring 1,000 people down to 20 or 7 and show those people to a production team — writer, director, producer — and they make the final casting decision. Where I think a lot of actors make a mistake is in thinking that casting directors are this magic pill, and the agents are this magic pill, to getting an audition and having a career. Simply getting an audition and going to that audition, preparing it, is one out of twenty ways to get a role.
Joseph Pearlman: Here’s the higher level of the game. You need to, when you’re at your Olympic level — because again, it’s not enough to be good; you have to be great — be very clear about what you want to do, just like in life. You don’t want to be a part of someone else’s boat wake. You want to be clear about, “I want to be a series regular or a series lead on a single-camera Netflix or cable comedy, or a gritty cable or broadcast network.” You want to be very clear about what you want to do, Madelyn, and who you want to work with.
Then there’s a right way and a wrong way, but there’s a very right way to build and maintain game-changing relationships with the actual production company, executive producers, writers, directors of the projects you want to work with. And to be able to maintain those over the months and over the years, so that when you do get an audition, you’re coming to that audition already on the support of a relationship with the production company.
A lot of actors who go on these auditions, it’s an exciting thing to get the audition, but they don’t realize they’re competing in this bigger lottery, that they’re even going to be seen by a producer after they go to an audition. You don’t want to play those odds. You want to be someone who is known to the network, known to production before you go to a casting. Then do the best job that you can possibly do in that audition to stand out, and then have a tight follow-up game. So there’s this whole other level to it that’s not so apparent.
Again, if you read some of the articles or listen to some of the actors, some of the industry chat, there’s a whole other level. Those are the actors that I’m helping to actually compete for every role they’re right for, to build relationships with production, Madelyn, where they’re going to get into the casting mix months before it ever gets to a casting office. They may even get preselected or cast before it ever goes to a casting, and it’s very exciting.
And to do that work, like I said, the first step on that journey is to very clearly know what you want, to know what shows are out there, what genres you’d like to be a part of, to know whether you’d like to work on Lost in Space or Succession — specifically what you want. And within 30 to 60 seconds it’s possible, on a telephone, to build a game-changing relationship with the office of a major writer/director/producer that you’re then going to be able to follow-up with throughout the year, almost like putting your finger on the pulse of what they’re gearing up for, long before it ever gets to casting.
And not only that, becoming more familiar to them, and they become more familiar to you, et cetera. I just really do want to illuminate that there’s this whole other way that it works, so you don’t have to play this herd-mentality cattle call, “I hope I — “ You have more control, and I think that’s a great thing if you understand. And also, I think it’s so exhausting to do all the things you’re supposed to do, to think about sending out mass mailings and postcards and pursuing agents and managers.
One of my favorite quotes was a Seth Godin quote. And Madelyn, I could just keep talking, so just jump in, but I’m going to share this quote with you. Seth Godin said something that profoundly impacted my life some years ago, and I share it with my clients. “Effort isn’t the point; impact is. If you solve a problem in three seconds or three minutes, it’s art. And if you move 10,000 pounds of granite, sorry for your callouses, but you haven’t made art, at least not art that I’m going to connect with.” That’s how I see this work.
Joseph Pearlman: Steve Jobs said once, “The ability to use the phone properly separates the doers from the dreamers,” and it brings me back to the fact that most reps never knew that it was their job to get on the phone. And the reps that do always tell me, “Joseph, we make hundreds of phone calls for our clients every week.” The highest, the biggest, the best agents and managers in Hollywood, that 1 percent or less than 2 percent, they use the phone all the time.
One woman who I’ve been working with for years said, “I’d say 1 in 20 phone calls yields a high-level audition, and 1 in 100 auditions at a small boutique management company will yield a booking.” Now, imagine if you don’t use the phone if you’re just sort of submitting actors through breakdowns online. You’re just playing a lottery, and you’re better than that — not you, but one is better than that, to put one’s career chances into this sort of lottery model. So I would love to be the first person may be to say that you don’t have to participate in that.
