What does it mean to be weird? It’s a term that’s often paired alongside another word to make it sound more interesting or notably not the norm, (i.e. Weird Science). Although isn’t science a little off-kilter anyway? At least this Queens girl, thinks of science and remembers her days back in high school chemistry class listening to the boys at my lab table making bodily function jokes and comparing their penis size to the test tubes in question. See what I did there? I was a bit weird. Or was I?
In the entertainment industry, sometimes a performer will come along and some people might deem them as weird. Whether it be because of their avant-garde style of filmmaking, or a writer’s way of spewing one-liners that make your grandma’s panties twist so far up her- well, you get where I’m going with this. As women, it can be much harder to break into the industry staying true to who you are, because sometimes it means you might get perceived as something seemingly insulting. Women in comedy have always had a hard time feeling like they belonged. This even dates back to the incredible original three female cast members of Saturday Night Live: Gilda Radner, Jane Curtain, and Lorraine Newman. As funny and amazing as these women were, they struggled to fit in with what seemed like an ultimate “boys club” behind the scenes. Never the less, they did find their way by staying true to who they were, which later paved the way for the female comedy world we know today with big hitters such as Tina Fey and Amy Poeler.
But if you look at someone like Gilda for example, on the show she was known for her outside the box zany characters.
Many of them were based on people she really knew, or things she’d constantly been told by the people around her growing up. I personally love this method. Gilda wasn’t just being weird just to make people laugh, but she was adding a layer of truth to her characters that not only made them believable, but made them loveable. It was acceptable to laugh at them, to laugh at her. Many female performers, including dramatic actors, have gained praise for “weird” or outside the box performances because of the truth they brought to life. Yet, for as many bright and creative women we have in the industry, there are still so many out there who fall in the trap of playing it “safe”, or thinking they have to be the ingénue or the angry woman just to break through. And while type is incredibly important for getting your foot in the door, allowing you to then grab a hold of that door and slide yourself further in, possibly slipping on a banana peel (or in Hollywood it might be a loose piece of Kale), and then finally finding your way inside, you still need to approach whatever characters that you are typed as with as much unique perspective as you can.
I often find myself being typed as the quirky, sometimes bitchy, yet honest gal! And to be honest with you, that’s pretty much who I am. Can I reach various levels of my emotions to access the needs to play other characters? Sure, totes! But, it is my understanding and love for the characters I am able to play now as I am trying to break into the business, that sets me apart from someone who would just play a character who is described as “odd” or “weird” (see there’s that word again), in a very flat way.
I do things and say things that some people just can’t understand. In my comedy, my characters are unapologetic for the things that they say, and I love that about them. And that is what should be key for any actress playing a role that isn’t the typical leading lady/love interest type. We bring more to a story when we bring the seemingly “weird” things that we do such as stealing ketchup packets from McDonalds because we’re ketchup whores, or needing to have fifty different brands of the same styled black high heels because they’re our go-to, or any other quirky characteristic that makes you real. A character may sneeze a lot or twist their tongue into that little squiggly loop thingy, but what makes it enjoyable to watch is having a reason why they do it, that you believe in. Maybe they sneeze a lot because they add hot sauce to their morning egg white omelet. They know it’s going to make them sneeze throughout the day, but they do it anyway because, dammit, they love it! You believe in the reason, it’s a real reason, therefore it’s not weird for the sake of being weird, to you, it’s the norm.
Interestingly enough the few examples I listed about character quirks, are actually things that I myself often do. And the truth of it is, people in my life often say I’m weird. But do I take that as an insult? Absolutely not, because these things and my believability in why I do them is what makes me Amanda. And if you believe in the qualities that make you who you are and apply them to a character, you’re not weird, you’re just being you. And isn’t truth what we seek as actors?
So if someone calls you weird because they don’t do the things that you do, who cares? If it doesn’t hurt anybody and it allows you to be comfortable in your own skin, then you know what, be weird. Because to you, you’re not weird, you’re just you. I believe that staying true to yourself as woman in this industry can be hard. But if you remain dedicated to work that you love, and just happen to enjoy the occasional liquor spiked cupcake while doing so, then success is just a weird uber ride away.