Tension is the enemy of the actor! The tight jaw, rock hard neck and shoulders, restricted breath, locked knees. Ugh! It makes me feel awful just thinking about it. We are all prone to it though, consciously or subconsciously, and it can seriously diminish our work, slowing us down, restricting our impulses and just feeling plain awful! As actors we must have the body as free as possible, we are a conduit and the thunderous roar of our creativity and art has to be able to flow freely and wholeheartedly.
So this month, I have been in LA. Its been a blast, I love this town. I feel like the air is full of hope and opportunity (if you’re willing to work for it!) I adore the fact that I can walk ten minutes to Runyon Canyon and go for an early morning hike or in spin class I’m seated behind a well-known actor who’s gasping as much as I am.
Every corner seems to have had a role in something. I even love the shrill of the constant sirens. The buzz is electric and intoxicating. On the flip side, it is a big town and it can be terribly lonely, I am so blessed to have some wonderful friends here but there have still been moments where I find myself asking ‘WTF am I doing here?’
This month I’ve been thinking a lot about how I view myself and how that in turn affects my career and my performances. I’ve spoke about it before, but I’ll say it again, our minds are so powerful. What we think, we create. Belief and imagination manifest reality. The age of social media and filters has made reality, and the truth, malleable. We place extravagant standards on ourselves as a result of watching someone’s highlight reel and comparing it to our own. Who is honest anymore? It feels like everyone is buying social media followers, filtering their photos and giving that ‘perfect’ audition. It is exhausting trying to keep up.
I injured myself this month and have had to take it easy. Being injured really sucks; I hate not being able to give 100% but that’s what my body needs and I listen to it. I’m almost back to normal now, thank goodness, and I learned that when we get injured we need to listen to our body and let it heal. If we push against that pain and refuse to recognise it, then it’s going to start screaming at us and most likely, we will do more damage.
Continuing on from last month’s superhero focused edition, this month I talk to Talayna Moana Nikora—actor, stunt person, and, in my opinion, all round superwoman! Any actor that says they haven’t dreamed of doing an action flick and smashing their own stunts is lying. The adrenalin rush you get from watching those films is insane—can you imagine being the one performing them? I know that growing up, and even now, one of my most coveted roles is a Bond bad girl! Give me the fight sequences, the death defying stunts, and, in the long run, the usually explosive death scene . . . argh!
So this year seems to be all about the superhero when it comes to cinema. Logan was just released, Wonder Woman and Thor: Ragnarok are coming later in the year, Justice League and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 are on the way as well, not to mention Scarlett Johansen in Ghost in the Shell (that costume . . . WHOA!). We are seeing some incredibly strong and fit bodies on screen.
This month I spoke to Cam Neeld, Fitness Team Trainer at Virgin Active Australia, about how to get on the road to that outta this world physique.
ALI: What’s the best place for an actor to start to create superhero strength and tone?
Cam Neeld: To achieve the muscular superhero Thor physique, Chris Hemsworth’s former Navy Seal trainer adopted an “Old School Bodybuilder” approach with careful attention to arms & shoulders.
Unless you’ve been on another planet, you know La La Land, the award winning film musical that brings singing and dancing back to the screen. Since the vibrant and grand MGM musicals, this powerful form of expression has long been a part of the movies and it is truly wonderful to see this style of film on the main stage being celebrated once again. I grew up watching the golden oldies like Singin’ In The Rain, South Pacific, and anything Rodgers & Hammerstein, so it’s super exciting to see the modern take on the genre.
Hello! Hope you are all feeling motivated and back on track after a healthy, happy January!
The Suzuki Method of Actor Training is known for its rigorous physical performance style and intense, imaginatively rich works.
Shy founded the company, comprised of nine actors to investigate highly rigorous and disciplined ensemble performance-making.
ALY: What drew you to the Suzuki Method of Actor Training (SMAT)?
SHY MAGSALIN: I was initially drawn to the rigour and the discipline. The extreme energy and physical exertion gave me a completely chaotic experience in a very strict format. I was highly strung and very temperamental when I younger, so the training was initially a good container for all those fiery, erratic emotions. More interestingly, what’s kept me doing it for 10 years is the training’s intricate, imaginative work that I’ve been able to apply to all different types performances over the years. That’s the stuff I’m always keen to explore.
