Transcript:

Speaker Well, tell me a little bit about what did you even know about Juilliard when you were growing up or, you know, the classic Juilliard history? And what made you want to be a part of it?

Speaker What made you think this was 1968? I was a junior in high school in Buffalo and I had already started acting in high school and was part of summer theater program where we kind of jet off en garde theater. Just part of theater workshop in Buffalo that was connected to a New York theater workshop. And this was in the 60s. Sixty eight.

Speaker Joe Chaiken, Yazji Grotowski. That's with Street Theater. This was there was an avant garde. And this workshop was so amazing to me as a girl growing up in a Polish community in Buffalo, a Catholic community that have very insular life. I became part of this theater workshop in the summer, and then I just became really excited about acting about the age of 16. And I remember the moment of opening up the Buffalo Evening News and reading about Juilliard, opening a drama division and reading about John Houseman and. 1968 was the first year of the drama division. I believe that's I was just reading about it and how it was classical training and it just sounded and it was heart stopping Lee. Exciting to me. And I cut the article out and I pasted it on my wall. Then I sent away for there. Sure. Which was black and opened up. I remember this because it it meant so much to me. And it folded out like. There were three sections of four sections about the first year of training and the second year. And what you do in the third year, in the fourth year was like just so like this was the penultimate school. This would be like going to a great acting school in England. It was the equivalent and it was in New York. So to me, there was no place I wanted to go more than Juilliard.

Speaker And I kept that and decided that that was my goal was to get into Juilliard and come my senior year. I applied to NYU, Boston and Juilliard and I went to NYU and auditioned. And to Boston. But Juilliard was far and away my first choice. I went there. On a plane. You know, just not having been in New York. And coming there and going to that gorgeous theater and walking down the stairs and in the black, you heard rather elegant English sounding voice, which was John Houseman. And Michael Kahn was there. Liz Smith. Elizabeth Smith. And I did Nina from The Seagull. And I said, Viola from Twelfth Night. And they said, via law and for a scene from the Mizer, they actually asked me for my third choice. And.

Speaker Then I think they called me back and I did it one more time, but it was. It was just so exciting to me. You know, just. It was my dream was to go to that school and. I didn't get it. I was waitlisted. I was rejected at NYU, accepted in Boston, and then I was told on the phone that I was waitlisted and that the problem was that I had a sibilant S.. I now have these teeth are not my real teeth. I had a rather large well, not large, but large enough space between my teeth. And they felt that a civil index was the hardest sound to correct. Kind of whistled and they said, if you're willing to perhaps cap your teeth to reduce them the whistle and have speech therapy for the summer, we may re audition you. So I always say I got into that school on the skin of my teeth because I had my teeth capped and so a speech therapist in Buffalo who some reason put little rubber bands on the tip of my tongue and then have to put my tongue on the tip of my mouth and trying to keep my tongue there. His theory being that it was due to that tongue thrust. This is becoming much too detailed but tongue thrust that I had this sibilant. Anyway, I go through the speech therapy. I go back to Juilliard, into John Houseman's office, where Elizabeth Smith, the speech teacher, hands me a paragraph, a long paragraph of nothing but s words. I wish I could do it now. It's hysterical, like one s word after another. And I sat there doing this this this piece. And Liz's back was to me and John was there. And he said after I finished this, trying desperately not to whistle or his or lisp, I got through it and he said, Elizabeth.

Speaker And she didn't turn around. She just went there was this long pause and then she. Nodded her head and John said, Well, you've been accepted to Juilliard.

Speaker And I went with my mother. My mother was waiting for me. Getting emotional down and Philharmonic Hall in the lobby. And I told her that I'd gotten in and we went to the Algonquin Hotel and had a Manhattans.

Speaker There's a celebration. But it was just so it was just one of the great moments of my life. Getting into that school was from Buffalo. I was this Polish girl from Cheektowaga who had an acting dream and. To me, it was just the top. You know, you go to Juilliard and you walk through Lincoln Center. I mean, at least I did. My sense was always there is the Metropolitan Opera and there's the New York City Ballet and there's Philharmonic Hall and then there's Juilliard. You kind of I always had the feeling I was a part of something that had to do with.

Speaker With art, with high art, with the performing arts on a on a grand scale, you know, and then it was a very important place to be, maybe because of where it was situated in the faculty and their classical approach to acting, their tremendous respect for acting. So I've just given you a very long winded answer. But I have to say that although my career really began at Juilliard or that was the beginning of my career, I could also say that being there, getting in and being part of those years was one of the high points of my career.

Speaker Well, I mean, the place collapsed. You try housekeeping.

Speaker Jill, you know, there's this thing that's going to keep.

