Gillian Jacobs on Different Acting Styles and How John Malkovich Helped Her Through a Difficult Scene

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Gillian Jacobs in Fear Street

“I’ve learned so many things…. from being on set and working with great actors.” – Gillian Jacobs

Classically trained actor Laurence Olivier and method actor Dustin Hoffman reportedly had difficultly working with each other when they starred in the 1976 film Marathon Man because of their different approaches to acting. Though few actors are giants of the industry like those two Academy Award-winning actors, many actors can relate to having to work with another actor who doesn’t approach the craft the same way that they do. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter to promote her role in the Fear Street series of movies on Netflix, actress Gillian Jacobs spoke about the challenges of working with actors who have different acting styles and how a veteran actor helped her through a difficult scene.

Regarding how she works with an actor who has a different acting style than she does, Jacobs explains by highlighting a poignant moment she had working with Academy Award nominated actor John Malkovich:

“It might be non-verbal adaptation that people do to people’s styles, and maybe sometimes it’s verbalized. But a lot of times, you’re just getting a sense for the other person as you’re working together, and you’re figuring out how they work versus how you work. I don’t know how many times I’ve had an actual conversation about it on set, but I’ve also learned so many things from people I’ve been in scenes with that I then try and take with me to future things. There have been real moments of generosity from other actors. I remember doing this movie very early on [Gardens of the Night], and I had a scene with John Malkovich, where my character was supposed to really break down and have a very emotional moment. But I just wasn’t there as a performer, emotionally; it just was not happening performance-wise. And without even saying anything, John Malkovich — who was off-camera because the camera was on me — basically just started improvising everything that had happened to my character, the given circumstances and everything that she’d gone through. So he really brought me to that place, emotionally, and then I was able to do the scene. So I thought that that was one of the most generous things I had ever seen, and it really amazed me because that’s not the sort of thing you’re really taught in acting school. So you learn it by working with great, generous actors. I don’t know if that’s adjusting performance style or just a real moment of generosity and kindness from one actor to another, but I’ve learned so many things like that from being on set and working with great actors.”

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