Don't Act: 101 Reasons Why You Shouldn't

Todd Robert Anderson

Don't Act: 101 Reasons Why You Shouldn't
by Todd Robert Anderson

Here is an excerpt from a book about acting unlike any that has preceded it. Part cautionary tale and part memoir, each of the reasons includes very true and very comic tales from my acting career. If you're thinking about pursuing an acting career, this is one to read. If you have ever regretted not pursuing your acting dreams, this book will make you feel a whole lot better about it. You won't find this kind of anecdotal information in any other actor's autobiography, and you certainly won't find any lessons about the profession like these in a book by Stanislavski or that damn Uta Hagen.

If you like what you read here, send a request for the complete text, and I will happily email you a digital copy. (Starting September 1st, 2008.)

Don't Act:
101 Reasons Why You Shouldn't

(as supported by the thoughts and anecdotes of one of television's most vaguely recognizable performers)

by Todd Robert Anderson

Author's Note


I am thoroughly embittered and excessively angry. I just wanted you to know that I know that.

A Quick Introduction


I am a masterful actor. This must be clearly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of this book. And, yes, I understand that you've never before heard of me, but if you watch television, there is a high probability that you have seen me at some point. I've been on the tube a lot, both on series and more often commercials. In most cases, I was really, really amazing to watch. Now I don't want to spend pages and pages proving through description and examples just how talented I am, so you'll have to take my word for it. If for some reason you are hesitant to believe me, please send three million dollars, and I'll happily make a low-budget movie in which I am the lead. You will be the first person for whom I screen the picture, and if you think I'm lousy, don't read this book. No hard feelings.

For those of you without that kind of cash, and for those who actually have a genuine interest in these writings, there are a few minor points you must keep in mind while reading. One, while the personal anecdotes I use are absolutely true I have omitted names either out of respect for friendship or more often because I have forgotten the names of a lot of folks I've worked with over the years. If I do use a name, it is done out of a burning desire for vengeance. Two, it may seem at times that I've exaggerated details for the sake of dramatic thrust, but I have not taken creative license with anything: Hollywood is just that absolutely insane. Three, my words may sometimes come across as caustic and bitter: they are. If these things are irksome to you, too bad, it's my stupid book, not yours.

Now, because I feel this introduction should have a third paragraph, I am going to state as directly as possible why I was compelled to write this book. Here it is: I don't want you to act. It's not that I'm afraid of competition. It's that I have discovered that the profession, even with all its noble artistic aim, is extremely silly. And that doesn't just go for the lowly blue collar commercial and character actors such as me, it goes for all the greats. I'm talking about Olivier, Stewart, Davis, Poitier, Hepburn, Grant, Penn, Streep, Washington, DeNiro, Cheadle, Reeves, Rock (The,) and even-gasp!-Roberts. Yes, I'm afraid to say, Julia Roberts is silly. She is very, very silly. And I want to do whatever I can to keep this world from filling up with so much human silliness. Many famous actors have written their long, meandering biographies and made the profession seem like a barrel of laughs, but they are ludicrously rich, have completely lost touch with reality, and their memories are confused. Money makes one believe everything is happy. I am neither famous nor rich, so my points are not confused. Okay, they are. But they're confused in a more realistic and embittered way. Which I think you'll agree is much better. So, please, before you pack your bags and leave for the dream works of Tinsel Town, take heed and learn from the mistakes of Todd Robert Anderson.

I'm being totally serious.

Don't Act, Reason #4: Your education will be a waste of time.


At the end of high school, my mind was made up to be an actor, and I thought I should just head on out to Los Angeles and see what I could do. My parents, however, wanted me to go to college and not too far from our home on the East Coast. They were willing to pay for a higher education, but if I decided to forego the experience for La-La land, then I was on my own. Well, I may be an idiot, but I'm nobody's fool, so I opted to major in acting at NYU. There I would spend four years studying and practicing the craft of acting, developing an appreciation for the profession's history as well as honing my own personal skills. It seemed like a marvelous idea.

Here's what any given day of classes might have looked like for me:

8:15 AM: Movement Class. Ah, to start a day with movement! I can't imagine any other way. In this class, I would learn how to move my body. (Yes, it would seem that I should already know how to do that.) Generally, the class would start with some yoga, which I found ruefully dull, and then we would all start running around the room behaving like animals. ("Animals” is not a metaphor, here. We actually pretended we were beasts of the jungle. I often chose to act like a monkey, which I quite enjoyed.)

