Bryan Cranston's Top Tips for Aspiring Actors

At a recent Last Flag Flying Q&A held at Curzon Mayfair, Bryan Cranston offered the aspiring actors in the audience some sage advice as they embark on their chosen vocation.

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[The following has been abridged and expanded from a recent Q&A with Bryan Cranston. The full length Q&A can be watched for free on Curzon Home Cinema]

The four things every actor needs 

Talent

While Cranston would later touch on the importance of hard work, plain and simple, he began by acknowledging the need for some raw talent. To some it may feel unnecessary to say this, but Cranston's point was that every actor should interrogate their own abilities and be sure that they possess the foundations that are essential for any actor.

Bryan Cranston as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle

Bryan Cranston as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle

Desire

An actor needs to be able to give their career all of their energy. Unless you love acting, don’t attempt to do it for a living. Enjoy it as a hobby with local theatre groups, but not as a career. While this point related to the emotional energy required, Cranston later spoke of the physical exhaustion that comes from performing. Referring specifically to his current run on stage, playing Howard Beale in a new production of Network at London's National Theatre (it's completely sold out!), Cranston told the audience about the emotion and physical drain that comes from delivering such a highly physical performance night after night, and how he is out like a light as soon as his head hits the pillow each evening. 

Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale in Network at the National Theatre

Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale in Network at the National Theatre

Research

To be an actor, you need to love the research. "There are no shortcuts." Cranston explained. "I’ve worked with very few geniuses in my career, if any at all. The rest of us just have to work really hard."

Separately, Cranston told the audience about the five essential questions he asks of his character when considering and preparing for a role:

  1. What is he good at?
  2. What is he bad at?
  3. What is he afraid of?
  4. What is his ambition?
  5. What is his secret?
Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo (2015)

Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo (2015)

Imagination

Following on from his point about research, Cranston explained that it isn’t all about 'living a part', you need to use your imagination. If you’re playing a drug dealer (like Cranston did in Breaking Bad), you can’t go off and be a drug dealer and claim that it’s research. You need to use your imagination and you need a powerful one to do that. 

Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad


Last Flag Flying

From Richard Linklater, one of America's most revered auteurs, Last Flag Flying is a spiritual sequel to Hal Ashby's rebellious 1973 classic, The Last Detail.

Set thirty years after the events of The Last Detail, Linklater's Last Flag Flying tells the story of three old comrades in arms, Doc (Steve Carell), Sal (Bryan Cranston) and Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), veterans of the Vietnam War. The three are reunited following decades apart by the death of Doc's son, a soldier killed in Iraq. The shared trauma of their past and the fresh pain of the present unites them in a cross state road trip to lay the young soldier to rest.

Last Flag Flying is released by Curzon Artificial Eye and will play on our screens from Friday 26th January.

The full recording of the Bryan Cranston Q&A is available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema now.

Ryan Hewitt