It’s easy to look at an actor, especially one getting a role in a highly anticipated studio production, and just assume that they’ve got it made. Even after all these years working for Collider and conducting interviews, I’m still guilty of over-glorifying what it means to be an actor every once in a while. Yes, the gigs do come with some very high highs, proud achievements and good times on set, but it’s also a craft that requires one to be vulnerable and needs to honed along the way. Maybe that means it’s not smooth sailing to start, but it’s about taking those more challenging experiences and making the most of them by learning for the future.
And that right there is why I love a show like Collider Ladies Night. As much as I enjoy talking about new releases, I’m often especially moved by discussing past experiences and how they’ve helped someone grow in their career. I know all too well how easy it can be to get swallowed up by a bump in the road, so to hear someone I admire discuss making the most of an opportunity that didn’t go exactly the way they wanted, can be extremely inspiring and well worth sharing.
We’re going to have a full episode of Collider Ladies Night with Malin Akerman for her new release To The Stars (which is now available to watch on digital) for you next week, but to tease the full conversation, we’re bringing you the portion of the interview that focused on Watchmen. Personally? I’m a fan of the film, but it did get a mixed response when it hit theaters back in 2009, and Akerman was hit was a good deal of criticism for her performance as Laurie (aka Silk Spectre II). At that point in her career, Akerman had appeared in a bunch of comedies like The Heartbreak Kid, 27 Dresses and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Watchmen was a completely different kind of film.
While we were discussing her knack for comedy, I asked Akerman if she had a clear vision of her goals as an actor when she was first starting out, but she told me that at that point in time, she was new to the filmmaking world and didn’t know much about it. She even said, “I was truly a follower,” and took whatever came her way. When I asked her what opportunity helped her put her longterm goals into focus more, here’s what she told me:
“I don’t know if there was a particular project; I think it was just a matter of time. But I will say that Watchmen was a big shift because I felt way out of my league on that one. I really struggled because it was such a big film and I really felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I had no training and I was working with these fabulous theater actors who had all the training in the world. I definitely didn’t feel worthy of being there. I felt like I had tricked them into casting me. You know, there was a lot of stuff that I was going through, so it was definitely a shift and I just said, ‘Alright, I can’t just follow now anymore. I have to start making decisions of what it is that I want to learn, what direction I want to go in, what do I like creatively, what do I find fun? I want to put my best foot forward. I don’t want to feel like I’m in that position where I feel like I’m the weakest link in a production’, you know? So yeah, that probably was a little bit of a turning point.”
Perhaps this is where the over-glorifying of what it means to be an actor on a big studio project comes in or maybe it’s the confidence I always found that Akerman exuded in her comedy work, but I was fairly shocked to hear that she felt that way. Here’s what she said when I asked if she gained more confidence on that set as the production moved forward:
“It was an ebb and flow from day to day. Some days I felt better than others. But yeah, for the most part, because everyone I was working with was just so darn good – I guess I noticed the difference; I realized that I didn’t know how to prepare for a role and they did, and that was really getting to me. It was more, I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t taken more time before going into this, but I realized the reason I didn’t was because I didn’t know the direction I was going in. I wasn’t leading my own way, you know what I mean? So nowadays I’ll take roles and I’ll make sure that it’s something that I can develop and work with and that I find interesting, and that I come in prepared.”
It isn’t easy to take a tough situation like that and turn it into something positive so I had to ask Akerman what she thinks the key is to turning disappointment into growth:
“I think that it’s important to remember that this type of work is creative and creativity is a constant growth. There is no end, and that was just part of the journey. It’s a catalyst; everything becomes sort of a catalyst for something else. I look back on it now, I loved the experience as far as the people I got to work with and to have been a part of that beautiful production and I’m thankful that it woke me up a little bit to the importance of preparation, and just so that I can grow from that experience. I think any growth, then it’s been worth it. And also, I say this to my friends sometimes, it’s just so interesting because, a lot of people at their jobs, you can’t see them, you know? They’re not in front of a camera. We’re doing our jobs, we’re still figuring out our jobs, and then it’s printed and people are watching it and it’s never a finished product, you know? So it’s always a work in process, and we watch actors from the beginning of their careers to the end of their careers and you go, ‘Wow, they’ve grown so much!’ So for me to watch other people as well, I’ve gone, ‘Yeah, it’s a process. And that’s okay. I’ve got to accept that, you know, some projects are gonna go better than others and as long as you walk away from it with some sort of growth and some sort of learning, then it was worth it.’”
Whether you’re an actor or not, keeping the focus on how an experience helps you grow seems like a very valuable practice to me! And that looks to be exactly what Akerman is doing right now because not only has she been filling her resume with a diverse selection of projects, but now she’s also stepping behind the lens to produce two upcoming features as well. However, it’s hard not to wonder if Akerman would ever be open to giving another comic book adaptation or franchise film a go having learned so much from making Watchmen. Here’s what she had to say about that:
“I would absolutely do something like that again. I’m ready for it this time! [Laughs] I would love to do it actually! It would feel like I’d get a second chance at it.”
If you’d like to hear more from Akerman, we certainly have you covered because that full episode of Collider Ladies Night is dropping next week and Akerman touches on everything from working with Tom Cruise to some of the craziest things she’s done in a movie, her goals as a feature film producer and so much more! While you wait for that to drop, go check out To The Stars on digital!