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Never Forget the FUN!

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Jessica SmithWhen you’re on Inside the Actor’s Studio (or something like it) and you’re asked what inspired you to become an actress or producer or director, etc., do you know what you’ll say? Of course you do. We all have the beautiful answers about seeing someone’s moving performance and wanting to create that, or of always having a strong desire to tell stories and inspire others. Or whatever your reason…

But put all that aside just once and have a little bit of fun with me today. What is it that you love about this career that is just plain fun for you? Who is that one actor you are dying to work with besides the Meryl Streep’s of the world? Wait, no, there’s only one Meryl. But you get the idea.

For example, I am a major Brady Bunch geek. Every day for years after school, we watched The Brady Bunch at 4:05 and 4:35 p.m. on TBS. I know just about any trivia answer there is to know. I have seen the show gazillions of times. I own copies of all the remake movies and even own copies of some of the T.V. reunion movies from the 1980s, as well as all six episodes of the spin-off series Brady Brides. I have read Barry Williams’ book and Maureen McCormick’s book. There was also a really cool Brady Bunch musical in Los Angeles a few years back. I happened to be in L.A. during its run and I saw it. I got to speak with the producer, Lloyd Schwartz, who worked on the original show and whose father created The Brady Bunch. My stomach was in knots over this “celebrity.” Because of this nostalgia, I would geek out over getting to do a movie with anyone from the original show. Well, anyone except Cousin Oliver—that would be disappointing. And, well Robert Reed or Ann B. Davis because that would be spooky.

My dream best friend is Dolly Parton. She is a brilliant businesswoman, a country music icon, a very funny lady, and a genuinely kind human being (from all appearances). I would be in the worst movie of all time if it meant I got to act alongside of her. Why not?

Why not just have some fun in this industry once in a while? It is exhilarating to lose myself in a scene—to finish it and have no idea what we did but to know that it was a great ride. But it’s also fun for me to realize that I am a part of television history. I have been on T.V. and will forever be a part of it. And that is just a little bit kind of cool, you know?

I have a real life example for you; ride this one out with me for a minute:

Currently we live in a climate of new media and creating your own work so much that actors can create their own roles and can show their audience new stuff, even if no one else will hire them to do it.

But this was not always the case. For decades, many former sitcom stars had difficulty doing anything after their show was canceled because the audience could only see them as the characters they had portrayed for so long. And many of those actors struggled with how to respond to their fans. Many of them still do not want to be aligned with the characters they played. Back to my earlier example, rumor is that Eve Plumb never wanted to be associated with Jan Brady. Conversely, you see Barry Williams reminding the world over and over that he was Greg. It has long been my opinion that those actors who embraced their characters were the ones to sustain a career after the show was over.

And I believe it comes down to simply having fun.

A few years ago, I was watching The TVLand Awards. I was especially excited to see the reunion of Welcome Back, Kotter. John Travolta blew up in stardom where the others did not. Would he bother coming to a little awards show like this one? Not only did he show up, but he actually imitated his very own Vinnie Barbarino while on stage! Here is an Academy Award nominee and a Golden Globe winner being silly and goofy onstage, embracing the silly role that made him famous many decades earlier.

When I saw that, I was reminded to never forget the fun. We need to tell great, powerful, inspiring stories. We need to lift up other women. We need to leave the world a better place for having been here. But we also need to have fun. Laugh. Smile. Sometimes that is more inspiring anyway.

And to give you a really great reason to embrace the fun and laughter—remember that laughter will loosen you. Besides being the best medicine, seeking simple fun can help to take the pressure off our work and off our auditions, making us more compelling to those who would hire us to act in that inspiring film that will change the world.

So please, tell me in the comments below your childhood favorites that made you want to be an actress. What are your fun goals for the future? Or just for today?

Jessica Leigh Smith

About Jessica Leigh Smith

Jessica Leigh Smith can currently be seen running around town in her yoga pants, toting her two little girls everywhere she goes. Being a mommy has played into Jessica’s latest projects, Mommy Parodies. The first is a parody of a song from the movie Frozen, which has reached almost 40,000 views (and climbing) on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86FY-AEdizA. Jessica’s most notable acting roles are co-starring roles on One Tree Hill and Drop Dead Diva. Coincidentally, Jessica was toting her daughters in those roles as well, since she was pregnant both times. In addition to acting, Jessica has co-produced an educational series for actors, called The Dinner Project, putting actors and casting directors face to face. Episodes can be found at http://thedinnerprojectshow.com/. For more about Jessica, the actress, please visit her website, http://www.jessicaleighsmith.com/, and follow her on Twitter, @JessiLeighSmith.