“Actors are their own instruments, and we have to perform maintenance on ourselves.” – John C. Reilly
It’s long been a cliche to say that Oscar-nominated actor John C. Reilly isn’t just a gifted comedic actor. Anyone who has seen Reilly in any number of his dramatic roles knows he is equally adept at portraying dramatic roles as he is playing the goofball. One of his most recent dramatic roles is his portrayal of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss in the HBO limited series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. While speaking with Vulture about the role, Reilly shared his thoughts on what an actor needs to do to maintain their conditioning for a performance.
When asked if he has trouble separating himself from his characters after playing them on screen, Reilly says, “At the end of a night, a violinist gets to put his violin in its case. If it gets broken, he takes it to the luthier and they fix it. But actors are their own instruments, and we have to perform maintenance on ourselves. You have to come back after these jobs that take a lot out of you emotionally. The physical wear and tear is another thing people don’t realize. It’s like, Just slam your hand on the table one time. No big deal. But then I slam my hand on a table 25 times from three different angles, so by the end of the day, it gets messed up.”
Reilly recounts a humorous story about his personal “maintenance” he underwent to prepare himself for the emotional ups and downs of the part in which the assistant directors thought he was having a typical “movie star” blow up at his assistant:
“All the usual stuff, like taking care of myself physically. But one of the main things I had to meditate on was not letting the power of my position go to my head. When you’re on a show like Winning Time, it’s in everyone’s vested interest that you are happy and stable, so they’re always trying to make you feel important. I like to be self-reliant because you can get spoiled really quickly. Once, I was running lines in my trailer. I think it was one of the early scenes where I rip Jerry West a new one. And I realized nobody had come to tell me when it was time to go to set. I went to the ADs like, ‘Hey, why didn’t you guys let me know it was time?’ They were afraid to knock on the door because they thought I was screaming at my assistant. I was like, ‘We were running lines! Come on, you guys. You know I’m not like that.'”