An Interview With Actor Alex Bennett

alex_headshot_1

Alex Bennett is an actor who has appeared on the show How I Met Your Mother and in the Fringe Fest play Ishmael. Here is a link to his IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2243982/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Q: What made you want to become an actor?

A: I was 12 years old ,the Drama Teacher at the high school where my mom worked needed kids in the ensemble for “The Music Man”. Mom asked if I was interested, I said sure. That was pretty much it. I did it, and it’s the cliché story, something just clicked. This is it. No question, this is it. Simple.

Q: What role did you play on How I Met Your Mother?

A: It was a featured under 5. Season 4 episode 19. The episode was called “Murtaugh List”. Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) has to complete a “I’m too old for this stuff” list. One of the task on the list was to have a shot with a stranger. I was the stranger. Small part, awesome time. It was in 2009 right before the Oscar race. I sat and talked with Neil Patrick Harris between takes about who we wanted to win for best actor. I’m a huge Sean Penn fan, who was up for Milk and of course Mickey Rourke for “The Wrestler”. We shared the same sentiment about Penn. We sat and talked and compared films and performances. It was definitely a memorable time.

Q: What is your strangest backstage story?

A: I’m not too sure if this is the strange you had in mind, but there was a constant level of strange surrealness I felt when I did a play in Hong Kong in 2009. I was cast in a world premiere of an internationally cast play. So every day in rehearsal in the 35th floor of a high rise in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong with a cast of 20 from 5 different countries. Script was in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. So just being in a room and learning from all of those different cultures of their way of life how THEY rehearse while having the patience to actually get through a long winded rehearsal, made the entire ordeal strange, but in the best kind of way.

Q: Why is live theater experience important to an actor?

A: It thins the heard. Any weakness you have will come out on stage. There are no re-dos, no second take. Once you take stage, it’s go time. I strongly believe any actor with a theatre background will be that much more prepared to tackle any role. The audience will let you know quickly if you suck. It teaches you to not bore your audience. I always say make them laugh so hard they cry, or cry so hard they forget what it’s like to laugh. The theatre teaches you that every scene is life or death, and that sense of urgency that you build through that mindset will always carry through for any performance you do after whether it’s t.v. film or theatre. Theatre experience also teaches you how to truly take a story from beginning to end. It’s the ultimate lesson in learning character ark. Plus you’re exposed to so many great writers. A good actor is in love with good writing.

Q: You’ve had a lot of formal training; what method of acting do you use most often?

A: Aaaahh, what a loaded question. Firstly, before any “method” is applied, I READ THE SCRIPT, READ THE SCRIPT, READ THE SCRIPT!! This whole thing called acting starts with black and white paper. Every time, and that’s it. I get to know my text, and I read it without judgment. Once I read through the script or play three or four times and feel I have a good grasp on it, I ask myself these questions, as the character: Who am I? What are my given circumstances? What are my relationships? What do I want? What stands in the way of me getting what I want? What do I do to get what I want? Once those questions are answered, then the fun begins. I’m big on Stella Adler and imagination. This is where it gets hard to explain. Acting is so unscientific. There are no right or wrong answers on how to go about it. With regards to imagination, it is completely letting your mind be free and fully living as that character in complete truth and honesty. Some people go for emotion memory or repeating a line 50 times to get the truest emotion. There are so many schools of thought to acting. At the end of the day, do whatever works for you. We are all different, so our individual performances, no matter how hard we train, will be unique to us and whatever you do to get there is whatever you do to get there, nothing else should matter. One thing I have figured out though, over the years. One thing that a successful actor must have at all times, is the ability to have no fear. To completely have zero self-conscious, while still being very aware of yourself at the same time. To not be afraid to do or try anything if it helps serve the character truthfully in your given circumstances. Be completely free.

Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring actor in terms of getting started in Hollywood?

A: Ya know, L.A., Hollywood, this city…..who knows. No matter what anyone tells you, or how much you prepare, the only thing you can be 100% certain about is that the entire journey is unpredictable. So make sure you have tough skin and know who you are. This city can beat you down, the good news is you have every opportunity to still win the fight, all ya gotta do….. just don’t leave.

Q: If you could change one thing about Hollywood what would it be?

A: Public transit. More subways please.

Q: What was the most challenging role you have ever had?

A: Summer of 2012 I was cast in an abridged version of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” entitled “Ishmael” for the 3rd Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival. I was cast as Captain Ahab. Definitely no easy task. Firstly, this is a character that everyone knows or at least has heard of. A lot harder to please an audience when they know the show. So I read that 600 page book backwards and forwards, including other versions of the play and any material on Melville just to get every sense I could of Captain Ahab. I’m about 20 years younger than the typical casting for that role. So not only do I look young, but what does that age difference mean in terms of acting? This is a man that has 40 plus years of back breaking labor, cussing, dirty jokes, isolation, revenge, and a growing self loathing that is constantly eating him from the inside out. His outlook on life is going to be much different than a man 20 years his junior. So while “acting older” was exactly the intent, understanding the life behind a man of that life experience was. All of this must come out and none of it can look forced or added or you lose site of who this guy truly is. This is a man that day in day out obsesses over one thing and one thing only, while being in one of the worst living conditions one could think of. A cold, dark, dirty, fishing vessel while only having one leg. So add physicality to the list. How does a man with one leg move and how does it affect his overall demeanor and attitude towards others and himself. Also the text and accent is another challenge. Some monologues being a page long of New England Colonial English. The entire process was the ultimate exercise in creating a character from the ground up and from the inside, out. I also didn’t shave for 2 months and grew an extremely awesome man beard. Ask anyone, it was glorious.

Q: What is the biggest misconception people have about Hollywood?

A: I think it’s that obvious fame, girls, money, fast cool cars. It’s all that. And it’s that way for a reason, because it’s there, without question, it’s all around you. But no one sees or understands the struggle of the living artist in Los Angeles just trying to get by. Even when people talk about it or acknowledge, yes o.k. that’s what happens in Hollywood, they never really have any idea. And I suppose you wouldn’t. That’s not what’s popular, it’s not what sells.

Q: What can we look forward to seeing you in next?

A: 2013 will be a busy year. I’m actually the lead in a 25 minute short film called “The Former Current”. It’s a buddy comedy from two very talented young directors and being submitted to all of the festivals. I’m also performing in one of my favorite plays by one of my favorite playwrights. “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea”. It is an intense 2 person 1 act volatile drama that will be at an Avant-Garde setting in Studio City. I will also be appearing in two web series, Asshole’s Anonymous and Lazy Actress. I will post updates on my webiste, which also what you can look forward to 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

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