There’s another way through it, and it actually frees you up the emotional space to learn how to be the best actor you can possibly be. I think another thing that folks lose track of is — a lot of places want to train the actor to prepare the piece sort of in the hall before they go in, not realizing that when you walk into a room, or when you pick up a phone to pitch, to introduce to a writer/director/producer, they’re going to want to interview you as a person before you as the actor.
Because what they’re trying to figure out is — are you fun to play with? Are you someone that we can personally like? And vice versa, you should be sussing that out too. And not only that — is there zero desperation? One of the fun things that I’m enjoying is working with these actors not only on helping them to guarantee a win in their acting but how do you guarantee a win when you walk in the room as you? And you can’t try to do it. All the work has to be before.
How do you walk into any room — whether it’s as an actor, a TED Talk, a speaker, into your house with your spouse — how do you walk in, and within seconds light somebody up, be the person that somebody wants to play with, somebody wants to work with? That to me is just as fun as all the — and just as important. But I’ll stop and let you in, because I feel like I’m just talking, but I do hope it has —
Madelyn: Oh, I feel so lucky. I’m so grateful to have a podcast right now, that I get to do that, and I get all these inside secrets, and I get to spread it out into the world. I feel so lucky.
Joseph Pearlman: Keep nerding out.
Madelyn: I love your process. I love that one thing takes it to the next. It’s incredible.
Joseph Pearlman: Yeah. [Inaudible 0:56:32] the way that you’ve been taught to do it, because the way people describe it is like, “Is that fun? Is that the time I want to spend away from my family and my personal — do I really — ?” No, most of that is not fun. If it only took 30 to 60 seconds in a powerful phone call, if you knew how to sell yourself when you pick up the phone, to get a wow, to say something that somebody can’t ignore, my god, wouldn’t you want to figure that out? One of my clients said you don’t have to climb all the rungs of the ladder. It’s possible to teleport.
Madelyn: Oh, I like that, yes.
Joseph Pearlman: Jason Bateman, in his acceptance speech for Ozark said something really cool to everybody, and it holds true. “You, anybody, any actor, is just one job away from that next big thing — one job away.” If you’re just one job away from everything opening up to you, a whole world of opportunity opening up, take a breath. Relax. It does not have to be the hike up Everest that everybody tells you it is. There is a way to teleport, and I see it every day. Hopefully, that makes people smile.
Madelyn: That’s what people need to hear, because the minute I got into this acting space, it was so interesting. It was almost embedded in me to have this feeling of scarcity. It was instant. Even thinking about going into acting, I felt this weight in my body, almost this heaviness that was like, “Oh, no, now I’ve got to get by.” There was that feeling, which came out of nowhere because I have an abundance mindset.
I’m in the spiritual coaching space, which feels really good, and you can create what it is that you want to create. And I know there’s also a lot of privilege in that. But I’ve worked really hard to get to this place, to build a business that feels like it is on the edge of effortlessness, and I’m deserving of, and all that. And then the minute I was looking into acting and then starting it, being around people in that space of having three different roommates, and always rolling their eyes at someone else getting apart. It’s just so much of that energy of, “I can’t afford that,” or, “Classes are expensive,” and all this and that. And I’m like, “Whoa, do I want to go into this world and be around that kind of chitchat and energy?”
Joseph Pearlman: I wouldn’t.
Madelyn: Yeah, and I don’t want to either. So I’ve been intentional about what I am absorbing, and what I’m reading, and making sure that I’m staying around people who are like, “You’ve got this. You can do this. You can do everything. You can have an abundance in your personal life and your career, and also an abundance in acting.”
Joseph Pearlman: And you can feel it in seconds. You do not have to even start to feel
Madelyn: Yes, the teleport is really powerful. Now, when I get onto — for people who aren’t into the acting space, there’s something called Backstage, and that’s what Joseph writes for. He writes for the Backstage magazine. There’s also something called Actors Access, and that’s where a lot of the listings are. Joseph, whenever I go on there and start to submit myself to these parts, I see things that are like — okay, a student film. “We’re looking for Grace, who’s going to be the dead girl.” And then the next one is like, “All right, now we’re looking for someone to be in an infomercial.”
