I remember the time when I started out acting and one of the early days I had this conversation with my acting teacher about roles and the importance of their stage time. I remember quoting an actor(I forget whom) and saying “No Role is too small”, my teacher added to it by saying something to the effect of “No Role is too small as long as it adds to the narration”.
I have seen a lot of actors complain about the length of their roles.. Lot of people believe that if the role they play is not the lead role its not worth doing. My belief prior to that conversation was that any role no matter how small can teach you something and subsequently is important. Every role no matter how small has to serve a certain purpose, if it doesn’t its the mistake of the playwright or the screen writer to have included that role in the first place.
There is a scene in the critically acclaimed western classic “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” in which at a point in the movie two of the lead characters are arrested and put in a war prison camp. The scene is about one of the characters being interrogated by the prison guards. The system in the prison is that. since the head of the prison is against violence on the prisoners, the guards, make a bunch of prisoners sing when they want to beat up a prisoner. With the screams unheard over the loud singing the guards get to torture the prisoners till the song ends.
During the scene of the interrogation, the camera stops on one of the musicians who is playing the music for the song being sung. We see that this musician is crying, first slowly but subsequently he is overwhelmed with emotion… He stops playing… The guard looks at him and yells to start playing, the musician takes a moment and starts playing the instrument again… He continues to cry.
The performance of that actor was limited to the two minutes of screen time in that scene and yet I rate his performance as one of the best in the movie.
In the movie its never explained as to who that man was, what was his name and what he was doing in the camp, but that is where the brilliance of the actor and screen writer came. They provided just enough information to make that emotional connect to the situation and the characters involved… Also ironically by the story already told you don’t feel too much pity for the prisoner getting beaten up inside coz by now you know he deserves to be beaten up considering the crimes he has committed… (Thats where I believe came the brilliance of the script writer)
I have seen actors take an ignorable small role and making a spectacular impact on a play. I have seen actors that pick up a script and dont look at what is written into a role but look at what can be interpreted from it to make the performance exciting.
Its comparatively easy for an actor to take a role that is written brilliantly and make it seem spectacular to an audience. It takes a truly talented actor to take an average character with average presence and make the performance unforgettable. Thats what differentiates a great actor from a good or average one.
Acting as in life is all about making the best use of what you have. Its all about what you bring to the table rather than what you expect to be given… When life gives you lemons… Well you get the point.