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EP9: Strip Down the Layers, with Method Actors Gabe Fazio and Brandy Hotchner
Episode 918th April 2022 • Shift Shift Bloom • ActuallyQuiteNice, INC and TCOM Studios
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About this episode:

When Dr. John Lyons casually mentioned to host Kristen Cerelli that he'd be interested in hearing what method actors had to say about the process of transformation, Kristen knew just who to call. Enter actor Gabe Fazio and teacher of actors Brandy Hotchner, who share their well worn input on the subject.

About our guests:

A native of Long Island, Gabe Fazio epitomizes the passion and sacrifice of the working actor. A lifetime member of The Actors Studio in NYC, Gabe works steadily in theatre, film and television. He originated the role of Mark in Lyle Kessler's play First Born and has appeared on Law & Order, Blue Bloods and Homeland, as well as in the films A Place Beyond the Pines and A Star is Born. Gabe's invisible work with Mark Ruffalo in the HBO series I Know This Much Is True was much lauded by director Derek Cianfrance and writer Wally Lamb.

After 10 years as a struggling working actor in NYC, Brandy moved to Arizona in 2002. She was just passing through on her way to Los Angeles. New York, after 9/11, had lost its romance and she longed to get back out West. She never made it to LA. During Brandy’s first week in Arizona, she met her husband and now has a family, raising two teenage boys. That was an act of true providence. Brandy often says, “I would not be coaching if life had not interfered with my plans.” Today, she is the owner and Artistic Director of the region's top acting school, Arizona Actors Academy.

Where to find Gabe Fazio & Brandy Hotchner online:

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Transcripts

Kristen Cerelli 0:00

The interviews in this podcast, all of which are ultimately uplifting stories of human transformation may contain general discussions of depression, trauma, violence, abuse, or cultural and racial bias. On this episode of shift shift bloom,

Brandy Hotchner 0:17

my sons used to gear up, head to toe in army gear, get the multitude of Nerf guns that they had, and let me know that they were gonna go shoot zombies in the yard. And I could join them or not. If I joined them, I was in their army. You weren't

Gabe Fazio 0:36

a zombie? No, I

Brandy Hotchner 0:37

was a soldier. Of course. Thank God. You know, that might not

Gabe Fazio 0:41

be here right now.

Kristen Cerelli 0:43

When my co creator John Lyon said he'd love to do an episode about how method actors transform themselves. Little did he know that I have to have the best right at my fingertips. My close friends from graduate school Gabe Fazio, a working actor. And brandy Hotchner, a teacher of Stanislavski system helped me understand what change really means from the artists perspective. I'm Kristen Cerelli. And you're listening to shift shift gloom, a podcast about how people change.

Oh my Lord, what have I done to myself?

Gabe Fazio 1:42

What are you talking about?

Kristen Cerelli 1:43

My guests today are Gabe Fazio and brandy Hotchner, who full disclosure are also dear friends and fellow graduates of the Actors Studio drama school MFA program. We go way back. Gabe lives in New York where he works as an actor in theater, film and television and if you want a taste of his often under the radar brilliance, just Google Gabe Fazio Mark Buffalo and see what buffalo himself director Derek Cianfrance and writer Wally lamb had to say about his invisible performance in HBOs. I know this much is true. Brandy took a different path, heading west to La after 911 stopping in Phoenix along the way where she fell in love got married and became a mom. She stayed in the southwest, where a chance opportunity to teach an acting class at a local college lit something up in her calling on her entrepreneurial spirit. She grew a small private class into what is now the region's top conservatory style school, the Arizona actors Academy, where she serves as Artistic Director. I'm proud to call these two people friends. I'm in awe of their commitment to our craft. Welcome Gabe and brandy.

Brandy Hotchner 2:56

Oh, my God. really humbled by that. Thank you.

Kristen Cerelli 3:01

You feel humbled? I'm glad you You're You're incredible, both of you. And every word I said is true.

Gabe Fazio 3:08

Will this be shown to children? No,

Kristen Cerelli 3:12

this will be an NC 17 rated episode. So don't worry about it. I want to say the podcast is about change. And so today I wanted to dig deeper into the process of change as it pertains to the actor's work. So I have a just a, an initial question for both of you. And I know we can't speak for all actors everywhere. But do you think actors are attracted to the art itself? Because they are attracted to the idea of change in some poor and compelling way?

Brandy Hotchner 3:44

But that's a challenging question. And you can't speak for all actors, you know, speaking for myself, I did a lot of seeking of change elsewhere and kept getting pulled back. I think that actors, artists, and even the people who come and engross themselves in the art of acting and don't become professional actors, are seekers. They seek something knowledge, knowledge of self, better knowledge of others. They have a deep, deep, deep, insatiable curiosity that almost cannot be can't be satisfied, never satisfied. So every character is an opportunity for such bigger transformation and understanding. So is seeking and the desire to transform and grow and expand, does that change. I changed to me, especially right now, that almost feels like something that happens to Despite us, not necessarily like seeking, which is something that we follow