I just see all these things that — I am not trying to skip steps. I know I need to pay my dues, and I love just to be in the work, so if I get a student film or a short film, I’m super excited. I’m like, “Yeah, let me just practice this.” And all of the parts that I think you’re talking about, like being in something like Ozark and being in something like Euphoria or Kimmy Schmidt — I don’t know, whatever is out there. That stuff, we’re not seeing on these breakdowns anyway.
Joseph Pearlman: Exactly.
Madelyn: So my mindset was thinking you had to have a rep because they had access to those special sheets that had all of that.
Joseph Pearlman: Some of them do, but if only 1 percent do, and those 1 percent, actually in order to work with those folks, you need to have a lot to bring to that table. It’s this big catch-22 that a lot of actors find themselves in. “Well, how do I get work if I don’t have a rep?” But the reality is that — listen, the Actors Access and the Backstage, you have to think about this. And I’m not going to knock any of it, but those are literally thousands of people competing for roles.
You have to think that the folks that are seeing those submissions coming in don’t know who you are. It is a bit of a lottery, and I’m saying there is a whole other teleport type of way where you could compete for higher-end roles, higher-level roles, for the supporting roles, for the lead roles, not just the sort of cutouts that can’t be cast among the big agents and managers, by simply building and maintaining these amazing relationships, where the people that you’re building these relationships with don’t feel that you want something from them.
They just are getting to really like being around you. That’s one of the secrets, the things that we work on. It’s a pitch, but it’s not a pitch. There’s a whole other way, because the mass submissions on Breakdown Services or Backstage, I would say at a certain level an actor does not have to do that. They don’t have to do that. How fun is that? That’s the question. Is that fun, and is it yielding results? Well, if it’s yielding instant results, then, by all means, keep doing it.
There are a lot of submission-based platforms. But if you could legitimately pick up a telephone, and call the right person, and say the right thing, that in 30 to 60 seconds solidifies this beautiful iron in the fire, with the production team of your dreams that you’d like to collaborate with, well, you’ve just in 30 to 60 seconds done more than most actors will do in a year of submission. And it’s possible to do that. And imagine how that would feel at the end of the day, knowing that all it took was 30 to 60 seconds, and any other call would be 30 to 60 seconds.
Yeah, Madelyn, I couldn’t agree more. I think that it’s very easy to get in a not-feeling-good type of place. And if you get in that not-feeling-good type of place, that’s what you’re going to get in your career. So I really do mean it. Stop with the submissions. Stop with the mass mailings. The work I do with the actor is a high-level, Harvard-Business-School-level value proposition. It’s marketing and branding at the highest possible level. It is so far removed from niche and type.
It is asking questions like, “What are your core values? What do you stand for? What are your current or future fans going to connect with? What is the thing that somebody is going to fall in love with, the not-obvious thing, the little thing, that they feel like they discovered this — you know, something that’s going to get somebody excited.” Yeah, I just really want people to have more time back, so they can feel good at the heart of it. Because if you don’t feel good, you can’t move forward.
Like I said, you’re going to be just sorting eating other people’s wake and feeling like you’re just getting breadcrumbs, and handouts, and stuff that falls off a truck, instead of very clearly having a strategy for staking roles, for laying claim to relationship and roles. And it’s just the thing that’s done at the highest level that most folks are never exposed to, because of all the murky fear, uncertainty, and doubt that’s spread actor to actor.
Madelyn: Working with you, that would be where you get the game plan and the understanding of how to call these certain people? Because in my mind I’m like, “Where in the world would you even start? Where do you even go?” This is Harvard level, so I’m assuming this is the kind of work that you do with people one-on-one or in your classes, actually like, “All right, when you call, this is — “ Once you get your clarity about what you want to do — which is also great feedback. I haven’t really done that part, because I’m in such a new place that I think, “Well, I do what I do. I do it all. I can’t be picky. I need to just try everything, do everything,” so I don’t have that crystal-clear goal of what I want to do.