Speaker But I mean, it really the voice does this for every day.

Speaker Rigamarole reinforced for me. I mean, in retrospect, you do take it you take it seriously that you needed to fix that in order to be.

Speaker Yes, sir. Yes.

Speaker Yeah. I mean, what. I mean, the voice and speech were I mean, people talk about the high, the low, the nasty Juilliard voice, the negative, the positive.

Speaker I mean, you really started right away with you've got to have this or you can't even.

Speaker You know what? Once I got there, though, I wasn't focusing on my essays. I mean, they did bring it up, but it wasn't like I didn't go go through my four years obsessing about my essays. But I am.

Speaker You you go through all year after year, week after week, day after day, lying on the floor, learning to breathe, doing these exercises. Doing the speech exercises, you don't know. I mean, we made fun of it a great deal. It was just seemed so silly to be so obsessed with a flat a or a nasal sound, you know, nasal quality to your voice or the S's or the splashy teas. You know, it didn't go tiger, you know. Where where your tongue is when it hits your palate. It was this exact science which it takes you years to assimilate. But then I believe that it does make a difference.

Speaker When you work, all these things, add up the kind of speech, training and voice training that they did has been invaluable to me.

Speaker And I still have a love of consonants as an actress that I think I developed at Juilliard because I did endless voice exercises and just t's d S's PS but consonants as an actor, consonants are really your friend. If you just put a D or a T at the end of a word. You can, you know that extra bit of topspin or if you just lay into a consonant in the middle of a word, it there tool's consonants are expressive, like singers use vowels. I think actors can use consonants. So I just developed a love of language in a respect for just the sounds of words or images or how to just wrap your mouth around a phrase and you know, like classical plays. Shakespeare just allows you to.

Speaker Just take a phrase and make music of it. Well, how do you make music out of it? You need. You need you need that resonance to your voice to to to give it everything that it should be. I mean, English actors have that. They're not afraid of language.

Speaker Now is that Juilliard was very similar to English training in that it really has such an has put such an emphasis on on handling language, on handling words.

Speaker You're you know, we were talking very eloquently about coming, you know, coming from Buffalo. And once you were in the class, who were you with? Who are these eccentric faculty and students? The colleagues?

Speaker I mean, was it they were kids from all over the country. And then, of course, the faculty. Well, you know, I just I was just impressed with everyone. What did I know? I was just impressed with everybody and terrified and intimidated beyond words.

Speaker There was a great deal of vulnerability, I think, with a lot of the kids there mean we were like 18 years old and put under a microscope having your speech and your voice and your posture. I mean, we were always being realigned either physically or vocally or verbally. We were always being looked at. Sometimes it was like, you know, laboratory animals. And under John, it was it was John Houseman. It was quite, quite intimidating. I think it got less so with other.

Speaker Heads of the school. But, John, he'd line you up after you do a play. And you were just lined up for what was called the critique was the dreaded critique and each faculty member would take.

Speaker Go right down and comment on your work, on your speech, on your voice, on your acting, on your body, knowing that it's just made people feel so vulnerable. Some a lot of people, I don't think survived. It was very hard. After all, at that age, you're you're. It's hard to have a mask ripped off of you if you don't have, you know, something underneath. So a lot of people were being stripped away who didn't have egos hardy enough to withstand that. That's that kind of scrutiny.

Speaker And you sort of saw a lot of your classmates, I mean, you were there all said during the drastic cut the time where people, quite a few people would leave.

Speaker Poor people.

Speaker People wouldn't get cast in roles. I was I was the lucky one, they were always giving me fabulous roles or leads. You know, that list would go up and I was never disappointed. But. Other other people were other people were hurt by it. A lot of people left.

Speaker I remember it. It's a very emotional time anyway. I mean, you know, you just get, you know, your teens or early 20s. It's it's a formative time as a human being. You're you're forming yourself. So, as I said, it's. To be under that kind of scrutiny, I could have, you know, looking back, I think maybe going to college for a few years and then going to Juilliard might be the way to do it, just to get a few extra years of education and just positioning yourself a little easier in the world and then subjecting yourself to that kind of training. I don't have any regrets, but I think it was tough on a lot of people.

Speaker And who are you studying acting with? What? I mean, how did you see your own growth?

Speaker I mean, in a way it's like I'm following a third year after and I talk to him at the beginning. I'm sort of like, what do you want? What what do you want to accomplish this year? And then we have everything you did accomplish. We followed the whole year or things he didn't mean.

Speaker But seeing yourself change even even to the point.

Speaker I mean, what did you feel that you walked in with that you really some of the things you let go, some of the things you really worked on, where you if you look at the arc.