Gabe Fazio 5:08

is a complex question. I'm not I don't really know. For myself. It came from a place of looking for recognition and looking for, to feel of significance. So I came to acting because I wanted to be a musician. I wanted to get up in front of people. And I wanted, because I felt like I had a performer in me. And I wanted it to be through playing guitar. But I was very quick to understand that I didn't have the talent. I still play guitar, but I limit I played rhythm, simple rhythm guitar, in a band. And it wasn't very satisfying. And one day I had a report, just a long story. But I had a, I had to do a report on Beethoven in my music class. And everybody was laughing at my presentation, because they thought I found humor in presenting it and wasn't trying to be funny. I just so somebody told me, why don't you try out for the school play? Oh, which was Godspell. So went to a Catholic school. But I did, I tried out for Godspell, I didn't get a role. And then there was this kid who got a role. And I believe the role was Jeffrey, the name, character, Jeffrey. He didn't show up one day, and I filled in form. And I was just like, it just, I just felt I just instinctively went really deep. And they gave me the role. And they told my friend that like, listen, like you didn't show up and gave as much better and gave me a role. I don't know, it was just fun. And all those years of talking to myself as a kid and isolation paid off. And my fantasies about beating up bullies was, you know, I can express in the work without actually, you know, following through my, my visualizations and fantasies of beating people up. And so it was like, sort of, that's how I I acted. Because I was introverted, lonely, I had something I wanted to say. And, and that's how I did it. But as far as changing is concerned, I think, you know, I'm not consciously thinking about I need to change.

Kristen Cerelli 7:44

The first thing that fell out of your mouth gave us is interesting. I've never heard you say that you got into it for recognition. I've never heard you use that. That word before. But I do think that's interesting in itself, because for a lot of people that recognition is a life change. I maybe maybe it's an external. But you know, how many actors do we know that that got into it, because they want to be famous not to make a judgment on that, but they didn't necessarily get into it. For the art, they got into it for the change in circumstances that becoming rich and famous through the art could bring. So I think there's there's different aspects and different ways of looking at this idea of change. But I felt like I don't know if it was change as much as it was getting to express parts of myself or try on different people that I felt I would never be in real life, you know, getting to become somebody else have a different experience instead of my humdrum, suburban, New Jersey, Italian American life, you know, I thought acting was exciting because it provides seemed to provide this opportunity to, to change in that way. So I'm curious because we went through these three years of intensive method or method style training and graduate school. Can you talk to me about method acting as you see it and what your process is now today?

Gabe Fazio 9:10

Well, it's interesting, because I feel like today, method acting has the definition of method acting has changed into something that it wasn't originally. Now method acting is looked at in a negative way, where it's, it's often plugged into people, particularly famous people who don't know what they're doing, and they, and they call it method acting, and it's always negative. And so, for my understanding of method acting is using your past experience and your imagination. And that's it and you do whatever you need to do you find your own way of working, whatever you need to do to get it done. Whatever you need to do to play that role. As long as it doesn't, as long as it's not at the expense of someone else. You know, no one He used to participate in your process. And I make sure that like, you know, whatever I'm doing is not intrusive on anyone else's way of working. And I feel like that preserves a positive light of what method acting is, which is just really relating to the character to the deepest of your ability, you know, and really dive deep. If you want to, like make a diamond, you gotta like, you know, crushed a cold, you know, it's like, you got to really work at it. It's a quest for truth. I think that's what method acting is about. And that's, you know, I feel like that's what I learned it to be by, you know, working with people who worked with Strasburg work with, you know, listening to people like Jack, our fine talk, working with teachers like Elizabeth camp and Geraldine Barron and Barbara poor TA and reading books on Stanislavski, and Stella Adler, and just really absorbing everything you can, through real experience, hands on experience, like you don't know what it's like to live in someone's shoes. So the best Your job is to put yourself in that other person's shoes. And no matter who you're playing, whether it's Hitler, or Gandhi, you have to understand you have to love the person you're playing, and really understand what makes them tick, which sometimes can be controversial, you have to like play the character with a certain reverence, to and respect and love and care for the person. And that is controversial.

Brandy Hotchner:

So I would come at it as an educator, and someone who's devoted God almost 17 years now to trying to deconstruct this really mysterious, controversial and truly misunderstood approach of American acting. I've spent a lot of time on this, but when I've brought artists in, like you gave a new Christen, those are very precious times for me, because whenever you guys come in and run a workshop, we're digging deep into what is this? What is this? What are we doing? What are we trying to pass on to this other generation of actors? Where are we running into obstacles? And what worked for us? How did our mentors break us open? I think if you're going to break it down to its simplest form, it's the deep desire to be as alive in the imaginary circumstances as you possibly can be, the act of asking yourself to live truthfully, is incredibly hard. Because it's on natural, Dramatic Writing is filled with heights. It's heightened emotion, it's heightened events, it's heightened circumstances. And the people reacting in those moments to those circumstances are reacting. In ways that we spend every day of our lives, trying to control, it's breaking moments, and it's ugly, it's messy, it can be quite embarrassing and humiliating. If you're in the realm of sexuality and desire. It's all the parts of ourselves that from day one, we are told is not acceptable. And it's not acceptable. We can't run through life like that. So the actor has to get up. And let all that conditioning go. And really express and it's it's a challenge. We understand each other wherever we're from, however, we were raised, we understand each other, because the human condition is so universal, but the allowance to get up and let it express that's the challenge. And the confusion is, well, method actors will do anything to capture a moment. It's an approach, that's when you leave, Zan set. It's not a method. It's an approach. And the approach is the individual artists desire to live very truthfully the moments that their characters are in life and to be very alive in it for it not to be representational, for it not to be choreographed, pre planned, cliche, which means it has to come from you.