10:30 AM: Technique Class. This was a class that was supposed to delve into the nuances of acting, and how to go about using said nuances to enhance one's performance. (Frankly, I never could see much difference between a "technique” class and a "scene study” class. Both involved preparing scenes, performing them for the class, and then getting critiqued by the teacher. But they had different names, so they must have somehow been different, right?) Everyone had a scene and a scene partner. It was up to my partner and me to prepare the scene outside of class, memorize the lines and try to figure the best possible way to play the given circumstances (which were the who, what, where, when, and why of things.) At some point during the semester, I would do my scene in front of the class. The teacher would usually give "constructive criticism,” which means he or she would, in the gentlest possible way, tell me and my partner that we sucked. The rest of the time, I would sit and be bored while watching other people suck.

Noon-ish: The Lunch Break. This always involved bagels with cream cheese, which in New York was ludicrously expensive. (The idea of being able to pay for an actual sandwich was a dream I dared not dream.) Often while eating my bagel and cream cheese, I would try to find a scene partner for the next scene on which I was to start working. The most important criteria for a scene partner were that she was a she and really hot and wore tight clothes (and when selecting the scene on which to work, it was vital to find one that involved kissing and wherever possible, heavy petting.) After downing the bagel and begging the pretty young redhead to do a sequence from "Sex, Lies and Videotape,” I had to walk from the small studio where the morning classes were held on 42nd Street up to the Broadway theater on 50th Street where the afternoon classes were held. This walk took me directly through Hell's Kitchen, and this was well before Mayor Giuliani sucked all the fun out of the city. I was almost always accosted by transvestite hookers, who would accuse me of being a "faggot” when I didn't take them up on their reasonable rates. One once proclaimed loudly that I looked like Carol Burnett, and from that day on all the transvestite hookers in Hell's Kitchen referred to me as "Carol.”

1:10 PM: Voice Class. Any number of wonderful things could happen in voice class, which was easily my favorite. Obviously, sometimes the instructor would lead us through "vocal warm-ups” which meant we would hum and bark and groan and say tongue twisters. Other times, we would work on "relaxation” which meant we would each pick a spot on the floor, lie down, and meditate (which in some circles is referred to as "napping.”) But by far the most fun were the massage classes. In these classes, either we would partner up (again, very important to pick a hot chick with tight clothes) and take turns kneading one another's bodies. Or we would do what was called "group massage” where one person would be massaged by a crew of four or five. Some people got really freaked out when it was their turn to be massaged by the group, the sensation too overwhelming to handle. Others got an erection. By "others” I mean me.

3:30 PM: Scene Study. This was exactly like the technique class, as I said before, although it had a bit extra pretension. There was a lot of "sense memory” work done in this class. Sense memory is a way to prepare for the emotional state you are supposed to assume for a scene by way of looking into your past and remembering a moment using all your senses (for me, the sense of smell always brought back the strongest recollections.) For example, during a block of classes where we were exploring the seven deadly sins, using text from Goethe's Faust, one young woman worked on Lust by eating juicy fruit, such as mangos and kiwi, while disrobing and recollecting a steamy night with a lover (yes, I am aware of the amount of money my parents were spending just so I could watch a sex act.) I myself worked on Envy, simply recalling my high school graduation where I received no awards for my work in the theater while others were showered with trophies. I got myself to cry, which was an important lesson for me, as I had never before been so emotional in front of so many people. After the class, everyone told me how impressed they were with my work, except for this one guy who said I was a loser for not getting any awards.

Now, the question is, has any of this "knowledge” come in handy for me on any of my professional jobs? No. When you are dressed as a giant butterfly and all you have to say is, "Hey, how's it going?” there is no call for the ability to cry, howl, or act like a monkey. In fact, you don't even have to act like a butterfly. If you did, it wouldn't be funny. It would just be weird.

It also occurs to me that college was nothing but an exhaustive preparation for the off chance that I might get lucky. Everything I learned only comes in handy if a career that actually requires acting already exists-at no point was I ever taught how the hell I might get some work. And that, my good reader, is the lesson that would have mattered most.


To read more, Contact Me and request a hard or electronic copy.