Speaker Oh, I, I, I was all externals. I was all I was mostly for effect. I wasn't coming from the inside. I would picture character this way and do a voice and do I was the best acting class I ever had was given by Michael Kahn. It was in my third year and he said something to me that's lasted. He said, you'll always be flamboyant. You'll always have that as an actress, you know.

Speaker Put a bravura spin on something or he said, what you must work on is being specific, is grounding it in reality. And I kind of have to work backwards as an actress. I think I thought that acting was mostly being effective and being, you know, having a certain kind of.

Speaker Horrible say you're just comic effect or dramatic effect? Ideas about the character. I didn't know how to approach it from far enough within and then go back out. So a lot of my work had to do is calming down.

Speaker I mean, big time calming down and just starting to trust my instincts and working from the inside. Back out.

Speaker And how did Michael I mean I mean, I've been following his his third year acting.

Speaker And if you can think of some way of even in the most, because they don't it's very tall stuff. It's very hard to talk about in a way. It's very. It's sort of ethereal and way you get your hands on it, but what everybody has said that Michael Kahn is one of the greatest acting ever had, in some way you can think of what was happening or what was he able to do?

Speaker Well, I'll tell you very specifically, actually.

Speaker Because this was sort of a breakthrough thing for me. I worked on I play all these grand doms. I did matter more codon on Bernarda. But here I was, the skinny, pimply girl from Buffalo playing these Spanish and Russian. Matriarchs and flamboyant roles, but one of the scenes I worked on in class very, very hard was from Sweet Bird of Youth. I did Alexandra Dialogo. When she wakes up and she doesn't know who the guys the guy is. Chance Wayne did we did we sleep together and she's. This is the morning after she went to her movie premiere. And I did this scene from Michael and he said.

Speaker You have to go back and you have to work on what it's physically like for you to wake up.

Speaker With a hangover.

Speaker What your moment to moment reality is getting up, going for the pills. Really looking at who's in bed with you, going into a sensory reality.

Speaker And I remember staying late at Juilliard. Quite a few nights in a row. And I set up the bed and I set up everything. And I actually just actually one night I had some several glasses of wine at Juilliard alone and one of their classrooms. And just literally worked on waking up and what was happening physically to me.

Speaker And. Using the props and looking at them and really being involved in her physical, I'm not not the idea of her emotional reality, but the actual physical reality. It is hard to talk about. By the way. But when I did this for Michael and I did the whole scene, my urine just dropped off. A little bit of reality here. When I did it, it was a long scene. He said your first two minutes when you woke up were the most interesting you've ever been as an actress at the school. And then you started talking and you started acting again. But for two minutes, I was rooted in behavior. He was always emphasizing behavior as a way to make words interesting. For instance, when I just did, this was my earring. I mean, if you were in a scene, it's just sort of more interesting to be talking like this and putting on an earring. Doesn't it kind of make more real than if I'm just talking like this all the time? You know, he was a great believer in that kind of detail of like, what is it like if you're just talking and then you interrupt a sentence being in your. And you're, you know, having a drink of what? It's lifelike, isn't it? Not that you should eat through everything, although eating is a great way to make your acting seem real. Just going to start chewing. But I really mean it's he he believed in tech texturing your your your acting with behavior and and and grounding it in in moment by moment reality.

Speaker And he somehow also seemed to me to very quickly cut to the chase. He doesn't really he seems to pinpoint what's going on with people very quickly.

Speaker Yeah, he's a great analyser. Yeah. Yeah. He's very, very, very astute acting teacher.

Speaker Like I mean, I had Michael as a teacher for for several years. I'm by far my most valuable. Acting teacher. But then I also did a scene study class with Gerald Friedman, who I thought was. The other thing, Mike, let let me get back to Michael for one moment. Michael was a great believer in and I think it's one of the great. At least at that time, probably still. Great thing about the school is it teaches you.

Speaker Kara, the value of characterisation, how to approach character, how to go outside of yourself and be specifically another human being by virtue of of of behavior or researching the period or investing in that person's life rather than just bringing your own emotional baggage. It's it's a lot to do with. Using your imaginative life to create character, and I always thought one of the reasons my career's had kind of a wonderful trajectory and that I work all the time is I'm not a personality based actress. I know how to play characters.

Speaker I've played tons of different characters. It doesn't intimidate me at all to assume an accent or. I assume another way of walking or.

Speaker Play someone from another period or play someone from another Milia than my own. A lot of actors, very. Uncomfortable doing it or don't know how to do it.

Speaker But Juilliard was we just went from one place to another where we were in different styles, different periods, different characters. I played mistress quickly. I stuffed my. I mean, I was had all this padding and then I stuffed my mouth and tried to get a whole other way of speaking. And I would play the gypsy from Camino Real. I mean, I've played all kinds of different people, and it teaches you to be fearless about just making a jump outside of yourself. So that's my goal. And that's, I think one of the great values of the school is teaching characterisation.