Kristen Cerelli:

What I hear when you're both talking about this is I hear that what we have to change in a way as actors is the sort of general complacency that other humans get into just living life. And I think what definitely our listeners won't know is that you do have to train. It's an athletic event. It's a full bodied event. It's just like an Olympic athlete to take on a you're talking about dramatic texts being really heightened. And so, yeah, we have moments in our lives that are heightened, we all remember that, you know, the funeral of our grandmother that we went to, or, you know, the birth of our first child, we all remember these big moments, but we're not living there all the time. And I think actors are actually asked to, to live there, not all the time, but to step in and to step out and to step in and to step out, and that that takes training. And I think that kind of training does change you. It makes you different than other people.

Brandy Hotchner:

God is for certain. You can't it's a personal journey. Isn't that what Strasburg said acting training is a personal journey, it's a confrontational one. And it's glorious, in that,

Kristen Cerelli:

so just want to stay on this one second further, which is a verb for both of you because because brand new, you started as an actor, even though you've transformed, let's say, so tell me as actors, when you approach a role, do you consciously try to change things about yourself that, you know, are different than the character?

Gabe Fazio:

Well, I think, like changes, depending on the role, but the thing I asked myself is, what was I? What would I do in this situation? Ask that question. And then

Kristen Cerelli:

you go from there? Well, I

Gabe Fazio:

mean, then it branches out. Yeah,

Kristen Cerelli:

I'm curious. Because I think lay people, I mean, the three of us are kind of maybe we're talking in code a little bit the way actors talk. So I think I'm always tickled when somebody who's not in the theater or not an actor comes to see a performance and they say to you gave afterwards Oh, my God, how did you do that? You were unrecognizable. It was like you changed into another person. And it's like, what is it that they're saying, seeing or sensing like,

Gabe Fazio:

just seeing, you know, the layers stripped down or added on, it's not something that you, oh, I'm going to change it to this. And then suddenly, you turn into the Incredible Hulk, it's more of like, a, they're seeing the changes of the seasons that of all the months, you've worked on it for weeks, or however long it took you hours, days, whatever, hopefully, it's month, and or year. And they see the result of a process that's ever changing. It's never is consistently changing. Even when you're performing. You're always changing, you know, it's like it there's, you have to stay at blocking stays the same. Yeah, all that technical shit. But, you know, it's, it's, I don't know, if someone says that to me. I, you know, first of all, that's the great, greatest compliment you can receive. But either way, I think that's what they're seeing. It's just seeing like, you know, the, the results,

Brandy Hotchner:

and it's, it is it is a puzzle, they're seeing the end of the puzzle. It just, it's like, I'll sit with the script. And the moment I crack it open the puzzles beginning it's there's something to decode. Yes, I start with myself by I need to answer question after question after question after question that the script has contained in it always, especially with good writing these marvelous crew clues. I feel like we collaborate most closely and intimately with the author, even if the author isn't there. The author is, in one scene, we'll have a bit of behavior, right? It's all behavior, that character has this behavior, a response to a moment, it's a clue that says, ooh, something happened over here. This happened when they were individuating. In adolescence, this there's this, you know, malfunction in the family system. There's this and I can start to decode the mystery of the human that I only get a tiny view of what's within that script a moment in time.

Kristen Cerelli:

You're both so eloquent. I love what you said, Gabe, about what they're witnessing is the change of the seasons of your work over time.

Gabe Fazio:

Yeah, I just just for me, yeah, I'm sure there's some people who can like do it. Well, oh, you need that. And it just like can. I've seen people do that? I've seen actors who are incredibly talented. That just Do you know, I don't know. Like, for me, I don't work that way. I remember I was working with Geraldine Barron on on a roll that my first television show, where I had a watch the World Trade Center, like, you know, collapse, that was gonna be on me. And so I was like, I was scared. So I'm like, I don't know how to do this. Like, and she's like, you know, gave me the statue exercise, which was so interesting it was, it was really just like repetition and muscle training. It's like really just like a, a psychological statute, you just like, form into something. And then after like, puts you in a relaxation, and she like almost put you through an effective memory. For those people who don't know what that is, it's just sort of like when somebody guides you through a very relaxed state, where you are open to being guided to feel. And so that's what she did. And then when she felt she got me to a point, she said, Now, I want you to remember what it was seeing the buildings come down. And then when I say now, I want you to open your eyes, as if you're seeing it. And to be as big as you want be as big and extravagant, use your whole body. And so when she told me, I did it, and then she said, Now, I want you to hold that. And I want you to do that. Every night, hold that position, remember it, do that every night for you go to bed for 10 minutes straight, hold that statue, and allow your mind to be free. And then what you do is very slowly, you bring it down to a natural form. And that's what I did. And I showed up on set and I felt confident and I was able to do it. There were like 500 extras and directors like you. Okay, so this is all about you next few days, all these extras are here for you all the setup here for you. And all this pressure. She's like, no pressure, no pressure. He's like, you just tell me when you're ready to go. And we'll go and I'm like, I want to be professional. So I'm like, Yeah, you just do it, go about your day and let me know when you're ready. And then he walked away. I was like, Oh, God, it's but I felt competent, I knew that I will, there will be a response that is needed to fulfill the scene. And I did it, like pay gap partake. I was learning I'm still learning. And that was just really to do because the pressure was just completely overwhelming. I mean, they had gigantic fans that were blowing like papers and dust and soot. I had two camera guys on me at the same time. And all these extra oh my god, like if I didn't do any work, how does an actor not do any work, get to that situation and feel like they can do it. I feel like beyond me.

