Actress, producer, and writer Marlo Bernier has embarked on a new project, a television Dramedy in which she plays Myrna. Here is a synopsis from the project’s fundraising page: (Donations keep growing–how about you add to the pile to make this project happen?)
After a successful career in front of the camera and on the stage, an actor is willing to sacrifice everything when she finally confronts her true gender identity and transitions from male-to-female. We follow Myrna as she struggles to find work as an actress, wrestles with a manager who still wants to send her out as her former-famous self, Michael and deals with the drama of her friends’ reactions as they make an effort to come to terms with Myrna and her life-altering transition.
Yesterday I asked Marlo about her craft as an actor and why she keeps at it. Check out Peterson’s Quickie Interview w/ Marlo Bernier 1/3. Today I focus on her new project.
Question: In your latest project, you will play Myrna, a woman who like you was assigned male at birth and raised as male and then transitioned to female later in life. How is Myrna unlike you, and what might you express or explore through her as a character that you have not experienced in your own life?
Answer: This is an amazingly difficult question to answer, at least the first part because I’m not sure yet in-part due to the way I came up in the theatre as an actor. I studied for a few years with mentors who had themselves studied under Hagen and under Adler. So I (hope I) was getting an 2nd generation education. Looking back, I’m certain I did. And in a kind of “The Method” sort of approach; score the role, employ “substitution” (when necessary), etc.
And I loved that. I mean I really loved that approach and they’re all so intertwined and connected anyway and I’m certain they all stole from one another.
But somewhere during my career, I’m pretty sure that it was during Love! Valour! Compassion! And there was this scene in Act III, where I had to be on stage as both John & James (the Jekyl twins 🙂 god, McNally, I mean, really?) and though I had always committed to being in “the moment”, there were some nights when I just couldn’t “bring it”, that huge emotional scene, full-on breakdown by them both, you know? I mean, I would feel compelled to employ all the “tricks” I had learned years prior, but the stage is a harsh mistress and if I didn’t (feel) that I had delivered an amazingly perfect performance, I would oft times find myself backstage, beating myself up. I won’t repeat the names I’d call myself when I was unable to “get there”. (I’d invent new swear words and euphemisms – a mixture of Greek and German)
Then something magical happened. I fell onto a book by Mamet called; True and False – Hearsay and Common Sense for the Actor. (and p.s. Mamet stole most of the stuff in this book from Chekov and Meisner (and I’m certain Anton and Sandy stole some of their stuff from someone else as well) – thieves, all of them! And that’s their best character trait.
I won’t belabor it, but this book saved my life as an actor and it was from this book that I learned what works for me best, which is first and foremost to; Deny Nothing. Invent Nothing. Tell the Truth.
And also something that I now live by, regardless, be it on the stage, or on set and it’s this; We (actors) do not go to the theatre to exercise our emotions, rather it is the audience who attend and pay good money to exercise theirs.
And lastly, stay in the moment and bring it from the text – that text, that dialogue, monologue, what have you, was written by someone with a different “job title” than you – and my job as an actor is to “act as if…” period. End of story. At least for me.
And once that cooked in my brain for a bit, I relaxed and I became liberated to a degree I hadn’t yet experienced and one of the best plays ever written (for my money) is Kushner’s, Angels in America, in which I was cast to play Roy Marcus Cohn – Parts I & II. And because I had fully digested the Mamet book, I was able to simply let go and “act as if I were Roy” – I no longer had to become him. I just acted as if I were him and listen, when the writing is that slick, that sharp, etc, one’s job as an actor is “cake”.
So in a way, I will play Myrna, as if…her life is an embellishment of and on my own, of my own making. Did most of these things happen to me? Yes. But we’ve taken theatrical license in order to deliver the point. And also this, and this is the toughest bit for me, I can’t tell you how incredibly hard it is for me to first, write for myself and second to then play that role, that character that I’ve written. I am for the first time in my career on both hallowed and shaky ground and I am truly cognizant of that and I will be leaning on my director, colleague and good friend, Ted Campbell to guide me in a way I’ve never been directed before.