Speaker Do you think it would be fair to say that one of the sort of really interesting things that was happening at Juilliard is the drama division, was that it was taking? This. This European traditional beer.

Speaker You know, Shakespeare language, maybe English tradition and sort of all those melding it with a sort of a method reality. Yeah, absolutely. A new American accent.

Speaker Yeah. I mean, I've sort of said it now, and I'm not in the movie. So you might say it's back to me. But you think it's a fair.

Speaker Yes, I do. I do. I also think that we are American actors. So we're going to be American actors. I think.

Speaker If you put yourself through that training for four years and it is a classical training, at least very much so when I went there, it'll take you some years to assimilate that training. And you might you might come away, you know, kind of speaking like an English actor or being too technique oriented. But I went out of town and did regional ceder for years. And I did play after play by Moliere and Sean Chekov and Garçon Kane. And I mean, I did Sam Shepard. I was doing all kinds of different plays.

Speaker And I think that over time you assimilate that training and then you're still an American actor with with the kind of method that we have as American actors. It's it's it is more from the from the inside out. I know that when I read about Stella Adler's training program, she said, if you think you can never play Madea or Adipocytes, if you're just going to base it on your own personal reality, you've got to use your imagination. You've got to make that jump because you have to develop your imagination as an actor. You can't just say I'm I'm not going to use my personal experiences. That's a drawback of American acting to just assume you have to pull everything to your own experience. I think it's quite true that that. You have to develop your imagination and take a great leap, especially when you're playing great roles.

Speaker What do you and what do you think? I mean, it's a very hard question to answer in this way, but what what gave you what put Giuliani in the stead that it's in?

Speaker I mean. Why? What do you think happened when housemen, you know, formed this little drama division that now three thousand people are, you know, the you know, it's sort of this pinnacle that people. I mean, what created the success in a funny way? The people, incredible faculty. I mean, it's hard to say because it's it seems to have been even from the initiation of the music division, just really spiraled in the way that life with Clint Eastwood really an actor anymore, or is you just a movie star?

Speaker No, I think he's an actor.

Speaker I to a Clint Eastwood and another American Masters. So we've been talking a lot about mythology that gets created. And I feel that Juilliard has gotten out of that well.

Speaker But Julia, the drama division came in on the through the backdoor of of the Juilliard School. I mean, the fact is the Juilliard School is the most prestigious musical school. It had the name already. And then the fact is, it's it's like the music or the dance division.

Speaker The training is very, very intensive. I mean, you really do for four years lay on the floor and do breathing exercises and speech exercises the way when you pass those little rooms, they're doing their arpeggios. It's it's very, very intensive training. And. There is a respect for acting as a performance art. That man, I don't know of other acting skills, so I'm not gonna say, well, Julia, it's the best. I don't have an experience of other acting schools, but I would think it's known for its thoroughness of the training minutes. Four years, four years.

Speaker You're there and wearing long skirts and doing period plays that you would wear long skirts every day so that you'd know what it was like to wear period clothes so that you weren't feeling gawky when you put on an Elizabethan dress. I mean, I, I had classes in how to walk in period closed this day. Costume designers say to me, you really know what to do with a costume.

Speaker And I said, well, I actually took classes and. There is a different way of walking. I mean, in a non peer dress, you put your hands here. This is where you hold your your hands because the bodice breaks here in Elizabethan. You have wings. You put your hands. Different place. We would have classes in Boeing and and fan language. That's very useful now. Anyway, it was very, very weird mask classes and in mask work. We had makeup. We had singing. We did movement every single day. By my third year in Juilliard, my voice was. At least it was lower than it is now. And I came in I came in kind of with a voice like this because they record you, I don't know if they still do, but there's probably a recording of me if it's still in the archives of my Buffalo Girl voice, you know, right off the train from Cheektowaga.

Speaker And then they they rerecord you every year.

Speaker My voice must have dropped two octaves because it got so resonant when I was there. And so, yes, it will be. It's going to be a legendary school. It's it's a legendary music school. And and now it will incorporate jazz. Right. Dance. I mean, I was in the elevator. Once was very close. Who was doing her masterclasses was in the elevator with Martha Graham. Yes. Tension of what it was like. Wait a minute. Yes, they were like that.

Speaker The first borns. And we were all the younger siblings. We were the second group. The second year, and I'm not sure. There's and and I'm probably wrong, so forgive me, but I don't I don't know if anybody even came out of that group who had a career. Now, the third group was like the third child. But I. Yeah. It was. Well, that first year got a lot of attention from.

