Acting, Ethics and Being Human

An incredibly incisive comment on the moral obligations of acting by Eddie Marsan on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking show (available to listen here):

I was making a film with Ewan McGregor once and we had a couple of hours off; we was watching a film with this big American star, making a film and the performance was awful and Ewan said this great thing. He said, “He’s referencing other actors and what he’s doing is he’s playing a character based on other performances of other actors.” And we both realised that that’s morally a terrible thing for an actor to be, because as an actor you have to be a human being so that when people watch you they think “that’s me” and they don’t feel lonely any more, they don’t feel isolated, they feel that they could talk to the person sitting next to them; but if you portray characters referencing other actors, then you create a character of what we wish we could be, so those performances create more isolation. They create more detachment, more depression, more low self-esteem and so the job of an actor is to give an honest testimony of what it is to be a human being.

— Eddie Marsan

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