Only transcribed selected portions...
The Compass Podcast - Episode 158: Charlie Barnett
May 22, 2020 https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-compass-with-leah-walsh/e/69840552 https://broadwaypodcastnetwork.com/the-compass/episode-158-charlie-barnett/
-- Leah Walsh (The Compass Podcast): "What do you do to keep from going to the dark side as an artist?"
Charlie Barnett: "Ooh, that's a hard one. Um, it's a - it's a tightrope walk for me... At risk of sounding masochistic, I do enjoy as an artist going - exploring the dark side, I'll say. I think you have to be comfortable with it. If you're not, why are you doing this, you know? ... 'Comfortable' may be a strong word, but you have to at least be brave enough to go to those places. And so, for me, I've - I've realized, you know, unwillingly a lot of the time, in getting to those places in a natural spot in my life or as an artist, you know, in school and sh*t like that or just the strife of everything going around you, utilizing it and seeing how it can kind of like relay in your performance, um, I've started to, you know, at 32, appreciate the dark side of myself and my mind, and it's changed my relationship with them. But, I will say, in order to protect myself, because you always need, you know - there's the dark side of, like, I'm playing a suicidal alcoholic, but he's beautiful, you know? But then there's the dark side of, like, I just walked into five auditions and these people didn't give me the time of day, and they gave me nine extra pages to read in the room, and I hate myself and hate everything that I do, and I'm not creative and talented. That kind of dark side is extremely dangerous." LW: "What does that mean to you when I say that? Those are two good categories." CB: "It's terrifying, um, but I also know that it kinda comes with the territory. Um, the way that I get through it is creating conversations with myself. And it's a lot of f**kin' work, it's time, it's like that - that muscle has not been worked to its fullest for me, I know. ... I'm not great at it right now, but it's getting better and better, and it's getting quicker and quicker. And it's becoming easier and easier for me to be like, oh, that's one of those moments, getting dark on myself. 'Cause the key is, as much as those people are assholes or treated you like sh*t in that room that you walked into or, you know, you felt like you didn't do as well as you could do, the majority of the time it's all in your own head. Whether or not it's true or not, cool. ... You're the one who's punishing yourself the majority of the time. Not to say it's not incredibly difficult to stop that, but that's what I notice in myself. If I could change that conversation in my head, I can change the darkness. ... You can't take it personally. And what I've learned, when you learn how to not take it personally, it protects you. 'Cause, who cares either way? I'm good enough that I will continue to work, get better. I will apply what I feel I was lacking in that audition to my next one, to be better."
-- LW: "Over the course of your career, how has your relationship to auditioning changed?"
CB: "A lot. Um, you know, auditioning's a muscle, right? ... That's so funny to say, but it is really true. It's a muscle. I have a lovely relationship with it, 'cause it is - it's a workout for me. It's just like going to a gym... You see that it's so necessary. Uh, God, this is such a layered one for me! It's like the fear aspect - I really like because it shakes me up, makes me f**kin' humble. You know, you walk into a room and you feel like you have some power or clout. And you walk into a room and look at the people around and feel that kind of judgment. I don't want to say you feel turned down on yourself, because it's not the same as, like, beating yourself up. But you feel a sense of humbleness when you're like, oh, these people are probably just as talented as me and do just as much. And that reminds me that I need to keep f**kin' working. You know? I need to keep applying all my best that I can to get better and better. So I really love auditioning for that. I just think it keeps me moving. Um, but there is a sense of - and maybe I'm being really selfish in this, but I will admit this right now to actors, to us artists. You get to a place where you're like, oh my God, I'm in my career and I've been doing this for awhile. I watch, like, you know, so many of our friends get offers left and right. They don't have to audition any more. And I'm like, wh - when do you get to that point? And, God knows, it's lovely - it would be a lovely time to be able to just get a call and be like, we love what you do, you don't need to work for us, we want you to have it. But I - I'm not there. ... It's like, I'm terrified of that moment coming, because I feel like it's a part of the start of a downfall that makes you really lazy as an actor. It makes you stop, like, needing to work so hard, you know? 'Cause you're like, f**k, what do I need to work so hard? I got the call. Um, but there's another side of me that, just talking about auditioning, I feel like I'm just pushing into a point of being like, I'm just waiting for them to not - not audition me anymore, just be calling me."
-- Some talk about CB's Juilliard School experience.
