A few months ago I went to a workshop. It was one of those build your career, find your edge, life and career workshops for entertainment industry people. The coach was from L.A. and has been doing this for far too many years, at least that’s what I got from her auto pilot ramblings over the two day workshop. I had decided to go because a good friend highly recommended it and I wanted to kick start my career and get help marketing myself as a creative package – which seemed to be the point of the workshop.
The first day the ‘career coach’ -whose shirt was inside out until our break when someone pointed it out to her- and I did not click. When I told her I was an actor who just got an MA in creative writing and was writing a novel she said, “actors don’t write novels.” (She also later told me that I needed to get a better haircut.)
Coming from a woman who said she’d be our personal champion and wanted to inspire us to have the personal and professional careers of our dreams, I felt this was very limiting statement- the one about actors not being writers. For the rest of the day I was guarded and cynical about her ‘advice’ which mostly consisted of stories about how she’s friends with John Travolta and was in the first Broadway production of a famous musical.
However this experience did get me thinking – am I totally off my rocker wanting to do both writing AND acting? The answer: Hells No! And to prove my point here’s a list of actors who also write and do other amazing things and do them well -not like Ethan Hawke whose novel got panned by critics.
Stephen Fry - This man does everything! He’s played Oscar Wilde. Hosted the quiz show QI. He’s done theatre – he’s even hosted the BAFTAs. He’s written four novels, an autobiography, non-fiction books AND he writes a weekly tech column for The Guardian. He is the epitome of a Renaissance man. Don’t try to tell this man that actors don’t write novels, host radio shows or travel America in a black cab.
Hugh Laurie - The comedy partner of Stephen Fry has recently come to great acclaim in the US playing the lead on House. Before his television success Laurie appeared on the Blackadder, in mulitple films, and wrote a BEST SELLING novel. Apparently he’s written a second one but the publication date has been held back. He has a band and oh, he’s won a SAG and Golden Globe award.
Amy Sedaris - Sister of the humorist David Sedaris (who is a fine writer/performer himself), Amy has created a TV Series, co-written several plays, worked as a sketch comedian, done voice over and she has her own baking company out of her apartment. Don’t try to put Amy in a corner by saying actors can’t write, voice or bake!
James Franco - This future boyfriend of mine just got an MFA from Columbia University’s Writing Program (see- we’d have lots to talk about on our first date being fellow Masters). James dropped out of UCLA (English Major) to study acting and got his break shortly after in a role on Freaks and Geeks. Since then he’s appeared in several high profile flicks like Spiderman playing Spidy’s BFF. He’s done hilarious work with Funny or Die and apparently he’s going to Yale this fall to get a PhD in English. A Ph-fricking-D! Booya!
Miranda July- Although she puts most of her work under the umbrella of Performance Art, Miranda July is an accomplished performer and writer. Her short stories have been published in the Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. She wrote, directed and acted in her first film You Me and Everyone We Know which won the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. She’s a musician whose music was released on Kill Rock Stars. Basically there is nothing this woman can’t do. She hasn’t even had a day job since she was 23!
The list goes on. Essentially all comedians are actor/writer since they write their own material. Look at Tina Fey! A few members of the Office ensemble cast are also writers for the show! And then there’s the biggest actor/ writer of them all Shakespeare! I learned a lot from this workshop and the limiting statement Mrs Wannabe-Tony-Robins made. Mostly I’ve learned that I should spend my money more wisely.
NOTE: If you want to know who the woman was that taught this terrible workshop please e-mail me. I’m not about to stoop to internet slander.