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Home » Podcast Episodes » The Authentic Actor with Michael Laskin | 060

The Authentic Actor with Michael Laskin | 060

by Tommy G. Kendrick

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Your success, however you may define that, is likely tied to some ‘personal indelibility’ some instant reaction people have to YOU, not to the part you’re playing, but to YOU. That’s hard to teach…in fact you can’t teach it. But you can open people’s eyes to it.

Michael Laskin – Actor – Teacher – Author

In this episode of Actors Talk I’m speaking with actor, teacher and now author, Michael Laskin about his new book The Authentic Actor The Art and Business of Being Yourself and about how he came to pursue the actor’s life.

Some actors and other artists I speak with know from a very early age that we want to act or write stories or music or pursue other creative endeavors, and sometime it’s others who see in us something we might not yet see in ourselves.

 The Authentic Actor - Michael LaskinSuch is the case with Michael Laskin. I found out that Michael is a Minessota kid who was a good student but really had no aspirations to become a professional actor…at least not until his high school guidance counselor planted that seed in his mind that acting was something he could study and just maybe do well.

He went to Northwestern and studied theater, moved to Minneapolis and became immersed in the regional theater scene: he was in the company at the Gutherie, worked in Seattle, Louisville, off-Broadway for 10-11 years and in 1983 decided to move to L.A.

With that as a background we pick up the interview where I’m asking Michael what percipitated the move away from a successful career in regional theater into the film and television world in Los Angeles.


Michael Laskin made the move from busy regional theater actor to L.A. based actor around 1983 with a play called THE BASEMENT TAPES written by Erik Brogger.

So, I wondered, was the transition from stage to screen an easy one or were there some bumps in the road.

“For me it was a difficult transition and…in a large way it has informed my teaching and the book I wrote…”

He had early success.

Michael tells how his friendship with a writer on HILL STREET BLUES, Stephen Bochco’s seminal 1980s era cop show, help Michael gain a foothold into the L.A. market.

Within six weeks of landing in L.A. he had an agent and he had booked his first job.

But, Michael says,

I was terrible in my first job. I saw it on TV and I was just mortified….That pivot from stage to screen was a challenge.


… most TV and film actors do not get the chance to be transformative. we are generally hired to be something akin to ourselves a more truthful dynamic version of who we appear to be when we enter into any human transaction..

Michael credits the late Jack Warden for helping him make the transition into becoming an authentic actor.

While working on a recurring role on Warden’s show CRAZY LIKE A FOX, Michael says he learned by watching how Warden worked.

Michael says he realized “Oh, he’s the same guy I’m talking to off the set when he’s on the set…it’s seamless. He’s mastered the art of completely being himself while doing all the things one has to do…to be a good actor.”


 Michael says he ‘went to school on Jack Warden and on several other skilled actors he was able to work with and observe.

So what were the biggest challenges he had to overcome to make that transition from skilled stage actor to skilled on camera actor?

That, says Michael in the interview, gets to the heart of what his book, THE AUTHENTIC ACTOR is about.

A key idea that Michael explores is that actor training is largely still wedded to approaches, ‘the old dogma’ as Michael says, that train the actor to DO rather than to BE. In those schools of actor training “It’s about what you can go not who you are,” he says.

You may see someone and you say ‘he’s not very good…but he’s booking everything…what is he doing? The thing is he’s not doing anything…he’s just disabusing himself of the notion that he has to pretend to be somebody else.”

So is the Authentic Actor just to ‘play himself’ in every role?

“If that ‘self’ that you present is examined and interesting, if yoiur worldview is clear and interesting, that kind of trumps talent a lot…


One phrase you’ll hear from Michael is ‘talent is the price of admission.’

It’s a given that most people who are working in the business are talented. Talent alone simply isn’t the whole answer.


When he was presented with the opportunity to teach, Michael says he was actually disaffected with acting classes and especially with acting ‘gurus’ where the class becomes more about the teacher than the students.

He says he didn’t really see anyone teaching this notion of marrying the ‘who you are’ with ‘what you can do’ and he thought perhaps he could design a class that would be one he would like to go.


I love this book, The Authentic Actor. As producer of Actors Talk, I am often approached by publishers, publicists, writers and performers who would like to be interviewed. For the most part, I have to say ‘no’ simply as a matter of time.

But I also don’t want to bring to you, the Actors Talk audience, material that I don’t really find valuable and think YOU will find valuable.

All of the authors I’ve interviewed have met that standard. I knew immediately upon reading the galleys for THE AUTHENTIC ACTOR that Michael Laskin knew what he was talking about, had a clear vision for what he was teaching and that his experiences and his teaching can help actors of all experience levels.

THE AUTHENTIC ACTOR is certainly an excellent addition to the library of the beginning actor. But those of us who have been ‘at it’ for a little while or a long while will also benefit from Michael Laskin’s approach.

The book is brilliantly and thankfully devoid of fluff.

I promise you will not have to read twenty pages to get two paragraphs of usable content. Every chapter has nuggets of gold. Every chapter. And the chapters are rather short – not because of anything lacking – but because the author gets to the point.

Maybe it’s because Michael Laskin and I are of a similar age ( I think I’m a year older than he.) But I found myself saying ‘yes’ out loud as I read this book. I was not only learning some new concepts but also having my own ideas and concepts reaffirmed by his teaching. I get where he’s been and where he is in his own career.


He has the heart of a mentor. If you’ve listened to many of my Actors Talk episodes, you know how much I value mentorship.

Let me stop now because I don’t want to make Michael Laskin sound like a guru. He would hate that. Because that’s not what he is about. It’s not about him. It’s about you. The person. The actor.

If you want to understand more, I recommend, without reservation, that you purchase THE AUTHENTIC ACTOR. Read it. Underline it. Keep it handy.

If you want to do Actors Talk Podcast a favor, use the Amazon link at the top of the page when you go there to buy THE AUTHENTIC ACTOR. A few cents in commission will flow back this way to help keep all episodes of the podcast free for the listening.

You can also purchase THE AUTHENTIC ACTOR from the publisher Michael Wiese Productions.


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