How Training for the Olympics Is Like Training To Be An Actor – Rick Pagano

I’d like to talk about discipline, specifically the discipline of the Olympic athlete and how it compares to the acting profession.

Think of Los Angeles as the Olympic Stadium. This is the city where actors come, from all around the world, to compete for the “gold.” Throw a rock in this town, and you’ll hit an actor, writer, director, etc. There are those who hate that fact. Personally I find it a tremendous asset/resource/comfort for those of us who have come here to create.

But the proximity of collaborators comes at a price.hey are also your competition.

Think about swimming for a moment. You are a swimmer, and someone in the next lane wants to swim faster than you. They have trained for thousands of hours for these races and have learned the best way to maximize kick and the best angle the sweep of an arm, and as a result, they glide, seemingly effortless, through the water.

That swimmer brings the right equipment with them: a swimsuit and cap that provide the least resistance in the water and goggles that don’t leak mid-race.

That swimmer has watched tapes of competitors to learn exactly how they won gold. They are constantly learning, pushing, and training.

That swimmer plans to win gold. That swimmer prepares with a discipline that makes winning appear inevitable.

Have you trained properly for your “Olympics”? Or do you arrive at the starting line and compete merely on your “talent”?

Do you show up without having read a script? Without knowing your lines? Without checking the pronunciation and the meaning of the words you will speak?

Have you seen the great films of our culture, those that inspire today’s writers and directors?

Are you surprised when the role goes to someone else? Someone who has prepared better than you? Someone who knows the tone that a particular script demands? Someone who is familiar with the writers and the directors for whom they are reading?

A famous (Oscar caliber) actor once auditioned for the role of Maggie in a production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” The production had a famous director, a role to kill for, and a big venue. She and the director talked for a few minutes, and then he asked her if she’d like to read a scene. She replied, “Whatever you want.” The director flipped through the script, and chose a scene—at random—for her to read. After skimming the scene for about twenty seconds, she looked up at me and said, “Ready.”

She proceeded to do the scene, barely referring to the pages in front of her. In other words, she had virtually memorized the entire play. And she was, I must say, brilliant.

That’s your competition.

-Rick Pagano

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1 Comment

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One response to “How Training for the Olympics Is Like Training To Be An Actor – Rick Pagano

  1. Rick, this is so incredibly important, and is what I’ve been focusing on lately… Getting myself in top shape, both physically & mentally. I’m studying with Lesly Kahn now, and daily rehearsal with others is a requirement. I have to say I’ve really come to enjoy and appreciate having three hour rehearsals with a group, as well as two by myself- on top of three hours of watching sitcoms! I have found it to be extremely useful seeing how others approach the material, and getting feedback from them on my work- I might even be addicted to rehearsing now 🙂 Training like an Olympian is definitely changing the entire game for me. Thank you for this reminder!

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