Alfred Molina has had a long and varied career of film, television, and stage roles ever since his first major appearance in the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark. While Molina is currently starring as artist Mark Rothko in a production of Red (a role that he originated in London, followed by a Tony Award-winning production on Broadway) through September 9 at the Mark Taper Forum, he spoke about career advice he received from his father, who wasn’t an actor.
“My only objective as an actor when I started was to stay employed. I come from a working-class immigrant family, and my father’s advice to me was ‘Pay your bills.’ My dad used to say, ‘A real man isn’t a guy who can punch anybody out; he’s the man who pays his bills.’ And I remember at the time thinking that was boring, but actually what he was talking about was the heart and soul of living your life — being a decent mensch. So I just stayed employed, and maybe that accounts for my longevity. I wasn’t fussy.”
As it turns out, Molina’s father was chock full of wisdom. He also made an important point to his son about the danger of becoming too satisfied with your work: instead of pushing yourself, you become content with mediocrity. He explains, “I remember cooking a meal for my dad, a professional cook, and I asked him how it was. He said,’It’s all right,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean it’s all right? I got it perfect.’ And he said, ‘You never get it right. The day you get it right is the day you die.’”