Laura Linney on How a Good Crew Makes You a Better Actor and Why She Did a One-Person Show on Broadway

Laura Linney talks aspects of acting, including challenges she still faces. It's definitely worth listening in on her advice.

“I think it made me a better actor and I was just so relieved every night that I actually got through it. It’s a crazy thing to do, a one-person show. It’s bonkers.” – Laura Linney

It’s fair to say that four-time Emmy Award-winning actress — and nominated for the second time for her role as Wendy Byrde on OzarkLaura Linney is one of the most decorated American actresses of the 21st century. So when Linney speaks in an interview with Gold Derby about different background aspects of acting, including challenges she still faces, it’s definitely worth listening in on her advice.

The interviewer asks that since Netflix shows like Ozark are not limited by commercial breaks or time limits if there is more time for rehearsing. Regarding that, Linney responds:

“Well, it depends upon what you mean by rehearsal (laughs). If you mean the definition of rehearsal through a lens the theater uses, no. But for television, there is time. There’s a little bit of time for it. When the writing is as good as it is, fortunately, things are pretty clear and when you are surrounded by experienced actors and a crew that knows what they’re doing, that helps you with time. Part of the excitement and the exhilaration of doing television is just jumping in, is doing that work on your own, and then coming in and jumping in and seeing what everybody else has to offer and how that might alter what you originally had in mind. So for television standards, yes, there is rehearsal time. By theater standards, it’s no rehearsal time at all (laughs).”

Since Ozark is primarily shot on location, the cast and crew end up spending a lot of time together and are sometimes isolated from other people. Linney points out that while the crew might be local, the actors are not and appreciate the comfort of being around a familiar crew. She says:

“Well, we’re based in Atlanta, so the Atlanta crew is most of them, I would say 90 percent of them are local to Atlanta. And most of the actors, not all of us, but a lot of us fly in and stay there for several months and the crew is more important than anybody realizes or any of the audience knows and nor should they know. But they are critical to the culture of your set, to the health of your daily life while filming. Their support and their talent and their skillset adds… words cannot describe how important a good crew is and they make your work better. You’re a better actor with a great group.”

The interviewer points out that Ozark is the longest that Linney has ever played a single character — apart from theater, though in that case she played the same character in the same scenes for months at a time. Linney comments on the difference between playing one character over several seasons of a television series versus playing one character over the course of a production of a play:

“I think you have to be patient because the big difference between theater, of course, is that you’re telling the whole story from beginning to end every night. So you’re telling the story and refining the story and all of that. And with television series that go on for many years, you don’t even know where you are in the story. You could be at the halfway mark, but you could be at just the first third or maybe your show’s gonna be canceled the next year and you don’t even know that. So you have to sort of surrender a little bit and really stay in the moment and not play too much at one time and but play everything very specifically, which is why having as much information as you can have is important.”

For six weeks at the beginning of 2020, Linney performed on Broadway in the one-woman play My Name Is Lucy Barton, which was based on the bestselling novel by Elizabeth Strout. Linney reflects on performing on stage by herself and having to captivate an audience all on her own, and realizing how terrifying it is. She explains:

“It’s a totally unnatural thing to do, a one-person show. And when I was offered the job, I said yes very quickly, I think because I knew if I thought about it too long I’d get scared and say no. So it was really good for me to do My Name Is Lucy Barton because it forced me to sort of banish long fears I’ve always had about being onstage. I don’t like to break the fourth wall. And Lucy Barton is all about that. I really cling to my fellow actors and no one else was there. So I had to hone skills that were a little rusty and really rely on the language and really have tremendous faith that I would get through it, quite frankly, every night. So it was a wonderful thing for me personally to do. I think it made me a better actor and I was just so relieved every night that I actually got through it. It’s a crazy thing to do, a one-person show. It’s bonkers.”

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