A lesson on writing from Jeff and Donnie

This has been a crazy week that started with a lesson and ended with one.

This week I interviewed Jeff Goldblum and Donnie Wahlberg. Wait, let me read that sentence again to myself ’cause I don’t type that everyday….Okay.

So fangirl things aside, these two wonderful gentlemen had something to teach me and I was glad for it. Both are wonderful actors and both, during the interview, talked about writing and scripts. Just goes to show an education isn’t always in a classroom.

Jeff Goldblum is probably best known for his role in The Fly. I am a huge fan of his and actually had a crush on him in college. I remember him from Independence Day, Jurassic Park, The Big Chill, and other movies. He’s now an official cast member on Law and Order: Criminal Intent on USA.

Jeff talked about how, when he’s developing a character as an actor, he’s fueled by good writing.

“Well, I love writers and good writing and literature and stories and a good script,” he said. “So I try to, as much as anything,(to) figure out what they meant, what this thing is about, and there are many nuts and bolts issues that come up in that vein, in our show or a lot of scripts and stories.

He went on to say this:

“What exactly and specifically? That’s an important question in the theatrical dictionary, an important word. What specifically do they have in mind for this, are they trying to depict for this? What reality are they trying to depict here? This is nothing new. Everybody’s done (this)—and anybody’s trying to do this, but it constantly fascinates me. And more and more, I try to give myself over to and serve what they’re doing. And not only that, but who the writer is and what their whole spirit is, and inner dynamic and what the message they’re trying to, and feeling that they’re trying, and song that they’re trying to sing?”

For a writer, this is pivotal. Interpretation of our texts is key. As writers we are taught that there are several points of view to a story and several layers. Sometimes those layers don’t come across as well as we would like but what we can depend on, what we should be able to depend on, is the reader’s curiosity to interpret. It’s through those interpretations that the text–novel, story, poem, script–creates meaning for the reader. And isn’t THAT our jobs.

Donnie reminded me of another lesson.

An aside on Donnie: I love this man. The chance to interview him was a dream come true but I never thought I’d ask him about scripts and writing. He’s a singer and actor after all. But he, the man who gives it all, gave me a lesson too.

Donnie is guest staring on In Plain Sight also on USA. He talked about the magic in the script that makes him connect with it and eventually say yes to a project. He said:

“That’s a complicated question because it can be as simple as reading the script in a certain emotional state and the script just connects.”

Diahann Carol also talked about that intangible connection between actor and script. Adding to what Donnie said, the place where someone is emotionally and connecting, is what writers hope for. The reality is that if an actor is connecting with a script, whether for the character or due to emotional state, they are really connecting to the writer. And that makes magic…the magic Mrs. Carol and Donnie talked about.

“Sometimes there are odd reasons as well,” he said. “A script like the Sixth Sense I just loved it immediately and nothing was going to prevent me from being part of that movie. There’s In Plain Sight — it’s a show that I like with a leading lady who I think is incredibly underrated … and then there’s a movie like Dead Silence…I really felt a great attraction to the character I played because I saw an opportunity to go against the grain in the role.”

Each one of the projects Donnie mentioned above has something special about them, something unique,something that resonated with him as an actor who wanted to interpret that text.

Magic, like Mrs. Carol said.

Now the question is how to put one’s self on that path toward magic. Hopefully the next writer/producer/actor will help me figure it out.

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One thought on “A lesson on writing from Jeff and Donnie

  1. You will hear actors say time and time again that television is such a writer's medium. And yes, people look at them funny … but without really good, really solid scripts then it doesn't matter if you've got an Emmy award winner or the guy or girl next door trying to bring those words to life. I wish more people would come to understand that shows live and die at a level most aren't even aware of, and that starts with the people putting words to the page. Good actors seldom save bad scripts because you can feel when they don't connect with the story. (and if the actors can't connect, you know the audience is in trouble, too).Nice, insightful post. Good read 🙂

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