Whenever I did an acting workshop or lessom wherein the instructor advised me of my “type,” I got several answers. Powerful lawyer, no nonsense cop, Lady Macbeth (I wish), bunny boiling mom, etcetera. However, one adjective always came up and stayed with me: quirky. This word immediately conjured up images of actresses such as Zooey Deschanel, Parker Posey and Aubrey Plaza as well as fictional characters such a Daria (a personal favorite of mine), Amy Farrah Fowler (of The Big Bang Theory) and the eponymous Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I would never be the glamorous leading lady or the virginal, oh so sweet ingenue, but I could be the wise best friend who has, shall we say, been around the block. Add in my naturally dark looks, sense of humor and voice and my typing goes from being slightly quirky to making me the reigning Queen of Quirk land (wherever or whatever that may be).
Although in the past I have been disappointed at not being perceived as the beautiful and desirable ingenue, I’ve come to love the fact that my natural quirkiness has allowed me to explore material that other actresses might not necessarily be drawn to. For example, I was recently going through my audition book of songs in an attempt to figure out what I should continue to work on and what should go back into the sheet music drawer. I came across one song from the musical Waitress, which is sung by a very neurotic character as she sings of several reasons why she believes she shouldn’t date. I wanted to work on the song because I believed it fit my natural strengths, but my teacher warned me that the song was beginning to become a bit overdone. I asked to sing it once through, and I was able to convince her that I should keep it. She told me though that I had to do it as myself and bring my own humor to it, as others who sang the song were undoubtedly playing up the “weirdness” or “quirkiness.” I remember replying, that’s not me playing it, that’s just who I am, and it made sense why the song was such a good fit and why my quirkiness made me ideal to sing it.
Now, my quirky nature hasn’t always been ideal for my career. Earlier this year I took a commercial workshop with a casting director. I’ve always been told whenever I’ve taken on camera classes that the best thing an actor can do is be as natural as possible as the camera can pick up whenever an actor is being forced or fake. But whenever I tried to be myself on camera in this class, the teacher kept trying to make me into more of the bland, Stepford Wives-esque woman that is all too frequent in commercials and, more importantly, just isn’t who I am. During a moment of down time between tapings, the teacher explained that she was trying to get us to fit this mold because she believed that when it came to commercials, “quirky doesn’t sell.” Ouch. Now, I obviously didn’t say anything because I’m a polite person (as well as a bit of a coward) but a little voice inside me couldn’t help but say “Wouldn’t the public rather see a more real or dare I say, quirky person trying to sell them something than this plastic ideal that doesn’t seem very relatable?” Then, a fellow participant, as though sensing my feelings, asked the teacher “What about Flo from Progressive?” Bingo. At this, the teacher weakly replied, “Well, that’s more of a character anyway.” But she wasn’t fooling anyone. As much as she tried to convince us that we had to be shiny, perfect mannequins in order to find any success in commercials, she couldn’t explain the massive success of Flo the Progressive girl, who is as far from her ideal as one could get. So thank you Flo for your quirkiness, and may you continue to inspire us quirky actors everywhere.