Kristen Cerelli:

I'm grateful that you described this process that Geraldine took you through in the sense that, to me, it does amplify change in that you couldn't have gone in and just done it. You needed to work on something you needed to develop some tools you needed to develop some ownership over the moment. And to do that. You had to undergo physical change. That's not the only way to do it. But for me, like the reason I've strayed from some of our training in graduate school is because I always felt like something was missing for me in in what I got there. And was

Brandy Hotchner:

that the physical work, Kirsten, because you've moved with such passion into a far more athletic, whole body kind of approach to your craft. I

Kristen Cerelli:

think Brandi right? I think for me, I felt like the things that I felt blocked about things that I felt I wanted to express that I couldn't express. That was not jiving for me until I found phys more physical work, more movement based work, Michael check offs work. And then I then I started to go, oh, this is exciting. And it works for me. And I think that's also I don't know if it's the tragedy of American training. But I think holding on to any one way of thinking is not healthy for us.

Brandy Hotchner:

And that's not uniquely American in any way. Kristen, this is some very bizarre thing all the way back to the early 1700s. The first writings on the technique of acting and stuff. It goes as far back as that there's deep pettiness in our in our world, my way right way guru coach, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What I don't get it. I don't know what that is, but I'm not unique to American acting No at all.

Kristen Cerelli:

Well, and that brings me back to what Now you said Gabe said the change of the seasons, which is so beautiful. And you said the puzzle and what I get also from both of those is such a reverence for me History. And why I think we often can't answer direct questions as actors about change or what because our process has so much mystery in it. And it's not the same every time. So just because we used this roadmap for that character in the last play, doesn't mean that roadmap is going to work for next.

Brandy Hotchner:

You almost have to go back to the beginning every time right? Okay.

Gabe Fazio:

Right, true. Um, but I wanted to say something that what Kristin said, he said, you mentioned that you abandoned the, the method

Kristen Cerelli:

I said, I said strayed from it,

Gabe Fazio:

I wanted to explain, I feel like what I'm learning about, the method is more about the misuse of the method. It's like, you don't need these tools unless you need them. It's sometimes it strikes me as like, I am living in a bizarro world, where people are really, they just don't have the eye. And I'm not saying like, I had this amazing eye, that I can see what's real. But I can, I can see, I can see what's big, very clearly. And I can see what's real. And it's so it makes you crazy. It really does. And I feel like that's because you have all these people who are being taught by teachers who don't know how to teach it.

Brandy Hotchner:

So much of what is method in the classroom and when it's it's not taught thoughtfully and carefully. Is such it's, it's suddenly your teaching students are being taught to self indulge, or emotionally masturbate or worse, and where the danger zone is, and is. They're being guided to open her rific raw pain and suffering and use it, which is not at all I mean, nobody talks about the seven year rule anymore. But Strausberg was so specific. You don't touch something from your own life. That was in any way transforming cause change in you. So we can call that adversity or we can call that trauma but it's a big event in your life, pivotal event in your life, unless it's at least seven years but

Kristen Cerelli:

it's a good time to check in on you listener because if you're not a theatre person, you might be wondering what the hell or who the hell we've been talking about at times. I promise we're not name dropping. We're speaking actor speak, actor studio speak. That is because most of the artists we're referencing had some affiliation with the actor studio in its heyday, when it was led by Lee Strasberg, who famously taught Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe and many, many others. The studio was one place American actors could learn technique, but it wasn't the only place. Other training grounds were run by other big name acting teachers like Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, and Gouda Haagen. But nearly every mid century American acting teacher could trace their roots back to one guy, Constantine Stanislavski, who over in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, developed and codified a system of actor training that included eight or nine or 10 tenets, an actor must develop in order to practice his craft. The thing is, all these American teachers had different interpretations of Stanislavski his writings, and those interpretations led to lots and lots of heated fighting about what he meant, and who was right about what he meant, and what he left unsaid and who should carry the torch forward with their unique and deeply correct understanding of his work? sounds exhausting? Here are two things that I can tell you, of all the American teachers. It was only Stella Adler, who spent any time in Russia observing the master himself. And it was only Michael check off. My special guy who was himself Russian born and bred, but who later became an under the radar teacher of American actors who actually studied intensively as an actor under Stanislavski. Make of that what you will. Here's the third thing I can tell you, as modern actors who are now one or two generations removed from all the drama, we have the luxury to read and absorb and experiment and practice and then decide what we want to accept. And what we want to reject from all these quote unquote gurus, who it turns out probably had more in common than they would have admitted back then. For example, none of them would disagree on the importance of the imagination to the actors process. Talk to me about imagination. In your work, what's the role of imagination and helping you create a character?

