When I was driving the other day, I caught an interview with actor Don Cheadle (“Hotel Rwanda,” “Traitor,” “House of Lies”) on NPR. He struck me as a thoughtful, open, honest man.
He was asked what advice he would give to actors trying to break into the business. He said it’s more difficult now than when he started out nearly 30 years ago because even TV shows have big-name actors. Then he said something surprising:
I always encourage people to, if they want to really work on getting into this business, to be writers first. Don’t worry about being an actor first, be a writer. Create something. Own it and then…the world is yours. You can really dictate the terms of how that will happen and that’s only going to happen because unique, creative, interesting voices and stories are coming up, you know. Don’t try to run down the same lane that people have done before. Create your own lane.
He was underscoring the notion that even in this age of entertainment saturation, writers have power, and the stories we create from our own quirky, individual perspectives have value. People are hungry for them. (I think the popularity of “Breaking Bad” is a testament to that hunger.)
Don Cheadle’s words were my affirmation for the day and proof that, once in a great while, there is an upside to getting stuck in traffic.