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Why being an athlete makes me a better actor

Besides the obvious advantages of better health and fitness, as well as exercise being a good stress reducer, I have found that a lot of the mental hurdles that I come across in my sport help me when it comes to my acting career.

I have been acting for a fairly long time now. Despite being an extremely shy and day-dreamy kid, I began speech and drama classes at the age of 8. (I read a few of my school reports recently and most of them reference me being a daydreamer, spending far too much time looking out the window; little did I realize that this is not a bad thing and in fact a facet of a highly creative person. Read the article: “18 things highly creative people do differently”. I auditioned for an agent when I was 13 years old and gained my first role as a runaway troubled kid in the show Law of the Land. I have had many ups and downs throughout my career and now, as I am about to turn 35, it seems all the more imperative to reflect on why I am doing this.

Apparently I like a good challenge and so decided to start Gymnastics as part of acro Cheerleading when I was about 28, which is very late to start. As I have learnt, gymnastics is one of the most frustrating sports ever and the smallest change you make when executing a skill can make the difference of whether you land it or not. In a month’s time I will be heading to the World championships of cheerleading and as such while the team learns new scary skills, and battles with injuries, I have been struggling with anxiety about it all.

I read this article on how to apply Samurai mind set to your everyday life and was surprised to read that I was already working in the same thought patterns. Now obviously I realize that I’m not going to war with a sword and crazy ninja skills however a ninja mindset is going to help in any situation. A new skill I have just learnt is one where I get thrown into the air and invert with a full twist, called a lay full Basket (Video of me doing it here). I have people that I trust immensely catching me but when this skill goes wrong it can go really wrong. So I imagined the worst that could go wrong, and then imagined the likelihood of it going wrong (which is not very high). Then because of all this rational thinking, when it came to actually doing the skill I was actually a lot calmer, without having to go through any of those thoughts. In a moment of day dreaming I applied this theory to my acting career. As many artists know, you go through cycles of “I have the best life ever” to “oh god I need money” to “what the hell am I doing with my life, maybe I should get a real job”. So while enduring that latter cycle of my life recently, I thought

“OK, if I see this career through what is the worst that can happen?”

“I will never be employed as an actor ever again.”

“OK and if that happens would that stop me from trying?”

“No. Because I’d rather keep trying with all my might and know that I didn’t get there despite all my efforts rather than give up and never know.”

Then I recently attended a documentary called Showing Up which the Actors Equity Foundation screened at VCA, and after hearing all of these well known Hollywood actors talk about so many different stages of their career it made me think that no matter what stage we’re at, whether we are auditioning too much and not getting the roles, not getting enough auditions, or having to go to meetings instead of auditions, there will always be something to challenge us.

I guess that means that whatever happens I’m going to do it anyway, so I better make sure I fulfill my dream because no matter what, rain or shine I’m going to do it anyway.

To see one of my latest Screentest in a comedy scene, click here

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