Gabe Fazio:

I don't know, when your imagination goes crazy. It's like my imagination always goes to like, I'm driven by fear. So everything that I do is always comes out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of not being able to live up to my own expectations, fear of becoming the things I bitch about, like I did before. I have a great fear of that. So I'm very, like, you know, afraid. So, out of that fear comes the analyzation, or the over analyzation, of worst case scenario. And that's my first guess will always my instinctive reaction. So my imagination, I just allow myself it for the crap, I allow myself to do that to go there. I allow myself to spiral down a deep, dark place, and sometimes a really elated, crazy, happy place, I just let it go. And I grabbed things along the way. Mainly, that that and I pay special attention to the things that scare the living shit out of me. Or sometimes the things that scare the living shit out of me are not always limited to dark things. Sometimes they're, they go to greatness and like, enlightenment. But in order to achieve that enlightenment, would mean that I would have to change things in my life. Right now. So that's when life imitates art, art imitates life where it's like, wow, that's when I find things that are I can relate to and a character.

Brandy Hotchner:

So one of the challenges for adults who, for whatever reason, come to the craft. They have to take an acting class, they don't even know why like, nobody is stupid. Absolutely, everybody understands, that couldn't be a worse game of chance. But I feel like I have to do acting. And they so they don't quite know why. And these are people who are highly accomplished, already have established careers, families, whatever it is, and something like an infection in them, they can't get rid of it. And they have to do it, they don't understand why. And one of the biggest obstacles in the very, very beginning is the use of their own imaginative workings. And so here's what I've observed. And part of so much of this came from being a mother. And just the incredible phenomenon of observing your children at play and participating with them at play from very, very young child, their imaginative world is really no less real to them than the actual real world. And I'm sure there's some brilliant scholarly stuff on what's happening in the brain. But that is the case. So if you go into a room with a four or five year old, and they're in the midst of whatever imaginative play, you enter their world, they tend to invite you in and you enter their world, whether my sons used to gear up, head to toe, in army gear, get the multitude of Nerf guns that they had, and let me know that they were gonna go shoot zombies in the yard. And I could join them or not, if I joined them, I was in their army. And I was No, I was a soldier, of course, thank

Gabe Fazio:

God.

Brandy Hotchner:

And then I observed in them, the strange phenomenon of that imaginative workings going slightly dormant. And then the imagination was getting still stimulated by by entertainment, books or TV or whatever entertainment, and it just stays that way. And then suddenly, an adult comes into an acting class and we ask them to imagine to use their senses to you're asking them to take an old muscle that's been somewhat dormant, and bring it back to where it was. And ideally, you know, you're functioning as an actor. And I think many artists do this dancers in the industry, certainly performance, performing artists, whether they're conscious of it or not, you're back in that area of imaginative play. And that's where you are and where you live. it as profoundly as you did in those very young formative years, but you have to get that muscle working again. I love you. Imagination is everything. The imagination is everything. In fact, I'm going to get a little teachery. In Bobby Lewis's book is incredible book method or madness, still one of my favorite books. And the front cover is the picture that Stanislavski drew for him. And Stella Adler, when they were at his bedside, which is this pyramid. It's very mysterious to me, honestly, except for one section, which is this big band in the middle, the center, this giant band, and Stanislavski wrote, imagination is the center of everything. It's the first thing that we have to give ourselves permission to do and it can be the first obstacle that new actors run up against, is just play. Play again.

Gabe Fazio:

Yeah, it's funny because that Stanislavski there's this book called phantom schlocky in rehearsal, which, written by Moscow Art actor, configure the next corporate cough. And he talked about the last three plays he worked on, which was dead souls, three sisters and tartufo. And he really was really focusing on what would you do in this situation, and really going far and exploring the situation physically, without trying to manipulate your emotions to do anything?

Kristen Cerelli:

I love what you're saying about the imagination. I love what you said about Stanislavski. To me, actually, imagination feels like a critical piece of change. Because I'm going to keep pulling that thread out where, for the for the layperson, I think change can be so hard, when you literally can't imagine that your circumstances could change or that you could make different choices so that your body weight will change or that you know what I mean? Like, imagine that visualization, as much as you can call those synonymous but but visualization and imagination, I think for the everyday person, I think it's like you said, Randy, we're fed so many things, we eat so many things, we digest so many things that are not in us naturally. And we've all really as a culture just lost touch with the idea of imagination. Well,

Brandy Hotchner:

I love how you said that. I think that was beautifully put. And I can observe that the task of starting to develop as an artist and an actor can be very shocking to some people, in part because of that very thing. First, they have to confront themselves. Because, you know, they get a script, they're assigned a scene and they love it. And they love it. And then they practice it in the shower and they're screaming and they're crying. And if anyone could see they'd get an Oscar right then and there, they get on stage in front of the class, try to work, the throat closes. The body shakes. Their voice says no, they can't do anything that they were able to do in private taking what is private, which is our emotional selves, our suffering selves, our envious selves or our our desirables or whatever. And making it public is a massive task. Change in life means letting go some control what's happening to the actor on stage is that they are asking themselves to let go control of the moment control of how other people see them. Control of how they will feel control of wanting to get approval from the teacher control, control, control control, right? And change is so frightening, I guess fundamentally because of what is unknown. But if you unpack that shit, it's losing control.

Kristen Cerelli:

It's terrifying surrender, to

Brandy Hotchner:

be able to surrender. Yes,

Kristen Cerelli:

you know, I realized as we're talking about this, we're leaving out the actor's life. I won't hashtag that game, I promise. But the the actor's life is is inherently full of change. There's no such thing as having a job as a job as an actor. You don't join the the actor company and get employed for 20 years. Like, let's talk about that. Like how has it been to navigate the changes in your own life lives as an artist?

