“I was taught that every answer you need for your character is in the script. Everything.” – Richard Kind
As one of the greatest character actors working today, Richard Kind has mastered the art of stealing a scene. Not that he means too, it’s just that he’s so good at what he does. And usually those roles are supporting. But with the new film, Auggie, he’s now a leading man. In the sci-fi film, Kind plays Felix, an architect who is pushed into early retirement and finds love with an augmented reality woman, Auggie (Christen Harper), who only he can see via special glasses. Kind is, as usual, fantastic and it gives people to see a different side to the performer. “It’s a serious part that you don’t normally see me in,” he said.
Here, he talks about his role in the film, his career and one of his worst audition’s. And don’t miss his advice to actors!
I watched the movie the other day, and it was great. I really liked it.
Richard Kind: I’m glad to hear you say that. It’s a lovely little movie. It will not change the world. It ain’t gonna set anything on fire. But for what it is, it’s pretty spectacular. You have no idea how cheap it was to make this movie. That’s the first thing.
It doesn’t look like it at all.
Richard Kind: Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t look like a big budget, but you can’t imagine what it cost. And I’ll tell you this, I never thought it would get released. I thought I was going to do a nice movie. It took us 12 days to do it.
Richard Kind: Yeah. I didn’t think it would get anywhere. And then it got picked up at all for distribution shocks me. That it got picked up by one of the finest independent distributors in the history of movies is unbelievable. I mean, The Goldwyn Company is just special. It’s great. It’s just great.
It’s also a more serious part than you normally play.
Richard Kind: It’s a serious part that you don’t normally see me in. I do so much stuff on stage that people don’t see me in. I’m just lucky. I get to stretch my muscles. I get to do things that I don’t normally get to do because people don’t hire me in films and TV to do that. Lately they have. I did a show called Luck that was on HBO. That was very serious, with Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. But usually I don’t get that opportunity.
I don’t know why. I mean, you’re fantastic.
Richard Kind: You’re very nice. If you could either become a producer or at least a casting director, it would be wonderful.
I’m on it. I’m on it.
Richard Kind: Please, make it your duty.
A lot of the time in the film, you’re talking to open space or even talking directly to the camera. Was that difficult? Was it almost like you’re doing a kind of a monologue?
Richard Kind: Not at all. No. You’re not doing a monologue because somebody’s there who’s reading off camera. The tough thing is, you want to turn your head to talk to her, and you can’t. When you are saying things back to her, you have to make it intimate, as if she’s seven inches from your face, and she’s not. She’s 10 feet to your left. And that is difficult. And to temper your volume and still make it intimate was difficult, but ain’t acting difficult? You’re an actor; you know it. It’s difficult.
It’s one of those movies… situations where I think this could actually happen at some point in the very, very near future.
Richard Kind: That’s correct. I agree with you. It could. It’s like a Black Mirror tale. It’s a cautionary tale, but so was 2001 with HAL, or Her with Joaquin Phoenix. They’re all cautionary tales. “Look what happens when the technology gets out of control,” and it just does. I don’t know how much you know about the movies, if you remember the movie Network? Who knew that that something so outlandish would come true? It’s crazy.
How did you get involved in this in the first place?
Richard Kind: Well, between you and me, I was shocked that they asked me to do it. And I used to kid them about it. I’d go, “What the hell were you doing asking me? I know I can do it, but I would not have asked me.” They’re good friends with one of Kevin Bacon’s kids. And they asked Kevin Bacon would he do. And he says, “This isn’t me.” And he was right. And I guess they talked about what kind of person. They know my work. They liked my work. They saw that I have a vulnerability that I’m lucky that I have. It’s one of the qualities I have. And sometimes it’s a quality I don’t want to have, but it is something I have. And I guess they just, they asked six other people before me, and they were busy, so they finally got to me. And that’s how making movies works.
I imagine if you didn’t have to audition, that’s always a plus.
