The 20 Year Overnight Success

8 Mar

America loves a good Hollywood story. The quintessential “American Dream.” One day you’re working at Blockbuster and the next you’re in a Blockbuster. In some ways these stories are great, fun to hear. But in many ways they are unhealthy and unrealistic.

As Oprah said last night at the Oscars, when talking about the Best Supporting Actress nominee Gabourey Sidibe for Precious, “On Monday she skipped school to audition for a movie. On Tuesday she was called back to meet the director. On Wednesday she was cast. And today she is sitting here as an Academy Award nominee.” But for the rest of us, it doesn’t work like that. Overnight success is not over night at all.

That’s why I love hearing the rarely told stories of actors who’ve been after this career for a long time, and whose hard work, determination and patience led them to what we see as their overnight success. For instance, Jenna Fischer of The Office. For most, we see that as her breakout role. Like she’d never acted before then. But I listened to a great interview of her with Terry Gross on NPR’s program “Fresh Air” and this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Or Academy Award nominee for Best Actor in a leading role, Jeremy Renner, may seem like he came out of nowhere, but he’s been at this since the early 90s.

It’s important that we as actors remember to not expect to get discovered on the street walking our dog, or to somehow land an awesome audition and then within 3 days snag the part. It may take 3 days, or it may take 3 years or 10 years. But I don’t like to think of it in a timeline. I like to take things one day at a time (ideally… not saying I necessarily do this! though I should…) and know that my training, hard work, determination, persistence and patience will continue to add up and earn me success.