Speaker Their parents. Who knows? John Houseman's baby and. Out of that, they they formed the acting company, and so they had all the great roles and, you know, I did. I wasn't asked into the acting company because they felt they had too many leading ladies. So but that was fine because I went on I started working. So it was fine. But, yeah, they they had a real petina about them.

Speaker With their. A kind of admission about this sort of Houseman's regional theater mission that you very much believed in. I mean, I know that certainly members have talked about the intensity of his of his vision of why you created the acting company and that Juilliard was meant to supply the great regional theaters of America with actors doing great plays. I mean, was that. Were you aware that as a as a sort of a mission, did you buy into it? Did you. Did you. Was it. Did you see yourself on that route?

Speaker Probably because I really I thought that the most appropriate thing to do was go out of town and do do plays, which I did. I didn't think it was a come down from my career to just spend years working. I mean, I didn't go into the acting company, but I went. I called myself the first lady of Amtrak because I worked in theaters all along the New York Washington line. I worked in Princeton at the McCarter, where I did just pity she's a whore. And I worked in Philadelphia. I worked in Baltimore. I worked in Washington. I was always getting off at one step or another, hauling my bags. And I did a lot of work at center stage in Baltimore, Moliere. I did, too. I did the rivals. I did Billie Dawn in Born yesterday. Yosh in the Cherry Orchard. Lena QTIP. Enough ski and misalliance did a lot of work there and they were invaluable years to apply that training and play characters and play different styles. So yes, I think John Houseman felt that there was a living theatre in America. He was right. I thought there was that going to be that in New York. I thought that the New York theater would be a place where I would do Shakespeare and Chekhov and Moliere and I had to go out of town to do it and do Shakespeare in New York until nineteen eighty one. I didn't Midsummer Night's Dream for Joe Papp.

Speaker They were just not that much happening in New York. There were new plays being done, but not not some great classical theater company in New York. When I went to Juilliard, the Lincoln Center Theater was there under Jules Irving and we would go and see play. So I just had this assumption I was going to graduate Juilliard and then work in New York, you know, as a young actress in classical theater, rather like, you know, young English actresses there working on the West End or in the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Speaker I thought that would happen to me, but I had to go way further inland to to play those great classical roles.

Speaker It's interesting, I think it was Tim Monic, actually, who I'm sure that, you know, was talking about the move. From Juilliard to. Comedy on television as being. Actually, an unbelievable connection between the kind of technique that one. What sort of things? Well, there's no connection between this kind of classical training. What you end up doing in television. And he was saying, in fact, if you see the great people who are doing, you know, really serious, great and acknowledged his great work in sitcoms and comedy, too, you will see that they're all very classically trained people. Have you have you sort of taken. How did it how did it connect for you as someone who who has done.

Speaker My producer on Sebel called me a Xerox machine because I could do take after take after take. We did a lot of takes on that show. And I would just repeat the performance, wasn't I? No problem. You know, you. Learn the lines and you do the timing and you work things out, and then you repeat a performance and keep it fresh.

Speaker I mean, you keep you repeat the performance, but it's alive every time. And that's stage training. You repeat a performance. You don't just say, well, did you get it because I can't do it again. You know, you better have gotten it in that take.

Speaker That's a invaluable skill to have as as a television performer.

Speaker You have to work fast. You have to know how to get your work in place very fast. You've got five days to nail it. Of course, you need excellent timing. And I was so surprised after years of doing difficult plays and challenging plays and all kinds of different comedies from restoration to, you know, contemporary comedies like John Guerra's House of Blue Leaves. I went to television and. Was this discovery like, oh, my goodness, the timing and her, you know, such a flamboyant character and to me it was like was so easy. I mean, it was not there was not some great jump for me to to play the character that I played on civil it. And that was I. I'm sure you from years of doing the kind of work and having the kind of training that I had, it just allowed me to be a rather. Flamboyant character and and, you know, I've got my hold to drink a certain way, deliver the line a certain way, have a certain kind of style. People always talked about the style of that character. Well. I mean, please, if you do a restoration play, you need some style. You know, you need you need to really know how to have major attitude and deliver lines. It's that those plays are just the best training ground because everything else seems easy. The point.

Speaker We talked to a girl this morning who only graduated a year ago because we thought it would be so, you know, to have a lot of people whose careers have happened. And I think a lot of people were even just talking about it with Kevin, sort of think, oh, Julie are Oscar, you know, and they forget the 15 years that went in between. I mean, do you remember when you first got out a sense of having is I just see people get such incredible amounts of attention. I mean, fight this Alexander woman, a singing teacher, a coach. They're looking at you. You're doing when you look at the footage, it's just an incredible amount of focus from incredible people when you're at Juilliard. And I always imagined that the first year that you leave must be like, where is everybody? Nobody's. I mean, you're getting so much attention and you must have to just completely restructure to a different.

