Thursday, July 24, 2008

Actors. Sheesh.

I just finished reading this week's episode of Entertainment Weekly, and the opinion column talked about the Katherine Heigl Emmy thing. You know, how she said she dropped out of the Emmy race because she didn't feel she was given the material to warrant an award, and she didn't want to take away a nomination from someone else who deserved it.

The columnist defended the actress, pointed out the circumstances of her quote, praised her honesty, and kind of lambasted anyone who lambasted her.

And he had some good points. Made me feel like I should be 100% on the side of these pressured, struggling actresses no matter what. So I will agree that honesty is refreshing, bravery admirable, and a few grains of salt should be allowed for someone who is accosted leaving the gym or whatever.

But I still have some problems with it. First, she had to have known she'd be asked about her decision, and had time to think about what to say and how to say it. She could be honest without being insulting. Rhimes can say all she wants that she wasn't insulted; that's okay, I'll be insulted for her.

Heigl could have said her storyline didn't lend itself to an Emmy-worthy performance. That's not insulting. That's not saying the writing wasn't good enough. And maybe it wasn't. I don't watch the show, so I can't comment on whether or not the material was Emmy-quality. Even if it wasn't, it's not a good practice to publicly criticize your boss. If I'd gone on the news and said my former employer was a nutcase, I'd be fired.

Um. For example. She wasn't. A nutcase.

Worse, though, is the implication that even though the material was sub-par, she'd have been nominated anyway, even though she didn't deserve it, and someone who did a better job and had better material to work with wouldn't have gotten a nomination, because hey, she's Katherine Heigl. Of COURSE she'd be nominated, even if she sucked.

But that's enough about that.

Some other actor thoughts...

It's interesting how there are different "kinds" of good acting.

There's the Scarlett Johansson kind. Critics RAVE over her. I find that when I watch her, I'm seeing a mask. She puts on her performance, like a costume or even a facade. It has nothing to do with what's inside her, and doesn't touch her. Jared Padalecki used to have some of that, though to a lesser extreme. He's improved over the years, with maturity, so that his character seeps into him more, or draws more on his depths.

More common are the actors who do a great job but who are essentially playing themselves. They may be able to change their worldview, and are playing themselves in terms of how they'd be if they were the character they are playing and had gone through the things the character went through. But their mannerisms are impossible to bury, and their personalities impose themselves on their characters. Mel Gibson is a classic example--a tremendous actor with great range, but you never lose Mel Gibson. A more immediate one, for me, is Alyson Hannigan. She is pure Alyson Hannigan, whether she's a teenage witch in California or an engaged contemporary artist in New York City. I like her (better than I thought I would) and she doesn't make me think about the actress instead of the character (unlike Scarlett), but like Mel, she never disappears into the character.

The very best actors are those who do disappear into their performances. From all accounts, Heath Ledger's Joker epitomizes this. Those who saw him in A Knight's Tale and Brokeback Mountain will agree. Brendan Gleeson is another such actor, and so-called character actors are always this kind. You may know you've seen them somewhere, but not recall where, or who they played, unless you see a whole bunch of their stuff in a row. Jensen Ackles is too beautiful to totally disappear, but his performances as Dean on Supernatural are drawn from deep inside. Seth Green is kind of a hybrid of this and the last one. He has some definite quirks that follow from role to role--his manner of speaking, his way of moving--but he draws subtle emotion from deep inside. His torment in his last few episodes of Buffy was all in his eyes.

Okay, maybe I'm just a sucker for the eyes.

The third kind of actor probably draws the viewer deeper into their performance, shares it better, evokes more. That doesn't mean the others don't have merit, and can't be enjoyed as much, because they can. I find myself watching the acting sometimes as much as the show, and classifying performances.

Maybe I just watch too much TV.


MJFredrick said...

I don't know, I can kind of see Katherine's point, though. She said other actors have made the same decision but such a big deal wasn't made of it. And her storyline was terrible this year - Izzie and GEORGE? GEORGE? Bleh.

But I almost relate. I was upset because neither of my books will be eligible for Rita this year. That's presumptive of me, thinking that even if I was able to enter, that I'd final. So it may be some ego, but it could be....well, I can't think of how to put it. Hope? experience? I don't know.