Gabe Fazio:

I just know it was like, you know, I knew early on it'd be some sort of sacrifice of having What, you know, the, the quote unquote hashtag the American dream is, which is like, you know, have a family has some kids, which is all great. It's amazing, you know, I mean, it could get to that that'll be amazing but like, I feel like I knew very early on that I wouldn't be happy unless I was pursuing this. And I'll do whatever it takes to do it forever. So, anything, any kind of suffering that happened along the way, it was good. You know, whether it's working as a waiter working at a cemetery or working in a moving truck, or, you know, mowing somebody's lawn, or babysitting somebody's kids or doing something that's tedious, and you're looking at the clock the whole time, and but you remind yourself why you're doing it. And there are times where you get jealous, man, I want to get a car. You know, like, it's like, oh, man, I'd love to own my own house. Oh, like right now. Oh, man. I'd love to have like five acres on a fucking ranch in like Montana. It's like, Yeah, we all want materialistic things, but And that's okay. It's nothing wrong with that. But you know the actor's life. I guess that's why I get annoyed when I see hashtag actor's life when people in a honey wagon or like, you know, showing that close up picture will be a call sheet. It's like, you know, it's like, Dude, it's so insensitive. Because that's not back is like

Kristen Cerelli:

not saying that. I love you for calling that out. I

Gabe Fazio:

hate it and like, because first of all, you don't even know it's it's subtle bragging. Because you don't even know if you're gonna make the cut. It's like a hole. I always want to be like, hashtag hope you make the cutting room floor. It's like it's subtle bragging. It's like, why don't you tell people when you are going to err, that's what you would call, you know, self promotion. Like, come see me on ABC. Like, that's one thing. But when you're subtle bragging about Look at me. I'm on set. It's like, Dude, you know how many people are gonna be feeling like shit, because they're not working, you know? So the actor's life is somebody who's dragging it knuckles on the floor, sacrificing not having a family and working their ass off 90 hours a week, making fucking $1,000 So they can afford their room and rent is Studio shared a pasta shared studio in Harlem. Like that's actor's life. And it's not pretty. And it takes a lot of sacrifice.

Kristen Cerelli:

I think to your point, we've, we only accept an actor who has fame as an actor. And I think when you you and I and I, all three of us were coming up, we were still living in a culture where you could make a respectable living, doing theater and maybe getting that commercial. You know, every once in a while to tide you over. Hey, a little red pill. Yeah, and you didn't have to be a household name to be an actor. You were uh, you know, you were working stiff. You worked and then you worked your regular job and then you hope to get it you know, all that.

Gabe Fazio:

That's still a reality. It's just not it's just not celebrated. It's not celebrated. Well, so just not respected. Rather, it's not like oh, who are we? What have I seen you it?

Kristen Cerelli:

It seems harder to me though. Now. It also it's harder for seems harder.

Gabe Fazio:

Yeah, it is harder. You're right. I agree. Kristen.

Kristen Cerelli:

How has the industry changed since you got in it? And how do you navigate those changes?

Gabe Fazio:

always been the same. Opportunities like still slim. Still same. For me.

Kristen Cerelli:

I think it just has seemed to snowball. It just seems that every body wants to be an actor, everybody, and now everybody can

Gabe Fazio:

work, but they'll still work. If you look like a model, or you have some weird strange configurations in your face. You know, you're gonna you're gonna work

Brandy Hotchner:

well, I think we we need to always frame this really, really properly. Out of the dignity of our work I acting is the few one of the few art forms if maybe the only art form, where a person with no actual skill or gift for the art form can become phenomenally successful.

Kristen Cerelli:

There are so many threads I can pull on here. And if this part of our conversation makes it sound kinda sorta like the actor's journey is a little bit awful. It is. It can be Gabes perspective about hashtag actor's life is his perspective for sure. or, and another actor might tell you they've had a delightful and welcoming and easy experience. And I wouldn't want to invalidate that. But I believe that what he didn't say is just as important as what he did say when it comes to understanding the reality of pursuing a career in the entertainment business, which is rife with pressure, sacrifice, financial and emotional struggle, constant change, and a lot of nonsense, even in the best case scenario. He's a blue collar kid who had no stage parents, no connections, no disposable income, no team, no advantages when it came to working towards the stream. But the industry is filled with people who have had all those things and more, a very long leg up, if you will. If you think it's a level playing field, think again. Next time you love an actor's performance, do a little digging, you might find out that their uncle is a big time movie director or their plastic surgeon parents had no trouble with the cost of tuition to the top drama school. The British press has been more open in recent years and calling this out and trying to remedy it. In 2018, The Guardian published an article that posed the question, Why does British theatre leave working class actors in the wing? And it's a question we should be asking more here too. Yes, we've started to especially in the advent of I See You White American Theater, which by the way, is a whole other episode. But we have lots of time to make up for. Look, I don't mean to imply that the kid with the leg up can't also be insanely talented and deserving of a rewarding career. I just mean to reiterate, Gabes plea for sensitivity around privilege in the biz. If you have it, be mindful that you have it, and maybe go one step further and figure out how to be the CHANGE. There are lots of talented folks for whom doors don't open even after years and years of putting in the work. I want to I want to just drive the car in a different direction. What are some performances in your memory recent or longer, that were that really stand out to you because of some great transformation the actor made,

Gabe Fazio:

say most recently, Anthony Hopkins in the Father. Because that's the per perfect, it's, he's playing a character that his is his age. And he used himself and his imagination. Together, you can see it and that it was so beautiful. He couldn't be that person, you know, and I saw him know that and portray it in his role. And that's like, that's rare. Is that

Kristen Cerelli:

is that transformation then? Because now now we're back to that question about, is that change or transformation? Or is that an uncovering of something that's already transformation?

