Gena Rowlands is an one of the greatest actors of modern times, and with her husband John Cassavetes, she created a body of work that established independent filmmaking in this country. If you’re not familiar with her, you can read a terrific profile of her here.
She starts off of the above interview talking about how her interest in acting grew out of her love of reading books. In our relentlessly visual age, I think it’s easy for people to forget that language is the basis of acting. It’s the actors job to become the person for whom speaking the lines of the script is truly necessary. I think it’s important for all serious actors to read constantly, and develope their sensitivity to language and the way people use it to navigate their relationships. I was impressed by this profile of Ethan Hawke that I read today in the New York Times. Hawke displays a commanding knowledge of literature, mentioning Tolstoy, Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor, as well as a number of contemporary writers. Being this kind of reader is vital for anyone serious about acting. There is a lot more to acting than reading, but without the ability to read sensitively, the actor is dead in the water. The deepest things about any character are embedded in what she says and how she responds to others, and an actor who can’t tune in to these things is never going to achieve lift-off. Reading is the single most important thing an actor can do on an ongoing basis to keep herself in trim and develop her craft. So be inspired by Gena Rowlands, and grab a book or your e-reader, and get reading!