Speaker I don't know, because it's a loan with a lot of people. I still think about you get along with your self and your. Choices good. When you first started when you first got out into the world.

Speaker It was an adjustment. But for me, the funny thing was I was playing all these great maternal roles at Juilliard and these these extraordinary roles like Metamora Cardinal and these leading ladies.

Speaker And then I wondered when I left. Why are they. Why am I up for these? Like. Tall, skinny young women, I'm playing these.

Speaker You know, this is exactly what I was you know, it was time for me to be who I really was, which was an actress in her 20s who was probably right, you know, for for light comedy roles. I wasn't going to get cast as Madam Marcato night any time soon. So it was a bit of a shock, just like how the the world saw me and how I was kind of roles I was auditioning for as far as being left alone. I don't know. By the time I left, I have to say, by the time I'm by the middle of my fourth year, I was ready to leave.

Speaker It was, you know, OK, enough already. I need to get out, which I think is the college experience by your senior year. You do. You do need to leave.

Speaker But I had so much of that intensive training that that it really I carried my speech book with me out of town and did exercises and listened to tapes and did the work that I had. I mean, the good thing is it's like learning a language. I said, Julia, it was like total immersion when you go to another country to learn a foreign language because that's the best way to learn it. Juilliard was such a total immersion that you you had that language with you.

Speaker You carry it with you. I still carry it with me. I still.

Speaker Hear things that were told to me at school to drop my shoulders or drop my larynx or breathe deeply or. Pronounce a word a certain way or be away, I mean, last year I worked on Sweeney Todd and I remember seeing Liz Smith again after all those years and working with her on the Cockney dialect and just knowing how to work on the dialect. She said, well, you know, you've got to lighten up the dialect here because they won't understand, do you? Even though it is Cockney and I know exactly what she meant. I mean, all those things come back to you about how to work on something.

Speaker So it's it's I think it's it is awfully intense.

Speaker But then it really leaves its it makes its mark on you. It leaves you with this. Well I'm sure like the pianists who train or the violinists say that that technique, those muscles that you train them, they just stay tight for a long time.

Speaker Did you study with Mary? Oh, indeed. Tell me a little bit about you.

Speaker What I loved about Mary Ann was she was so loving towards us. She she looked. She was like this great mother there who just adores her children. She when you were with Mary and you felt you could just open up and be wonderful, she looked at you like you were the most wonderful thing. And so, you know, you kind of blossom in front of Mary and you you maybe are a little more daring or a little more open because she's just loving you. You know, it's she's very nurturing.

Speaker Marian. And she's so theatrical. I've based several performances in my career on Marian Seldes.

Speaker And just just her physicality one recently, actually. Don't tell her. No, she she would be. She would be amused. And what about Robert? Oh, impeccable.

Speaker What a great teacher. What a great teacher. Still. I mean, he's still there isn't. He's just an impeccable, impeccable ear. Wonderful man.

Speaker He spent his entire interview. Without saying, I don't know why I'm here. They're simply absolutely nothing interesting that I can choose.

Speaker And Larry is because he just is he's so modest and he's so about the work. Yes. I didn't imagine why we would all be talking about this. But in a great way. I mean, what was it about his class that every single person will talk about it so intently?

Speaker It was probably his precision, like was a great like a great music teacher that just makes you train your ear so that you really become very highly tuned, very highly tuned to. To your voice, to your speech, he's he's got this impeccable ear. That's the best I can do, I. But that's saying a lot.

Speaker He didn't. He didn't hurt Harper, you.

Speaker Oh, yeah, they all harped on my oakar.

Speaker It's it's it's interesting that you say, you know, you're someone a few people have said this this kind of element of some people just didn't have enough of their own to deal with this with this takedown and that. Even when people leave after a while, they have to. Sort of overcome the the the absolute play that's happened to them to get back to the person that Juilliard accepted in the first place. Because you're mean. Did you did you find yourself in that sort of. I don't know, I'm trying to get somehow to the heart of without being too cliche in the film about what does this flag mean? It's like when people say, well, it was a place to fail. You're like, you have. But what does that really mean or what does it really mean?

Speaker I think it's a place where you're literally taken apart and then put back together.

Speaker Your first couple years, you're just kind of deconstructed and in it, it it can be quite harrowing.

