Actors Acting Against Their Best Interests

Too often in my private classes, auditions and when I direct there comes a point when I realize that the actor before me is too much in their head. To borrow and mangle by paraphrase from Arthur Miller; their craniums are living thoughts of quiet desperation with destructive speculations ricocheting off one another:

Is there something wrong I’m doing that is causing my career not to flourish?

Why am I not getting to the goals I want?

Failure must be my fault.

I suck.

We all at various detours of our journeys pull ourselves into these destructive weigh-stations of negative reflection. Yet when that nagging inner-voice routes its phantom calling to our cranium we sometimes have the tendency to wallow in the false comfort of empty self-pity. There is no substance within the wretched thoughts to offering the soul healthy nourishment.

Recently I was hibernating in the mountains. I went there with the intent on completing a manuscript project. As days of solitude passed I found my mind was lonely for company and began …


And… that’s where I stopped. Literally. Writing this post ceased. Several months ago. I got lost in my head as I was writing about others getting lost within their head. (Oh doctor? Heal thyself.)

I toiled on and off on my project. I sulked. Channel surfed the 900 plus offerings on my mountain cable. Wondered why people wander Craigslist while I myself was doing the same. I was getting nothing done fast. Doubts, anxiety and a constant nagging in my head of, What’s next? plagued me. I chance similar has happened to you. At least once. If not, please share with the rest of the class the pills you’re taking.

Aside from stimulants (legal and non) there are ways for you to get out of your head and back to life.

First realize that everyone goes through similar. No one, not seemingly cock-sure politicians, celebrities or all-star athletes is exempt from occasionally questioning their abilities or future. So if it is any comfort, the S.S. Self Doubt is decks full of the sometimes unsure just like you. Once you realize that then look for ways to sink the ship. Don’t wallow on an endless journey that has no final destination other than death. Find channels for improvement on your course that is life.

If that doesn’t completely soothe the synapses into some form of sanity then it’s time to get out into the world to get out of your head. And that’s exactly what I did several days after I stopped my initial writing of this post.

I went skiing.

Sometimes ya just gotta say to yourself, Screw it! I’m not going to deny myself some fun and partake in life’s pleasures.

I returned to the slopes after a too long absence. Back to a joy from my youth. Barreling down the side of a mountain at suicidal speeds on two slivers of waxed wood. So what if the day cost me more than I’m comfortable spending? I had fun. Cold frigid fun. But fun none-the-less. (Plus, some of those snow boarders are irritatingly cute.) And for days after, I was out of my head; living once more. Pain free, not so much in body, but definitely feeling fine in spirit.

So if you find yourself one day being plagued by the Eeyore “Woe is me” inner voice tell him/her to f***-off and seek refuge elsewhere. You have a life to live. Get out of your head and out into life. For if not; then you’re already in the grave.

You can choose to be your own worst enemy or your own best friend. Honest friends don’t destroy those they sincerely love.

My Best,

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit

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