Gabe Fazio:

Because he doesn't suffer from dementia?

Brandy Hotchner:

One that is so perfect. It's Al Pacino in the first Godfather, because that character transforms in such totality. Yes, I agree. If you take the scene when he sits with his soon to be wife, and he is young and optimistic and brilliant, and American and and by the end of that movie, he is something utterly different, terrified, and its whole body soul, everything has transformed over the course of that script. And it's shot at a sequence. So that actor held that through line that overreaching character arc, shooting out a sequence, he didn't have the benefit that stage actors have of being able to walk in at the beginning of the first act and pull themselves through it. Till curtain. And then the other one that I would point to is Holly Hunter in the piano. That character has a very similar total transformational art without dialogue, but I can tell you, right when you watch it, and you think back on that film, you hear her. She speaks utterly through the whole thing, and she transforms so much by the

Gabe Fazio:

De Niro in Taxi Driver. Well, there's

Brandy Hotchner:

another one. Chris Walken and deer hunter. There's

Kristen Cerelli:

I want to throw in Leonardo DiCaprio and What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Gabe Fazio:

Leonardo DiCaprio is and it's well as Matt Damon. You know, Matt Damon is underrated. And I feel like DiCaprio is underrated as well. I think there really are Greek contemporaries,

Brandy Hotchner:

Sally Field in simple note, well, yes, but Job the

Gabe Fazio:

one where she strike. No, no.

Brandy Hotchner:

That's a stunning performance that's transformative who she is at the beginning. And then who she becomes at the end. AMANDA PEET.

Gabe Fazio:

I wanted to say underrated actress.

Brandy Hotchner:

I agree.

Gabe Fazio:

She didn't do it. John was just like, really except

Brandy Hotchner:

that was exceptional. Transformation. I

Gabe Fazio:

feel like she was not given the due respect for that.

Kristen Cerelli:

As you think of those performances, Anthony Hopkins in the father Al Pacino and the Godfather, Randall and waterfront, Sally Field and Norma Rae,

Brandy Hotchner:

Cheetah rowland's, Raging Bull,

Kristen Cerelli:

is there a common thread in those performance

Brandy Hotchner:

there is I can think of one hard fucking work hard, hard fucking work actors or disciplined.

Gabe Fazio:

People also don't want to talk about the talent. Because it's a little controversial. Like, I'm sorry about like, you know, I think talent, you have to have talent, can't teach talent, that's a gift. It's a gift. And like, you know, if you have a gift, that's great. Some people have a small gift and but I feel like in acting, you get just if you have the right if you're relaxed, and you're confident you can actually accomplish a lot without trying to, you know, do heavy heavy lifting. I just wanted to mention one other thing. You're talking about great performances. Has anyone watched the Netflix show? Caliphate? No, it's hard. It's brutal to watch. But the actor, the actress, her name is Zen or Dogan if I'm saying it, right. And the actor who played her husband, his name was Ahmed Bose on Boson or whatever. I don't know how to pronounce the names, but but their performances was off the charts. Fantastic.

Brandy Hotchner:

Talk about relaxation, trust of school, God,

Gabe Fazio:

great thing to have to do with the direct director. Because I feel like the film is like a director's medium, where like, they're casting and then they're, you know, making allowing, like creating the temperature on set for actors to be free and relaxed and feel encouraged. And I feel like that, like, you know, all the great directors, some, for some reason are able to get like the best performances out of actors,

Kristen Cerelli:

I think you're talking about, I think what I hear is this great belief, and hope for a collaboration and that collaboration actually enhances an actor's performance and actually, releases can release an actor's best stuff, it can help that find its outlet. And we know I mean, I think the other thing we know, ourselves is we need each other to be actors. You know, we can't I mean, yes, we can go onto the green screen with the with the things attached to us. But I think for all of us, that's, that's not the most satisfying experience as an actor. It's, it's the ones where we're working with another human being, whether that's our acting partner, or the director. And I think that's I think that's how people change too is they can't We can't do it alone. A lot of times, I mean, we have to do it alone, the performance is coming through our one unique channel. But someone else's eye, an input and little nudge of encouragement can be critical.

Brandy Hotchner:

It's a collaborative art form. So we are not individual artists, unlike the writer or the painter, we don't exist without our fellow theatre and film artists. It's a dance. It's a perfect dance, lead and a follow and an absolute synchronicity. And it's a hard thing to achieve because you have to So trust that other person and that's another area in life, we resist.

