I was often told stories of my childhood where I was a crazy child, always running around, playing out adventures, making up games and stories in which I was the hero who always died at the end of the game. Later in life, I was always told how funny I was and that I should be a comedian. Apparently, family and friends thought it was a great idea, my teachers at school, not so much. So, I had this desire to connect with people in a way that brought me approval, validation, and most of all, attention. I found that I craved acceptance and affection, especially from strangers. This didn’t mean that I joined groups or changed myself in order to be included in a situation or with people. It meant that I would present myself as a unique person that hopefully, people would like. The by-product of wanting to please everyone around you is loneliness. I never quite thought I fit into any group. Perhaps I was too different, original, weird? I wasn’t sure. What I was sure about was the way I felt I could read people, therefore I could reach them with humour.
In retrospect, I suppose I was always a performer. When I was a musician, I lived to perform in front of a live audience. As an up-and-coming professional tennis player, the tennis court was my stage and I played like the characters of a Shakespearean play as I used drama and comedy during a match. Even when I started teaching Taekwondo and Hapkido in my studio. I held court with monologues and soliloquies overcoming obstacles and using the martial art as a personal expression of ourselves. Why was my default to perform in one way or the other? Even before I started my acting career, I was very familiar with playing roles in other people’s movies.
I finally became an actor way back in 1989. I was now being paid for behaving or misbehaving, as it were, for being myself. That lasted the first couple of years and mostly in New York, the city of my artistic birth. But, then I discovered being truthful in portraying other characters in other stories that I had no acquaintance with. In movies, it was about belief in who I was playing and hitting my mark, finding my light, repeating what I had just done multiple times. On the stage, it was about being completely present and being open to subtle changes in the delivery of my cues and the energy of the audience. And in television, I found that I was most successful when I played myself in comic situations and always listening and responding as I found the lens and my light.
Not too long ago I was reminded by a colleague of mine that we perform in plays and play roles. The common word there is play. Is it so far away when I used to stand on my sofa and imagine I was the sheriff of a lawless town and I got shot by a shadow on the wall and fell onto the sofa, rolled onto the floor and with a breathless gasp, I would utter my perfect dying words and then expire on the carpet, only to be brought out of this reality because it was time for dinner. I hope I never lose the enthusiasm of playing.