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Tim Peper – Why I’m In Class

What I’m in class for right now is finding my generosity, my giving-of-myself. I know how to build what I need to build. I know how to accept that story as my own. I know how to connect to my emotional well, and I know how to connect with my partner, and really receive what they’re giving me. But where I’m realizing I stop myself is in believing that my scene partner is the only one capable of giving me that thing I need, that they are the only one that has it. “I don’t have it, and they do.”

It’s a scary thing to accept, to give someone else that kind of power over my happiness, over my life. But the truth is I can’t act alone, in life or on camera. In life I strive to be independent and self-sufficient, but that kind of thinking doesn’t serve me in my craft. In a scene what I need must come from the other person – it can only come from them. And that truth, once I’ve accepted it, sets me free. The pressure’s off, because it’s all about them, and getting that thing I need from them – the drama, the comedy comes from only being able to use the words I’ve been given to get that thing I need. And more often then not, that way is flawed and heartbreaking, because it’s true to the human experience. As human beings, rarely are we very good at getting the thing we need most from another person. As an actor then, it’s not about “showing” that heartbreaking truth, it’s about going through it, fighting through it, and putting my whole self out there on that exposed limb, a limb that so obviously is about to break.

In a way, it’s the difference between trying to get someone to feel sorry for you and getting someone to hug you – you can show someone why they should sympathize with you, but it’s only the reaching out for comfort, for understanding, for healing that gets you the empathy you really need. It’s an incredibly vulnerable process of peeling away layers of insulation and armor, to allow that basic human need, whatever it is, to act upon your heart unfettered, and to allow that other person in fully.

In this business, and moreso film and TV than stage, the focus is so much on the self. The constant auditioning and self-improvement, the emphasis of awarding individual performances, society’s obsession with celebrity, and the resulting business model that informs so much of the content we see in TV and film – It’s incredibly difficult to remind yourself that it’s not what you get, but what you give. That affecting another person isn’t about you, but about them. Even when the camera is 100% framed on your face, on your eyes looking intensely at someone or something off camera, it’s what you see in that person or thing off camera that matters more than anything going on in that moment for you. Everything else is just what happens next.

That’s what class is about for me – peeling away layers and getting to that heart-to-heart.

-Tim Peper

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