Do Kids Know How To Be Great Actors?
I was listening to an interview on the podcast ScriptNotes with Dana Fox, creator of the Apple TV series "Home Before Dark." Regardless of the fact that I enjoy listening to interviews from filmmakers, but filmmakers who are women with three young kids? She could read me the phone book if she wanted to, and I'd listen.
Fox was singing praises for young actress, Brooklynn Prince, who was only eight years old when they shot the first season. Amidst wonderful comments about Prince's kindness and personality, Fox also praised the young actress for being exceptionally talented as an actor.
I remember being 16 years old when an 11-year-old Anna Paquin won Best Supporting Actress for her work in The Piano. Full disclosure- I haven't seen Home Before Dark- I have no opinion on Brooklynn Prince's acting ability. But I remember resenting Paquin's win (being the obstinate, judgy teenager that I was) that there was no way a child could know how to access emotion like that with no life experience; that Paquin had to have been "faking it."
But what is acting other than faking it? Sure, teachers like Uta Hagen show us that good acting is acting that comes from a deep inner connection with the character, but if the audience doesn't know if the actor is accessing their deepest emotions or simply putting on a facade, what does it matter? And what if an actor with little life experience can be deep and empathic enough that they understand complicated emotions, even though they may never have had them?
For me, I have gained more life experience since the judgy days of my teenage years, and I've learned that "good" acting isn't just one narrowly-defined thing; that someone can do it well... even with only a few years on this planet.