Richard Kind: I did not. A lot of the things I have to do lately, I don’t have to audition. And I happen to be somebody who likes auditioning. Which is crazy, but I do like it. Not only do I like it, I want to show them that a role that they don’t normally maybe not see me in that I could do and have something interesting that I might be able to bring to it, which I think is what happened here.
But I didn’t have to audition. I was lucky. And a lot of times, if I’m doing a role that I don’t exactly know whether or not they want me to do it a certain way, I’ll ask to read for them. In fact, I’m doing a movie in a week and a half where I asked to meet with the director so I could read it out loud. I tell him, “This is what I’m going to do. Do you still want me?” And he did. But on this one, I knew I could do the job. I was confident.
What’s been your worst audition ever?
Richard Kind: I’ll tell you a funny story. Years and years and years ago, they were auditioning for Al in Married with Children. I was still at Second City. I hadn’t even been out to LA yet. And I read the script, and I said, “Not everybody on this show can be a douchebag. It’s impossible. You can’t have drama, theater, comedy, whatever it is, not everybody can be so despicable.” I read Al so likable and so sympathetic. And then I saw the finished product, and everybody’s despicable. And I go, “This is brilliant.” But I did the audition without a director. I did it in Chicago for a camera, and I was nobody. And they had this great actor, Ed O’Neill.
Now, if a director told me, “No, no, no. This guy’s a jerk.” I could’ve done it, but I didn’t have the opportunity because nobody was there to tell me. I just did it as a taped audition. However, I know I was good because there was an actress named Nina Siemaszko, who auditioned for the girl. And she was in Chicago. And she was busy doing a film called, The Day After, which was a very famous movie made for TV about nuclear war. And they wanted to see her, and they had me read with her. So, I know I did well, but I think that’s the worst audition because I completely misunderstood the script.
Do you actually like doing monologues?
Richard Kind: No, I don’t like doing monologues. I don’t like doing scenes, reading with somebody. I don’t like doing it for camera. I doing it in a room because… Being an actor, you know you’ve got to have at least one person as an audience. You’re not an artist. You’re not a writer. You can’t perform alone. So, you go in for an audition, “Hey, look what I love to do,” and I get to do it with somebody.
You always seem super busy. Voiceovers and acting. How do you usually find your parts? Are you pursuing things, or are you just kind of waiting for them to come to you?
Richard Kind: It’s both. And I rarely turn down the work. It’s very rare for me to turn down work. I’m not gonna lie, I like doing everything. I like working. I like doing all different sorts of roles. And that’s what I do. I just like doing everything.
And I’m lucky, because usually it’s smart people who hire me because I’m not so good looking that then people aren’t going to turn in because they want to see a pretty face. It’s somebody who is smart and will hire me because they think I’m talented and I can bring something to their product.
You just did like a couple of weeks on Kiss Me, Kate on Broadway.
Richard Kind: I did. I did two weeks on Broadway. I did. So, I had done the initial reading, and then they asked me, would I like to do it? And I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the time, and I didn’t want to do the role. But for two weeks, “Yes sir. I’ll go in for two weeks.” And I had two rehearsals. That’s all I had, two rehearsals.
No way. Wow. When you only do two rehearsals before appearing on Broadway, are you completely nervous?
Richard Kind: I’m completely nervous if I get a month of rehearsal. So, of course. Yeah, completely nervous. But it’s fun. You know, roller coasters, you’re completely nervous, but they’re fun.
You were originally supposed to go to law school?
Richard Kind: I was. But my dad had a jewelry store and he said if I’m going to take it over, I have to go to law school and business school. So, I was supposed to go to law school. I opted to try acting. And one year turns into two, into four, into 40.
When did you move to LA?
Richard Kind: Well, I was in New York for four years. Then I went to Second City for about four. And I was in Chicago about five years. And then I went to LA. Yeah, I moved into LA when I was around 32, 33, I would say.
When did things finally start clicking for you?
Richard Kind: Things started clicking the minute I left the college. I got very lucky. Now, I didn’t make a lot of money, but I always worked. And if you think money is the thing that brings success, it’s not. I’ve just always been working, and I love working more than I like money, which is a blessing and a curse.