Joseph Pearlman: Madelyn, let’s do that work, you and I. You and I should do that.
Madelyn: I know. I feel really called to do that with you, because I got some feedback that I didn’t need to, and I’m sure in some ways it served me, like doing all this submission stuff. But also, you’re giving me a very empowered feeling of, “Yeah, what would my fans say whenever I’m doing that role, that I know deep down I want to do?” I have movies that I’m like, “Oh, my God, I would love to be in something like that,” to have those, and I haven’t given myself that time of day to say that’s what I want, and to be clear on that.
Joseph Pearlman: Madelyn, it is really as simple as triggering this beautiful sort of fun vibrational place inside of you with confidence, with fun, with love. And triggering this thing before you make these phone calls before you walk into space where you’re going to meet industry people, to be somebody that other folks can’t ignore, that’s the work. There are two parts to my studio. I say there are two modalities. One is the classes, and the other is the private work I do.
I do private work one-on-one for pre-audition, how to guarantee an audition win, or prepping a booked role on a film set. And then the career work, I call it the Launch Your Career Program, where we go through and distill that value proposition, and work through every phone call, the dialogue, and then the follow-up emails and all that.
The cool thing about the classes is that the actors who are in the classes, most of them do that work with me, so that every single week, should they want to, they can prepare, coach on, and strategize with me to pitch themselves for a new currently casting major film and TV piece every single week. So the classes are almost like an accountability session, an accountability group for the private work I do. So it’s connected in that way. The actors know how to pitch themselves.
One of my mentors in high school — her name is Roz Clark [phonetic 1:07:36] — said something that was so beautiful. She said, “Joseph, what is for you will not go by you.” I loved that. I was like, “Whoa, what is for you will not go by you,” in life, in acting, in romance, whatever. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be in a vibrational, emotional, good-feeling place, to be able to actually reach out and grab it. That doesn’t mean it’s going to fall in your lap, but you need to be in that amazing feeling-good place, to feel empowered to actually reach out your hand, and take a bite out of that, and bring that to you.
To me, that’s the most important thing. Are you having fun? Are you a person that other people are going to be attracted to, to that level of fun? But yes, with regards to how does it all works, the actors learn how to build those relationships. They learn how to compete for every role they’re right for, and they use the classes. My classes are not in academic classes. It’s very important to practice how you play.
One of the things I see happening in classes, that isn’t useful or doesn’t have utility, is that the acting classes are these sort of insular academic environments, where you’re performing for a teacher, or you’re doing something other than what you would do outside of the class on set or in an audition room. And it’s very important when the actors — these people come into class and bring something in. I’ll ask them two questions. One, “What are you working on?” Two, “How do you want to work on it?”
I never want somebody to say, “This is just a scene study for the class,” or, “This is just an audition piece.” There are 15 different ways of auditioning. There’s a pre-read. There’s a callback. There’s a producer session. There’s a video audition. I want them to get up there, whether they actually have that audition or not, or they actually have that booked role or not, and say, “Hey, class, Joseph, I’m working on a booked role. I’d like to work on a scene-study piece for a booked role,” or, “I’m doing a callback, an audition callback,” and to sort of use their words to own that in the moment. I think it brings them closer to actually having that event, instead of, “I’m working on this in a class to please the class or to please the teacher.” Take out that academic type of thing. Does that make sense?
Joseph Pearlman: To be very clear and specific about how they’d like to do it, that directly relates to what they want — to practice how you play, basically is what I’m trying to say. It’s very important that whatever type of class environment you’re currently in, whether it is like that or not, that you pleasantly persistently request, “No, I want to work on this in the context that I would if I was bringing this into you for private coaching, or as if we were simulating an actual audition, or as if I’m going on set tomorrow.”
