Sam Rockwell on Acting, Choosing Roles and One of His First Auditions, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

"I think the thing about acting is, on any given day, we are certain aspects of ourselves" - Sam Rockwell

“I think the thing about acting is, on any given day, we are certain aspects of ourselves” – Sam Rockwell

It’s hard to believe that prior to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that Sam Rockwell had never been nominated for an Oscar. But Rockwell has been known for playing solid, somewhat under-the-radar roles in many great films for over three decades. Shortly before his Oscar win, Rockwell spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his controversial role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and also about some of his earliest roles.

Rockwell has had a long history of taking on interesting roles, and he reveals when it comes to selecting roles it is generally an emotional decision. He says “It’s always initially an emotional response to the stuff. And then from there the material hits you or it doesn’t. Then you see who you’re working with.”

Though Rockwell’s character has been criticized for being a thoroughly racist and moronic individual, Rockwell admits that even playing a character like that requires drawing from personal experience. He reveals, “I think the thing about acting is, on any given day, we are certain aspects of ourselves. One day, on your best day, you might be a hero. On your worst day, you might be a coward. If you’re having a bad day, you might be a klutz. If you’re having a good day, you might, dare I say, have finesse. That is what acting is to me — utilizing all the aspects of who we are as human beings and accentuating certain aspects for a character.”

While Rockwell can now call himself an Oscar-winner, he has had a long history of less-stellar roles before his current acclaim. One of his earliest roles was in the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. When asked if that was his big break, Rockwell replies, “Yes, that was one of them. Last Exit to Brooklyn [1989] was also one of the first, and I was on the TV show The Equalizer. [TMNT] is a good one to be a part of. I was 19 years old. I was working in restaurants, trying to put some food on the table. And they called me in and asked if I could audition for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And I said, ‘Teenage Mutant what? What the f**k is that?’ I went in for ‘Head Thug.'”

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