Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kate Turns the Tables

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I finally got around to watching “Revolutionary Road.” Man, Kate Winslet was amazing in that film. Actually, I liked everyone in the film, especially Michael Shannon as the disturbed houseguest, John Givings. But what amazed me is how unafraid Kate is of looking “normal” and “her age” in the film. She is beautiful to watch, both visually and emotionally, and her performance packed a punch. As always, I eagerly anticipated the special features on the DVD, which would allow me to get a sneak peak into the construct of the film. In part of the features, there was a wonderful interview with Kate where she talked about working with her husband as a director for the first time, encouraging “Leo” to play the role of her husband, and shared her perspectives on the characters. While I was watching this, something profound occurred to me: looking natural and “normal” on-screen is a brilliant move for a woman in her 20s & 30s.

Think of it this way: most of us are terrified that if we appear old on-camera, it will limit our ability to play roles our own age (or younger) in the future. Female actors strive to look as young as possible to compete, and work hard to live up to the perfect image that gets portrayed on the screen. We compete against the professional makeup, camera filters and fancy lighting, which will always beat out natural light, “street“ makeup and the naked eye in observation.

But if you watch what Kate does: Kate always appears fabulous off-screen because she she doesn’t pretend to be perfect on-screen. It’s kind of brilliant (and I say that tongue in cheek, because I think it kicks ass.) As evidence, take a look at this set of photos:

Kate on-screen in her last 2 big films:

Kate off-screen, likely at an industry event:

WHOA! You end up saying to yourself, “Wow- Kate looks amazing!” With many other female actors off-screen, the context of the photos would be flipped. People will think, “Well, she looked great in that movie, but in real life she’s looking old,“ or, ”Wow, she looks like she’s gained weight.“ Kate has pretty much guaranteed that she will look more sleek, more polished, more radiant... just stunning... because she doesn’t have to live up to some kind of unrealistic perfection. Other examples: Charlize Theron in ”Monster.“ America Ferrera on ”Ugly Betty“ - I wish the list could go on and on, but there aren’t many people who are confident enough to break down these barriers.

I found myself really inspired by this realization. It should be noted that the main way Kate gets away with this is that she is captivating to watch, and give a performance of a lifetime each time she takes on a role. The beauty of this realization (pun intended): Because of my ”light bulb“/”ah-ha“ moment, I am no longer afraid of how I might look on screen. What really matters is the quality of the work, and someone who presents themselves as joyful and fearless in everything they do. THAT is the real reason people think Kate, and Charlize and America are beautiful. Their work can do the speaking for them, and they just have to show up in a pretty dress.

Who wants to commit to joining the ranks and further break down these barriers? =)

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit


  1. I believe Kate Winslet is confident in her on-screen appearance because she doesn't think "oh what will this make ME look like?" but instead is a consummate actress and asks "what would my character look like? What's her story? Does she have time or the ego to put on makeup or care about her appearance, or does she have the money to do so?" She starts with the character she's playing and builds the makeup from there, without consideration of what the business will see. There are too many actresses who are too concerned with their own image that they don't do the basic "who am I playing?" question answered. Once the cameras stop rolling, Kate knows that it's time to put the makeup and glamour on and play the part of the movie star for the red carpet and filmed interviews.

    I think acting is quite freeing image-wise, as it allows me to "dress down" myself and play someone who is NOT overly concerned with looks or glamour or living up to someone else's ideal (which as you've said we all do as actors to some extent).

    Good blog post!

  2. And THAT's a great blog comment, Sierra! =)


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