“Get in, do your thing, and get out like you have somewhere better to be.” – Alfred Molina’s Audition Advice
Alfred Molina has had many memorable films roles, but his greatest acclaim has come on the stage. Of his many award-winning stage roles, his most celebrated has been his performance as artist Mark Rothko in John Logan’s Red. Molina is currently performing as Rothko for the third time in the West End production of Red. He took the time to speak with The Stage to discuss his career, particularly how his early theatre experience helped establish him as an actor.
Molina has taught classes at Los Angeles’ New American Theatre, and one of the lessons he imparts on those lucky enough to attend his class is how to take ownership of roles. He explains, “I always tell my students: for the time and place that you occupy a role, that role is you and you are that role. It may well have been played a million times before you and it may well be played a million after you, but for this moment in time and space, you are it. And you must own it, it must be yours.”
Nonetheless, there is a difference in taking ownership of a role and overconfidence. Molina recalled an instance when after he completed a scene opposite an overconfident actor. In contrast, he reveals, “I’ve never, ever, ever – this might mean I’m not a very good actor, I don’t know – come off stage feeling successful. I’ve come off stage feeling good about what we did, but it’s always qualified by – ‘Tsk, didn’t quite get that, got a bit sloppy on that beat, could have come in a bit faster here, totally trod on my laugh there.’ There’s always stuff you can improve the next night and that’s the constant joy and the frustration of theatre.”
Molina recalls one aspect of his early acting experience that he is proud of. He remembers, “I graduated from drama school in 1975 and I spent five or six years in the theatre before I went anywhere near a film camera. But I suspect I was part of perhaps one of the last generations of actors that, when we graduated, assumed we would go into the theatre. That was the first port of call… I did nothing but theatre for the first five or six years. I didn’t do my first film until 1980. But it’s very different now. For a lot of actors, their first job is often a screen job, a TV job or a film job, because the network of theatres has diminished.”
Finally, after years of teaching, Molina has distilled his audition advice to a short phrase. He says, “Get in, do your thing, and get out like you have somewhere better to be.”