Clooney is another who never loses himself in the role. He is always Clooney. Not that it's a bad thing ;) I know just what you mean about Scarlet's mask, though. Good way to put it!

I had to go to 7 stores to find that issue, BTW.

Anonymous said...

I'm no Heigl fan and I'll be the first to criticize her for saying what she did about the writing. Still, I can't fault her for being realistic about the fact that as last year's winner, she would have at LEAST made the shortlist, and probably would have landed a nomination. Did you SEE the list of actresses who submitted themselves for consideration? 130 people were up for best supporting actress in a drama - and when choosing from 130 names, who wouldn't gravitate towards the more recognizable ones, like the previous year's winner? Recognizing the same people over and over is highly characteristic of the Emmys, and it's because the initial ballot is so bloated with undeserving wannabes that voters don't have a chance of sorting through it all.

Besides, even though most coverage calls it "dropping out of the race," she was never in. The act that caused all this in the first place was Katherine Heigl NOT filling out a bunch of forms.

Where are the paparazzi hunting down Chad Michael Murray and asking him what the hell he was smoking when he decided to submit himself for Emmy consideration? Because he did.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Mary, don't get me wrong, I have ABSOLUTELY NO problem with the decision itself. I admire her for making it. But it would have been so easy to say "I won last year, it's someone else's turn," without trying to blame others that she works with.

Your comparison to the Rita isn't valid. If you said, "I'm so popular now that I'd final in the Rita, even if I didn't deserve it," THAT would be presumptive. Emmy or Rita or Oscar or Grammy, it is not at all wrong to think your work might be deserving of an award.

I agree about Clooney. :) But SEVEN stores? Unbelievable!

Sarah, thanks so much for weighing in! You make some great points. The Emmy nominations DO honor the same people over and over. But I think maybe you're being a little harsh about the undeserving wannabes part. I don't watch One Tree Hill, but from seeing CMM on Gilmore Girls and even House of Wax, I think he's a decent actor. Maybe not Emmy-worthy, but they don't have to watch a whole season, just one performance. Jared Padalecki in season 2 of Supernatural wasn't Emmy-worthy as a whole, but his performance in "Born Under a Bad Sign" was TOTALLY worthy.

And okay, maybe it's it's not ego to think she likely would make the shortlist, but it IS ego to say she would, right after saying she wouldn't have deserved it. Again, honesty can be simple and uninsulting.

Anonymous said...

Another Supernatural fan! I always knew you had good taste, Natalie. ;)

I don't watch Grey's, so I have no clue whether Heigl was right about the writing not being up to snuff, but I think dropping out if you don't think you deserve an award takes guts and a strong sense of self. As to how she phrased it...meh. We're told repeatedly that writers have to have thick skins. I doubt that changes when you reach Rhimes' level in the profession. Everybody involved will doubtless live to fight another day.

Ackles submitted the second half of "All Hell Breaks Loose" this year for Emmy consideration. Personally, I preferred "What Is And What Should Never Be," because I while watching Dean drown in grief over Sammy's death was heart-wrenching, Ackles' performance in "WIAWSNB" seemed significantly more subtle and layered, IMO. And we like The Pretty to be subtle and layered, dammit. :)

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

As do you, Selah! LOL And thank you.

Dropping out/not entering can also take fear and cowardice, too. No one will ever know which it actually is, and it doesn't matter. As for Rhimes and the other writers having thick skins--sure, okay, but why make your workplace a more difficult place to be?

I agree with you on the Jensen Ackles thing. From what he said, that was the most difficult performance for him, and awards DO sometimes seem to go to people who go to the extremes with emotion (Monster's Ball, anyone?), but I'm totally with you. Nuance and complexity always hit me harder. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree that unkindness in the workplace -- and everywhere else, for that matter -- should be avoided at all costs, on principle. Given Heigl's scolding of one of her cast-mates for being cruel to another (can't remember their names, don't have time to look them up) I'm surprised she went there. I suspect we can chalk it up to badly chosen wording, but like you said, she had plenty of time to think about it, so no points for tact to her.

Wow. I know WAY more about Grey's than I should, given that I've never seen a full episode. :p

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

LOL! So do I. :)