There are so many terms, like scene study, audition technique, that get really tarnished, because scene study — scene study isn’t just for an acting class. Scene Study is the process of breaking down a scene for a booked role, for a theater performance, for film or for TV, or even the process of breaking it down for an audition. Again, it’s just important to be specific, and to clear away a lot of this stuff that I don’t feel like is useful, sort of practicing in an academic environment.
And really what’s going on with the work, Madelyn, is I believe in life and in acting, your words create your reality — not your thoughts, not just the words you say, but your emotionally charged body attitudes, your emotionally charged words, help to trigger that creation, help to bring about something faster. So I would be so thrilled, like I said, for you to come to watch them work because it is fun to talk about, but it’s insanely cool to put your eyes on. If any of your listeners want to come to watch —
Madelyn: In L.A.?
Joseph Pearlman: It’s in Los Angeles, and it would be free to come and watch. You’re welcome to reach out. Any plans to come to L.A. anytime soon, Madelyn?
Madelyn: You know what? I don’t have any right now, but I told myself in 2020 I was going to come to L.A. for maybe two to three weeks, and something would happen with acting. It was on my list to come to visit your studio. So I think it will happen in 2020, hopefully, sooner rather than later. It’s so easy to get from New York to L.A.
Joseph Pearlman: Maybe we could arrange for a video audit in some way. That could be interesting. I don’t usually do that, but I would be the potential to doing that, for you to just experience the work from where you’re at.
Madelyn: That’d be so cool. That’d be fabulous. I would love that. Amazing.
Joseph Pearlman: You know, why not?
Madelyn: Yeah, why not? I mean, that’s the beauty of doing Zoom, and Skype, and the Internet these days. For anyone who wants to find you online as well — which is going to be every one that listens to this podcast, actor or not actor — where can they connect with you on the interwebs?
Joseph Pearlman: On the interwebs, you can reach out through the website, http://www.josephpearlman.com/, and you can reach out to the studio to schedule a session, a free audit, ask a question at [email protected]. And I’d also encourage you to go to the website, to all of the articles I’ve been writing for Inc. Magazine, for Backstage magazine. They’re all on my website, unedited and organized into categories — audition, or booked role, or cold reading, et cetera. You can read the articles for free and get excited about it.
But it would be a joy to invite anybody who’s listening who’s in Los Angeles to attend a free audit in my Master Class, which is a group — some of whom have been in there for over ten years, every Thursday at 7:00 PM, watching actors who are sort of celebrity-level actors, series-lead-level actors, Game of Thrones, Fleabag, getting a workout.
Madelyn: I love Fleabag.
Joseph Pearlman: You know, getting a workout every Thursday in a really fun way. Yeah, so I would just love to extend that invitation to any of your listeners to reach out and schedule a free audit.
Madelyn: Fabulous. That would be really cool also if I have some — I know I have plenty of actor listeners of the podcast, and if I did an audit on a Thursday virtually, I could tell them about it, and all of those actors can just hop on and watch you on a Thursday then.
Joseph Pearlman: Yeah, I would love to. Let’s see if we can figure that out. There’s so much more to talk about, but I feel like we’re limited.
Madelyn: Do you have time for a quick-fire round?
Joseph Pearlman: Yeah, do it.
Madelyn: Okay, awesome. What is your morning ritual?
Joseph Pearlman: What’s my morning ritual? That’s a good question. Well, I have an almost-four-year-old daughter, so my morning ritual is —
Joseph Pearlman: It is her. Some of the nights when I have late classes, my phenomenal wife will be up with her, allowing me to recover. But yeah, my morning ritual is getting up — I’ve been in an English breakfast tea mode for some months now. For some reason, I’m drinking coffee now, and really just trying to clear my head, or just trying to feel as good as I can possibly be. But when you’ve got an almost-four-year-old daughter, it is like — some of you may know who have kids. It is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, but it is — you know?
Joseph Pearlman: I’m doing whatever she wants me to do, basically, whatever she needs me to do.
Madelyn: Do you have a favorite New York acting class studio?