Kristen Cerelli:

I love what you're saying because I'm looking at the two of you now and we're we're 25 years into our friendship and I'm I'm remembering times when when I got to work with Gabe on stage and Brandi, I know you've worked with him too. And just the sort of like, the way the way another person can change you, you know, you go in and you have your idea about what you want from the performance what you want from yourself as the actor and then somebody comes along and I'm gonna use I'll just use Gabe because he's here but somebody comes along and he brings something unexpected. And you have to change you have to meet it. You have to you, you have to go with you how have to dance the dance I think you have to to be a good actor you have to to have a rich life. Okay, so we're at the end of our conversation, which includes what I want to call and force you to obey. It's rapid fire. So I'm going to ask you a series I'm going to ask you a series of questions. Don't think just answer and let's go like this brandy, you're gonna answer first and Gabe, you're gonna answer second. Same question. Okay. Okay, here we go. The first one is a fill in the blank. Fill in the blank. Change requires blank

Unknown Speaker:

acceptance ice cream

Gabe Fazio:

you can say what comes to my mind

Unknown Speaker:

fine.

Kristen Cerelli:

If you could go back in time and change one thing and only one thing about your past. What would it be?

Gabe Fazio:

Wait, who's going first here because I'm waiting. It's just not Brandy is not going I'm gonna I'm gonna go ahead and brandy because you have to ask the question again. Randy's not playing by the rules. Very clearly Kristen said brandy first

Kristen Cerelli:

okay, if you could go back in time if you could go back in time and change one thing and only one thing about your life what would it be

Gabe Fazio:

tenement ship

Brandy Hotchner:

my need for validation and affirmation. I don't need that anymore

Gabe Fazio:

on about that you thought about that question was destroyed we're not rapid fire here this is this is eliciting my Larry David right now. My OCD is getting very triggered right now.

Kristen Cerelli:

Okay, what is one thing big or small? You would like to see change in the world?

Gabe Fazio:

Yes

Kristen Cerelli:

You're mocking me

Gabe Fazio:

to see what comes out on my first rapid fire.

Unknown Speaker:

But you can think you can think about it should don't you can think of he said don't think you're right.

Kristen Cerelli:

I did. I did say I meant don't like don't chew

Gabe Fazio:

on it changing the goalposts. Okay, okay.

Kristen Cerelli:

What is one thing big or small? You would like to see change in the world?

Brandy Hotchner:

Tolerance

Gabe Fazio:

respect.

Brandy Hotchner:

Now we're playing properly. Yes. Systems happy? What is?

Kristen Cerelli:

What is one thing big or small? You hope never changes?

Brandy Hotchner:

Children playing.

Gabe Fazio:

Got my brain scrambling right now. water and oxygen.

Kristen Cerelli:

Oh. Good one. What is one small or superficial thing about yourself? You would change?

Brandy Hotchner:

Vanity

Gabe Fazio:

it's the word it's impulsiveness.

Brandy Hotchner:

We both said that no, no, I'm 25 years we both

Kristen Cerelli:

how often do you change your toothbrush?

Gabe Fazio:

Jesus Christ, okay. I'm

Brandy Hotchner:

gonna say every week, weeks, is that gross? Oh, God every week? No. I wash it.

Gabe Fazio:

Every week, I use an electric toothbrush. So they're very expensive. So I change them when the bristles start to like, you know, go out. So I guess like, I guess, like once a month. Okay.

Kristen Cerelli:

It's not a terrorist. It's just a little light hearted question. You

Gabe Fazio:

know, you're crossing the line here. Okay.

Kristen Cerelli:

Okay, understanding that we all have aspects of each of these in ourselves. Are you primarily a change maker, a change seeker or a change resistor,

Gabe Fazio:

change resistor

Brandy Hotchner:

change maker?

Kristen Cerelli:

What does your next change look like? And feel free to be aspirational or imaginative or fantastical about this answer,

Gabe Fazio:

wait, I'm a change maker. I agree. I hear resist and I'm like, That's me. Like no, wait a minute. I actually like to change a lot. Alright, so go on.

Kristen Cerelli:

Sorry. What is your next change look like? And feel free to be aspirational or imaginative about your answer.

Gabe Fazio:

Next, what is the change my next change look like? Yeah,

Brandy Hotchner:

I can go Great I looking forward to letting go long held perceived obligations to others to the craft. I'm actually aspirationally looking to care for my artists,

Gabe Fazio:

spiritual paradise

Kristen Cerelli:

and also and also spiritual therapy.

Gabe Fazio:

That's my change that's the future with change.

Kristen Cerelli:

Well, I I send you both all my loving energy towards your aspirations but I also send you a major gratitude for giving me two hours and 20 minutes of your lives today we will edit this. I don't know how we will edit this down. But thank you. Thanks, Shirley.

Brandy Hotchner:

Kristen, thank you for giving me this opportunity it was fun.

Kristen Cerelli:

shift shift Blum is a co production of T comm studios and actually quite nice. engineered by Tim fall and hosted by me, Kristen Cerelli episodes are available wherever you download your podcasts and are made possible by listeners just like you. Please consider supporting our work by visiting us@patreon.com forward slash shift shift blue

Tim Fall:

shift shift Bloom is made possible in part by the prayed Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the well being of all through the use of personalized timely interventions and provider of online training in the T comm tools T calm is transformational collaborative outcomes management a comprehensive framework for improving the effectiveness of helping systems through Person Centered Care online at prayed foundation.org and AT T comma conversations.org. And by the Center for Innovation and Population Health at the University of Kentucky online@iph.uk y.edu