CB: "You know, my experience at Juilliard was not awesome. That being said, I still respect and love it, and cherish it, but it was not awesome. Um, and there was a lot of mental strife for me. Um, and because of that, I did not believe in myself upon exiting. Um, I think by Showcase, I had started, like - I hate to admit this, because it's so shallow in a certain way, and I'm going to turn back to my mom, because my mom's the one who convinced me that this was okay to do, and I guess she kinda changed the frame of it in my mind. But I really, like, started powering down, like, f**k it, I'm just going to work out. I'm going to try to get as fit as I can, for at least like Showcases. So even if my acting doesn't, like, support my talent, which is so sh*tty - I was like, f**k it, like, I see people walk out of here with agents just because they're pretty. So let me try - let me try. And every check, let me check it out of my book. ... Your body is your violin as an actor, and you have to take care of it. You have to make sure that it is in pristine shape. It doesn't mean you have to be the f**kin' Rock. It doesn't mean you have to be a size 0... That means whatever it means for you to be healthy. And it took me a couple - you know, even through that last year of being like, is this all about image or is it about like me being healthy? It took a lot of balance between that. I've come to a place where I'm like, f** abs, I need to work out because it makes me feel mentally able and capable to fight my next day. Um, so I'm really happy with it now. But I had turned into a place, at the end of the year, of being like, I don't know what I'm going to do, but I have to make something work." LW: "And that was you dealing with that - I mean, knowing you as an actor, dealing with that dark side, telling yourself one thing that wasn't true." CB: "Yeah, yeah." LW: "You were prepared, but I'm sure you felt like you weren't." CB: "No, no. And all throughout my life, that little voice that we're talking about, that dark voice... and I think about it now. It is my push, too, you know. so it is that respect... So I hate it, but it keeps me remembering, like, I have to work at all angles. You know? As soon as I was like, oh, so now you're getting fit, you must be a sh*t actor, so go read some f**kin' Chekhov and dissect it. ... Trying to push that voice down and hide it? It never f**kin' works. You end up way worse. If you can learn how to almost like find the balance of listening, accepting, and moving past it, by letting it get out, and getting ahead of it. It's a - it's a weird balance of respect and also like, I control you, thank you for reminding me, but that's not what I need right now. Then its so... valuable, you know what I mean? ... For me, it's why I am able to tap into my emotions... I would never want to lose it, but I need to learn how to control it."
-- LW: "Has your experience working on jobs since you became sober, like, has it changed a lot? Like, have you had to reach for different tools?"
CB: "Let me clear, um, I - I don't like this term, but a lot of people have coined it, um, I'm California sober... I stopped drinking, yeah. I - I feel like it's important, 'cause... to the community of people that are sober, I understand that's very important... I am not entirely sober, um, and I respect, you know, the people that are... I don't know, just for me, it's like - it needs to be clarified... I didn't go through a lot of the program. I didn't go through AA. I had gone to a lot of meetings. I took a lot of the tools from it. And I utilized almost everything from the meetings, but didn't go to the meetings.... But yes, of course, yeah, it changed a lot. Um, some for the better, some not. You know, as soon as I stopped drinking, I thought - and I don't know if you had this experience, but I was like, oh my God, everything's going to fall into place, all my problems are going to like figure themselves out... I'm going to be like the best ever. Um, and that did not happen at all. Um, I still have to work very hard at solving many other things. The cool thing is, I'm a lot more capable at solving them, because I don't have this crutch or this kind of scapegoat. I will say, too, I cherish and really respect drinking. I see it as a tool for people. I misused that tool. I abused it. And I know there are a lot of people that do. But I have nothing and no problem with people drinking. I think it should be used as - you know, use it how you can and when you can, in the safest way possible for you. Myself? Can't do that. ... So, yes, uh, in one aspect, nothing changed... to a certain extent, except for things within myself, which are so much more important in the long run. Um, on a work scope, I can't deny - you know, I stopped drinking and suddenly, like, all these jobs came. You know? None of them were offers, again. But like - I finished Russian [Doll] and I - I have to say, too, so many people on that set, such as the crew, the creative staff, were sober - entirely sober, not California sober. Um, a lot of them had done the program. And I had started so many conversations with them about it and that's what really initiated me into it. But I was still really terrified. Um, I had one really terrible experience... I was drunk and got lost in the middle of Williamsburg... and fell asleep on the f**kin' street. And woke up to a lovely, lovely Jehovah's Witness woman, who told me that I needed Jesus. As much as I love, love that thought, and appreciate her care and compassion, I took the note. I realized I - I do need Jesus, but I don't know if I'm going to turn to the church, not maybe Jehovah's Witness church. Respect. But no, not for me. Um, and so I decided it was time. It was time I needed to do this... or I was going to lose everything. And I'm so glad that I did, because then I got Tales [of the City] after that, um, and I got Arrow, and I got that - uh, Jamie Babbit called me to do a movie with Drew Barrymore. That was actually - that was an offer, but only an offer because they lost, I think, the actor that was doing it, so it was kind of like a favor [unintelligible word]... She was like, we lost somebody and we need someone, can you do this? And I was like, yeah, what, yeah... I think about it sometimes and I'm like, there isn't maybe a correlation but - ... I do believe that stopping drinking has allowed me to utilize my emotional craft better and understand it clearer."
-- LW: "How long after graduation did you get Chicago Fire?"
CB: "Two years."
-- CB: "I don't want to be a hypocrite and say that I haven't been an asshole, because I probably have. But majority of the time, the only people I'm f**kin' assholes to are actors being assholes to f**kin' crew members. It enrages me. Because it's like, you know what power you have. Like, why would you misuse that right now? Like, go yell at a producer. Fine, cool, I don't give a sh*t. Make sure you don't get your ass fired. But like, don't yell at your costumer. What the hell is that?"