Joseph Pearlman: I do have a favorite New York acting class studio. It’s my studio that I actually would go back and forth to before my daughter was born, that I’m getting jumpstarted again this year, so please stay tuned. We’ve had a presence in New York. I would go back every, I’d say, four to six weeks to teach there, so please stay tuned, because we will be back in New York this year, as we were some years ago. And anybody from anywhere, we can work together via video as well.
Madelyn: Amazing. I’m so glad I asked that. I’m very excited, anxiously waiting, excited and waiting. What’s your favorite movie in 2019?
Joseph Pearlman: Great question. I would say Parasite was fantastic.
Madelyn: I knew you were going to say that. I haven’t seen it, but everyone keeps saying that, and I’m so bummed I missed it in theaters.
Joseph Pearlman: Parasite was great. Joker was really cool. Joaquin Phoenix is one of my favorite actors because I would describe him as a dangerous actor. Speaking of making choices that you don’t think — that isn’t necessarily in the text, Joaquin Phoenix is a master of that, and I love watching his work, because — as he describes it, he does everything he can to sort of misbehaving with his acting choices. I liked watching that for that acting, but yeah, Parasite. I’ll keep it fast because it’s a lightning round.
Madelyn: Do you have a word for 2020?
Joseph Pearlman: Yes is the word I have for ’20. Yes. I’ve always said, the last couple of years, “This is going to be a great year. I’m feeling really good.” This year it is — everything, it is like infinite. Everything is possible, and I am feeling just yes is the word. Inspired, empowered, and yes, bring it on. I feel like that word is infinite in its power and possibility. Yes, yes, yes. Everything is possible.
Madelyn: Do you have a favorite director?
Joseph Pearlman: That’s a really good question. Paul Thomas Anderson, I would say, is one of my favorite directors. He’s the first person that came to mind, Paul Thomas Anderson. Boogie Nights are one of my favorite movies.
Madelyn: What is the biggest time-waster for actors that you can think of, the first thing that comes to mind?
Joseph Pearlman: Biggest time-waster? Sending mass mailings, going to casting director workshops.
Madelyn: Oh, I meant to ask you about that, so I’m glad you just put that in the quick-fire round.
Joseph Pearlman: Oh, man, going to casting director workshops — anytime you invest time and energy in doing an activity that you are put on a lower level than somebody else in the industry, don’t do it. Mass mailings, obsessing about niche and type — yeah, I would say looking for agents and managers. Please don’t do that, because a synchronicity event will be triggered when you are in this incredibly good beautiful-feeling place. You’re going to trigger synchronicity events after synchronicity events.
Madelyn: It just sounds like everything that you hear all the time that everyone’s doing, don’t do that. Don’t do that, because I know so many people doing all of those things, and it’s just really nice to hear I don’t have to do that.
Joseph Pearlman: But the fact is that all these people are doing those things, and the folks that aren’t are just cleaning up, because you cannot possibly have a million people trying to fit in that one small — it just doesn’t work. I’ve had a good 35,000-foot view on it for a while now. But the thing that’s frustrating is that I think a lot of folks and a lot of articles are basically telling actors to do that thing — not in a malicious way. I just don’t think they know better. You’re uninspiring, devaluing. You’re deflating actors by telling them — everybody’s path to a successful career is different.
It’s never going to look like what you think it’s supposed to look like. It’s going to be unexpected. You’re going to teleport. You’re not going to climb the rungs of the ladder. Yeah, I think possibly, hopefully, the reason why a lot of folks have found their way to work with me, is because I am telling a different story. It’s sort of a non-story, not a story of the doom, and the gloom, and, “This is all the work you’re going to have to do, and you’re going to have to be a waiter,” blah, blah, blah.
No, and I think actors on their own should start telling a different story basically. Stop telling a story that doesn’t feel good. It was Yuval Noah Harari that said, “Don’t get attached to story,” the same thing when you get a script. Stop getting attached to your idea of what you think is supposed to happen, because you’re never going to discover the genius. You’re never going to discover the brilliant.
Madelyn: That is so fucking good.