I would say I did about a year and a half of waiter’s jobs, and continued doing it. But I did a children’s theater. I did all sorts of work and off off-Broadway. I did a little bit of off-Broadway. And then I went to Chicago to do a play for a company called The Practical Theater Company, and got asked to do Second City. And to me, that’s when… Second City is really when I started learning and I started becoming a decent actor.
You were nominated for a Tony in 2013 for The Big Knife. Would you ever consider doing like a full run of a Broadway show again?
Richard Kind: Oh God, yes. Oh yeah, once my kids are in college and I don’t have the financial burden. I’ve done five Broadway shows, I believe. And yeah, I love it. I usually do theater every year. But because of the economic burdens of a child, I can’t afford to do theater, so I have to just do short runs.
When you can get a role, what are the first couple things you do to prepare for it?
Richard Kind: Well, I was taught that every answer you need for your character is in the script. Everything. Which includes ellipses, includes punctuation. Does not necessarily include the stage directions, the stuff in the parentheses, but how he speaks, what he says. How he chooses his words, they’re all there. It shows you that he’s easy to anger, that he’s sympathetic, that he’s whatever.
And, so often you can make the wrong decision, which I did with Married with Children. That all the answers were there, if I wanted to go that way with the character. It was obvious it was different. And if the director or the writer was there and said, “No, no, no, these are words that he means sincerely… “Not sincerely, but in a negative way.” They’re sarcastic. They’re mean.” You would go back and you go, “Oh my God, look what’s there.” I remember one of the lines was “Peg…” And this was in the pilot. “Peg, did you have to move the alarm clock and put a cactus there instead?” Now, I said it like, “Peg, did you have to move the alarm clock and put a cactus there?” When it should have been, “Peg! Did you have to move the alarm clock and put a cactus there?” There’s a huge difference, and I just didn’t see the hints.
Does that still bug you?
Richard Kind: No, it fascinates me! First of all, I wasn’t going to get the role. I wasn’t old enough. Secondly, I can’t get every role. And thirdly, what a fucking great lesson to learn! Oh my God. If you don’t learn from what you don’t get, “Why didn’t I get that part?” “Well, they thought you were too sympathetic. You completely misread it.” Whatever it is, if can you find out… that’s why I like feedback from auditions. I like to hear how I did.
What’s some advice you can give to actors?
Richard Kind: Do plays. Because when you go do movies and TV, you come to work saying, “We have a certain number of hours in the day, and all the words that are written on the piece of paper called ‘the script’ has to get recorded.” It doesn’t matter how good they are. It doesn’t matter how good you are. They have to be put down on film or on tape. They have to do it. That’s the bottom line. So, your goal is to get all the words out. That’s not what acting is all about. But that is what TV is about, you have to make your day.
And with a play, you have the luxury of making mistakes, of making different decisions. And they can don’t have to be right and you can work on them. And you can actually say, “You know what? I think I’m wrong. I think I’ve got to do it this way.” And you practice. And you rehearse. And you get to tell the story with an arc that you live in for the length of the performance. You’re doing Willy Loman. You get to live his life in two and a half hours. Whereas, you go do movies and TV, you just do three or four pages of his life that day. And that’s all you got, and you’re worried about your lines. Does that make sense?
Oh yeah, totally. Yeah.
Richard Kind: So, go do plays. If you look at Laurie Metcalf, who is just the greatest actress. She’s just unbelievable. She does a play, and long runs. She just dives right in. She is our best, and she makes enough money that she’s lucky, because she’s good, to go on The Conners, to go on whatever show she does. She’s usually brilliant.
Your character in Auggie, he’s retiring… or forced retirement actually. But could you ever see yourself retiring?
Richard Kind: You know, I really don’t. I see myself moving back to LA from New York so that I can play golf. But I never see myself retiring. I will always work because I can’t live without it. I’m an idiot. I can’t live without it. I like it. We go to work, and we play pretend. Tell me many people get to go do that. Little children get to do it, and they have no responsibilities. It’s great. They’re the lucky ones. So am I.