Speaker But you're looking and analyzing and listening very intently. Because let's face it, this is the instrument. This is your piano, your violin, your cello. This is. These are the strings or the keys that you have and. They were picking us apart. And and and putting us back together, not which is not to say by your fourth year you are together. But you have the tools with which to be aware of. Of of. Aligning yourself in an all different area so that you can make use of yourself as an as an instrument that can be played with great subtlety and tenacity. You know, acting takes so much stamina. Where's the wood? I've never missed a performance because of illness. I've never lost my voice.

Speaker Where is the wood?

Speaker I've never. I have made it through. Long runs and difficult runs of plays that require a lot of stamina and certainly having children and also, you know, working in the theater and having children and just having to do it.

Speaker I think a lot of that is just the muscle I developed. My my vocal muscle is very strong. I have a very strong voice. I don't think that a strong voice when I left, but I mean, I had I had it, but it was developed.

Speaker But I think that it's not like by your fourth year, you're a perfected actor, by the fourth year, you're aware of many, many, many aspects to your instrument and to your technique. Then I think you have to go out and start putting it to use and integrating that training. And we know it wasn't some people leave school and I guess they do win Oscars. I mean, that's not been my route. I. I just have worked very systematically and I've actually loved the trajectory of my career, I spent years working and in theater doing those wonderful plays out of town, and I loved those years. I just was enraptured with the idea of Chekhov or Shah. I remember saying to my agent, she said, when are you going to come to New York and start auditioning for plays? And I was in Baltimore. I said, I can't. They've just offered me do Nyasha in the Cherry Orchard. But that's Juilliard, you know, at Juilliard.

Speaker It was like to do Chekhov was like, oh, my God, you're getting to do Chekhov. It was a rapture about the playwright that you were going to do.

Speaker This was going to be your Shaa player. Now you're going to do the Greeks or you're gonna do Henry the Fourth or you're going to do the Jacobean play.

Speaker Everything seemed to me to be just rather prestigious, like, oh, now I get to do this. And I did a very difficult Jacobean play in my fourth year. Cultists pity she's a whore. Doesn't get any harder than that. You know, the brother and sister having an incestuous relationship? No. Then I went on to do it professionally with Michael Kahn, but.

Speaker I loved that Juilliard made me so respectful of great play writing, of the tradition of the theater, of being privileged enough to be in plays that demanded that kind of technique, you know. And to get back to your you know, your original question, I just think that. It all gets put together as you begin to make use of that training. You start just integrating it and integrating it to where it's something you don't think about.

Speaker You know, there's something also just, you know. Really great having having come from from.

Speaker Buffalo coming down.

Speaker To be into this in this place. With all of these people so focused on this, something that you wanted to be focused on, I think about how you leave the place like truly and there aren't very many places like it. And then you get out into the real world where people are focused on other things and you have to take that intensity of your own and and keep it going through your own. Where I put it truly out, it's like it's I mean, how did you experience. What did it feel like to get amongst all of these? People with this incredible will.

Speaker As I said, it was. It was just it was so intense. I mean, the word that I would use over and over is it was such an intense experience. And I I had this by my fourth year. I would show up early for school. I would show up like at 7:00 at school to warm up and do a physical and vocal warm up before I then took classes that were physical and vocal warm ups.

Speaker I was just the harder I work, the more reward I will get. You know, I, I just had this this passion and focus about it. So.

Speaker That's that is the Juilliard experience. I was lucky that when I left, Michael Connett actually taken the production of his pity she's a whore, which we did as a fourth year project. And he was running the McCarter Theater. We took that production and recast it with professional actors, except for the actor Franklin SEALs. And I we played the young lovers. So my career just kind of went over and I suddenly had a professional job. I didn't even attend my own graduation at Juilliard because I was already working at Stratford as a lady in waiting. And then I went and did his pity. She's a whore. So I just started working immediately. Then we took the production to the Goodman Theatre. So I was able to take that training and I was with Franklin and we were like these Juilliard kids now and a professional company of actors. And it was so funny because we were so intense and so young and so full of ourselves and our training.

Speaker And the other professional actors doing this Jacobean play were at Stratford. You know, I always thought that the professional theatre was easy compared to Juilliard. You know, that if I could get through Juilliard.

Speaker That I could get through the professional. And that has been true, actually, because nothing's ever been as intense as that. I mean, if I had some difficult professional experiences, but not never where I was looking and and and being scrutinized to that extent in a way that I was at Juilliard, I just was removed.

Speaker You were talking about the elevator for me because I because I love you. Of course, I have, like, photographs of these kinds of things that you were saying that you would remember riding the elevator.

Speaker Oh, well, I Inez's kept saying it was this girl from Buffalo and I was going up to classes on the third floor.