Joseph Pearlman: And tell a different story. If it’s possible to feel better in seconds, let’s devote our energies to that, because once you do that, as I said — and you know this, Madelyn. You are going to trigger a wave of synchronicity events that are somehow going — you are going to get to where you want to get, and it’s going to feel effortless.
Madelyn: All right, my very last question for you, because am so into memoirs, actors memoirs, anyone’s memoirs. Do you have a favorite memoir?
Joseph Pearlman: I don’t have a favorite memoir. Let’s see, a favorite memoir? Oh, you know what? Parker Posey wrote something beautiful last year. Parker Posey who has been in every Christopher Guest movie, as far as I know. She currently plays the evil character in Lost in Space. She is one of my favorite actors working today. Parker Posey wrote this beautiful story of her life, and I can’t remember the name of the book (You’re on an Airplane).
Madelyn: Yeah, I’ll look it up and put in the show notes.
Joseph Pearlman: [Inaudible 1:22:17] look it up. Yeah, that’s interesting. But I also really do like to not — as much as a fun memoir is cool, I almost don’t want to hear too much about how other people are doing what they’re doing, because I never would want to — I don’t know.
Madelyn: Don’t want to attach the story.
Joseph Pearlman: I don’t want to attach the story, perfectly said, exactly. Not that it would be a fun read or useful — literally you said, “What do I do in the morning?” Is try to not be a trash receptacle for all of the static that is in the air, the stuff that’s coming up on my phone, which I try not to look at in the morning.
Madelyn: Yeah, so you’re pretty selective on how much you expose to yourself, I’m assuming, with social media and media in general.
Joseph Pearlman: 100 percent, yes, absolutely, because it can sap you out at the beginning of a day, completely. That doesn’t mean I don’t get sucked into it, but — yeah, I mean, just whatever you can do, whatever I can do, just to feel as great as I possibly can. And it’s harder some days, and it’s easier on some days. It’s a practice. I see it all as a practice.
Madelyn: Yeah, life, all of it, acting — everything is a practice.
Joseph Pearlman: Yeah, [inaudible 1:23:35] from the people I work with. There is no sort of, “This is my method.” Every day, everything I write article wise comes from an inspiration, something that somebody said that triggered something else. It’s constantly expanding. I think that also makes it really fun. Everything’s kind of getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger — yes, yes, yes.
Madelyn: Yes, yes, yes. Ah, Joseph, thank you so much for coming on to the Mind Body Musings podcast and shining your light, your sheer light and your inspiration, and being a breath of fresh air for all the actors out there, everyone who doesn’t act and is just into personal development and being a human that feels. That’s really what acting is at the end of the day.
Joseph Pearlman: That’s all it is, at the end of the day.
Madelyn: And we so appreciate you.
Joseph Pearlman: It is such a joy. I appreciate you too. I had so much fun. And look, when you have this much fun, time doesn’t mean anything. It’s kind of like in a snap. But my pleasure, a joy. All I hope is that your wonderful listeners, audience, this has utility for them, and it makes them happier, that it cheers them up. Because the alternative is no fun. So thank you very much for asking me and taking the time.
Madelyn: There you have it, everyone — a juicy, yummy, scrumptious episode on acting, and embodiment, and being your own boss, even in the acting world, and getting back your empowerment, and knowing you can be empowered as an actor, as an artist, as a performer. You can take control. You can create relationships, do what you do best, and be yourself. If you want to get all the links we talked about on today’s show — these amazing quotes that he mentioned. He’s like a walking quote collector.
You can head on over to maddymoon.com/Joseph-pearlman, and on there you’ll get everything, plus the transcript. Everything we talked about written out for you, so you can refer back to time and time again. You can copy and paste it. You can save it in a Google Doc. Do whatever you want with it. Love it. Lick it. Fuck it. I don’t know. Do whatever you want with it, but do something with it, because I’m super excited to be making these, and I want you to enjoy it too. See you next week for another episode of the Mind-Body Musings podcast.