Jeff Daniels on the “Drudgery” of Memorizing Lines: “There’s nothing exciting about it”

“Memorization is, there’s nothing exciting about it, it’s drudgery, it’s repetition, it’s finding words that are similar sometimes.” –

Last November, Emmy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated actor Jeff Daniels completed a year-long run playing Atticus Finch in the Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s one of many stage roles that Daniels has appeared in (he’s a three-time Tony Award nominee). He’s also the founder of the Purple Rose Theatre Company (named after one of the most famous films he appeared in, 1985’s The Purple Rose of Cairo) in Chelsea, Michigan, and has penned several plays of his own.

In short, Daniels has an obvious love for acting on stage and, while speaking about how to “make it” in Hollywood to Vanity Fair, Daniels revealed his insight on memorizing lines — something every actor must excel at to become a success.

“Memorization is, there’s nothing exciting about it, it’s drudgery, it’s repetition, it’s finding words that are similar sometimes. Sometimes it’s that technical, find a sentence with R-E, it’s got refuse in it, and then later on in a sentence it’s require. Just circle the re and the re. Now it’s you know that it’s the require… the refuse, or whatever it is. Just little stepping stones across the river, which is the sentence. Then, musically, your mouth has to get used to saying these words together right now. Your mouth is memorizing where it’s going to go next. Singers do this all the time. There’s this kind of muscle memory for the lips and the cheeks, and the mouth. That comes from the brain being able to memorize it, all words, all syllables, then run it 100 miles an hour.”

“When you can do that, all of that stuff, then you add in the motivations, and all that, but you can slide some of those into and then the next thing you know, you don’t even think about it, and you’re reeling off pages and pages and pages.”

More: Jeff Daniels’ Agents Tried to Stop Him from Doing ‘Dumb & Dumber’

About Author

In college, overachiever Christopher McKittrick double-majored in Film and English because he loves to read, write, and watch movies. Since then Chris – who was born and raised on Long Island, New York and currently lives in Queens – has become a published author of fiction and non-fiction, a contributor to entertainment websites, and has spoken about literature, film, and comic books at various conferences across the country when he’s not getting into trouble in New York City (apparently it’s illegal to sleep on street corners...) For more information about Chris, visit his website here!

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