Speaker I was in the elevator at times with Maria Callas, who was doing her famous master classes, which I sat in on some of them. I mean, actually. Saw them through us. US practically through a stairwell. I mean, I didn't get a seat. But Maria Callas, George Balanchine, Martha Graham. These are people we went up an elevator with. Then I would leave school and I was I lived on 50 Eighth Street and Ninth Avenue. So I always love to walk through Lincoln Center where the fountain was at all. And I'd see if somebody would give me a free ticket to the opera and I would just stand there while the opera was walking in and I got handed a free ticket to Norma said in the orchestra to hear Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horn in Norma. I got a free ticket to the Georgiou stroller Marriage of Figaro with Margaret Price and Frederica French daughter. I remember going to hear Arthur Rubinstein at Philharmonic Hall. I mean, those years were magical. I just felt like I was just in the center of, you know, really where it was at culturally and my mind.

Speaker A lot of people. Did you study with Ms. Sokolow?

Speaker But now after Anna Sokoloff, nothing. And everything's easy after Anna Sokoloff.

Speaker She was a fascist. May she rest in peace. I loved her. She was so mean and so hard on us. And she told us we were all wimps.

Speaker She said, you know nothing. You're just you just you know, she she she would be brutal in class and she'd do this thing where she'd put her arms up and go push my arms down, push them down, and nobody could push her arms down.

Speaker She said that's because the energy and intensity in my arms. That's because my you know, my psyche. You know, she couldn't push Anna's arms down. You know, we had some we had some personalities there.

Speaker Okay. Is there anything critical that I forgot? Anything important that you say you've been back a lot? Is it seem different now?

Speaker I've never been. You know, I really should go back and observe. I've never I've never talked to the students there. I keep talking about how I should go and talk to them. And Michael says, oh, you should come and talk to them. But I never have. And I've never sat in on classes. So it may be very different now. No, it's not. Like, they really are. They very intense. They're very intense.

Speaker Other than other than people, you know, the faculty members is dying. I don't believe anyone gets retired or they have no retirement policy.

Speaker I mean, it's all the same faculty that you, Liz, left. Yeah, but. And Peter.

Speaker Yes, Linda. But I went to France and interviewed Peter, so he will be luckily permanently remember and felt he was incredible. Tell me a little bit about that, about pier and the mass. I mean, everyone talks about the mass classes being this. Absolutely. And my favorite class was and I'm always interested in why was Mascotte class such a favorite? Because.

Speaker It's like a game because it was so liberating, in fact, I just did a film with Jim Carrey called How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And when I. Met with Ron Howard. He told us about the amount of prosthetic work that would be done and. Big wigs and costumes and all. And. He said, would you mind like having to be in a makeup chair for four hours or however long it takes and have your face partially or totally covered?

Speaker And I actually told him about the mask class at Juilliard. And I said.

Speaker It's very liberating to be covered. I mean, that was the thing about covering your face was your body just became more expressive instrument. And it was it was very liberating. I don't think they do nearly enough of that. But I tell you, Jim Carrey's like a master. You just cover his face. I mean, with or without a covering. He's extraordinary physical comedian, but he is totally covered as the Grinch. And he just gives one of the great physical performances I've ever seen. But he's just totally liberates him.

Speaker But Peter, of course, is Gem, beautiful man. And his classes were. You know, just so unusual and and liberating. But I would I would say that that the one thing I didn't say because I started to talk about Jerry Friedman on another big thing I came away with from Juilliard was the respect for the text, the breakdown of a play, the. Looking at your role in a play as as part of. Of the play itself, not just an opportunity to, you know, play that character that you had to. Serve the play. That's that. That is an enormous thing that I learned at Juilliard with with Jerry, we would.

Speaker Breakdown the play, we would breakdown the objective of each character in the play, we would say, what is the super objective? What's the theme of the play? And how does each character serve the theme of the play? And within each scene, how does your character. What are your character's objectives? So he's very specific about breaking down the text. And I thought I always thought that that was an enormous thing or a great thing about the Juilliard training, because to this day, I always, you know, always see the play or a piece of writing as as a. As the thing to be served in the way a piece of music is, you know. Amalgam of all of the instruments, but that it is the the thing itself that must be served. That your character is is a part of a whole and that it's the writer and the writer's style and themes and thinking that has to be served.

Christine Baranski
Found in: Juilliard
Interview Date:
2000-05-18
Runtime:
0:58:20
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-1c1td9nm7v, cpb-aacip-504-zp3vt1hh1h
MLA CITATIONS:
"Christine Baranski, Juilliard." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 18 May. 2000, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/762
APA CITATIONS:
(2000, May 18). Christine Baranski, Juilliard. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/762
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Christine Baranski, Juilliard." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). May 18, 2000. Accessed June 28, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/762

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