Academy and Emmy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet boasts an eclectic resume, often portraying headstrong, complicated characters. She landed her first professional acting job at the age of 11 dancing in a cereal commercial. Now at the age of 46, the “Mare of Easttown” star’s career is going as strong as ever. But all along the way, Winslet has offered advice for aspiring talent. Here are a few of these words of wisdom:
Advice for aspiring actresses
During a recent interview with Variety, Winslet offered this advice to women entering the entertainment industry: “Don’t expect the world to owe you something that you haven’t worked hard toward achieving for yourself,” she cautions. “It won’t get handed to you on a plate. Just keep experimenting and practicing, even if that’s just at home.” When auditions don’t bear fruit, the “Titanic” star urges performers to be gentle on themselves, and she encourages them to keep moving forward, staying focused on the joy and pleasure that is from performing derived. “Just keep enjoying what it is feel like,” she asserts.
Winslet also warns: “Don’t act in front of a mirror. All that does is show you what your facial expressions are. But it’s more important to start from the inside.” Staring at one’s reflection can also make actors too attached to one way of doing things and inhibiting them from remaining present during the shoot, she’s asserted in the past. “[And] don’t scrutinize your appearance, it will only make you self-conscious and become a distraction.”
Look past your doubts
Winslet offers her advice based on her own personal experiences coming up as an actor. She worked at a delicatessen as a teenager to afford train rides to audition in London. There were times she considered giving up on her acting altogether. “I was always the kid at the end of the line because my name began with ‘W,’ and I always had big feet, and I was always wearing the wrong thing. I remember having a moment where I thought to myself, ‘This is so stupid. This is just a waste of my train fare getting myself into London for auditions.” But then her inner convictions would chime in: “You’ve just got to keep going for it.”
In fact, one particular drama teacher during her teen years told her that she might do all right in the business if she was happy to settle for “fat girl parts.” After winning a BAFTA Award for her performance as Apple executive Joanna Hoffman in “Steve Jobs,” Kate dedicated the moment to “all those young women who doubt themselves.”
Speaking before cameras backstage, she gave the following inspiring advice: “To any young woman who has ever been put down by a teacher, or a friend, or even a parent—just don’t listen to any of it because that’s what I did . I didn’t listen, and I kept on going, and I overcame all of my fears, and I got over a lot of insecurity. And just keep doing it. And keep believing in yourself.”
Winslet describes the obstacles that interfere with actors giving their best performance on-set. “The biggest [challenge] every day, to be honest with you, I think is being able to stay focused, because you can rehearse, and you can plan everything, and you think you have a framework you should remember to stick with or a few ideas that you want to to keep in your back pocket. And sometimes the craziness of an on-set environment can be so intense that you can find yourself forgetting all of those things that you’ve planned. So actually really, really stay focused and know that it’s okay to take yourself to a quiet corner and just remember what it was that you had set out to do.”
Get used to nerves
“[The terror] never goes away!” Winslet insists. “News flash: It never goes away!” Indeed, the British actress admits she has come down with shingles as a result of performance anxiety. Winslet urges actors to never let the nerves stop you from doing what you love.
Her dad’s words of wisdom
Kate’s father was an actor with much downtime between roles, who worked numerous odd jobs to raise his four children. The cautionary words he imparted to his talented young daughter were: “You’re only as good as your last gig, baby.” This made a tremendous impact on the rising star. “I’ve never forgotten it!” she says. “It’s absolutely true.”
Follow your gut
After her extraordinary success with “Titanic,” Kate felt tremendous pressure to make the right next career move. She said during The Envelope’s actress roundtable interview: “I was 21 to 22 years old and had so much to learn. Also, I didn’t want to screw up early on. I wanted to always be doing this job. And I at least was smart enough to know that you don’t do that by taking a big fat paycheck and just going with the biggest, fastest opportunity just because it’s there, and that seems to be the thing you’re meant to do. And so I did push back, and I did do smaller films, and I did things that I knew would actually make me happy and would challenge me regardless if anyone saw them or not. That was where I had to be brave.”
Acting is not an easy job
During a Hollywood Reporter roundtable, Winslet highlighted the demanding and unglamorous workload associated with being a performer. She feels “almost agitated” by the misperception that acting is an “easy job.” The celebrated actress insists, “I feel I have to explain just how hard the job truly is. And it is a massive misconception … They don’t understand the three am wake-ups, and hair and makeup in the middle of the night and then shoot at twelve, sometimes longer—much longer hours a day particularly if you’re doing a low-budget film. I think people underestimate how hard not just the actual working day is, but also the preparation part … I don’t think people understand preparation can take up to four, five, sometimes even six months.” On top of it all, the intensity of the work often puts a strain on an actor’s relationships and family ties. “Emotionally, I know that I’m gone, I’m just not there,” she shared.
In a BAFTA Guru interview, Winslet describes how she prepares for her roles, mining the relevant book or script for details about her character “almost obsessively actually—it sort of becomes my armor, my friend,” she shares. But once she absorbs the many details about her character, the prolific star leaves plenty of wiggle room to fine-tune her performance.
“I’ve learned a lot about preparation over the years, and actually it’s so important to let the preparation go because you can get stuck in this little sort of tunnel of your own, beetling away and preparing who you think the character is,” she says. “But the reality is that you have to leave so many sort of blank spaces for other people to fill by way of the director and other actors and the things that they think and also what they are bringing to the project through the roles that they’ re playing or what the director has to say.”
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