This is my favourite time of the year. Some people live for December—they love the carols in the shops, the Christmas lights, the parties, and the buzzy lead up to the holidays. Me, I adore January! The renewed zest with which we examine our health, dreams, and relationships excites and drives me. It’s like being given that new notebook that is pristinely blank and waiting for you to create whatever you desire on its pages!! (Am I the only one to get excited about a visit to Officeworks?!)
Self-evaluation and goal setting should not be confined only to the start of the year, but it feels great start a new cycle off with fresh intentions, goals, and loads of hope and determination. I take an hour and write down everything I’d like for my year to hold, where I’d like to be, and what I’d like to release, etc. I encourage you to do the same!
On the other side of things, I definitely enjoyed myself over the holiday season and will be looking at getting my body back to tip top shape for the upcoming year as quickly as possible. It is imperative as actors to be ready to go always.
Check out my tips and the Bust your Butt workout vlog below.
This month the worst thing happened to me: I lost my voice. On set. This has never happened to me. I am diligent about health and have a killer immune system – if I do say so myself. The last eight weeks have been a very busy time and my tenacity weakened. My health became a second priority as I rushed from A to B and sleep was put aside in order to find more hours in a day. I also travelled from summer to winter for five days and my body just shut down. I wasn’t gonna stop, so it stopped for me! My voice, unfortunately, was the main casualty.
Luckily, I had the wonderful Prudence Holloway on set with me. Singer, actor, and voice teacher, Pru helped me manage my vocal performance with little strain and maximum result. I thought I would know what to do in a situation like this, but my sick, spluttery, foggy brain was so clouded I couldn’t think of anything.
It got me thinking – imagine if I didn’t have Pru on set with me! I’m sure I would have pulled it together somehow, but wouldn’t a go-to list of what to do when such a disaster strikes be awesome to have on hand?
So that is what I am giving you this month!
Growing up, I lived most of my life in a fantasy world. My family pool became the deep blue sea and I, a mermaid rescuing my sister from the big bad octopus during the long summer nights. We went trudging through the bush, leaving behind clues in case we got lost searching for the missing gold. On holidays in Ireland we would disappear for the whole day to build hay houses whilst finding fairies to grant our wishes and dance with us.
Childhood imaginations are such a fantastical thing! I never wanted, and still don’t/won’t let go of the opportunity to play and believe in anything (some might say grow up, but hey, tomato, tomAto!) so I became an actor!
Our guest contributor this month is doing just that. Actor Marcus Vanco plays Bandon, an Elf who has mysterious visions in MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles. Based on Terry Brooks best selling fantasy books, The Shannara Chronicles follows elvin and human heroes in a world thousands of years in the future. Humankind has wiped itself out and an evil demon army must be stopped before they destroy the universe.
Hailing from Brisbane and another ridiculously talented QUT graduate, Marcus kicked off his career playing a WW2 fighter pilot in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. We’ll see him in the remake of George A Romero’s zombie flick Day of the Dead to be released next year and in January he will return to New Zealand to shoot the second season of The Shannara Chronicles.
Being cast in such physically demanding roles, I asked Marcus a few questions about how health and fitness impacts a role and the choices he makes in his career.
1. What does a normal day involve for you when it comes to training and does it change when you’re shooting compared to down time?
A normal day in terms of training would involve anything with supersets and compound movements. Basically weights coupled with cardio focused exercise to get the heart rate up. Squats, burpees, box jumps, farmer’s walks, ropes, sled push, bench press etc. A personal trainer I once had always used to say, “So you think you’re strong? Let’s get that heart rate up and find out.” I think that’s best way to burn fat/build lean muscle.
Of course when you’re shooting you have to make compromises. You may not have access to a fully equipped gym plus you’ll be flat out working most days leaving you with down time when you’ll really want to relax. So you’ll have to adapt. You can still do a lot with your own body weight (push ups, stair sprints etc). Or you might have to bite the bullet and not exercise at all if your role requires you to. I believe it’s important for actor’s to stay healthy and physically fit, but it’s not your first priority when you actually book a job.
2. What does a high level of wellbeing and fitness mean to your career?
I think it’s essential for the down time between jobs. Exercise can help boost my self-esteem. I feel better and am more active in getting things done. It can help fill those long empty days with something other than your own thoughts. There is also mental toughness to be gained from pushing yourself to exercise either early morning or after a long day.
3. How do you fuel your body through nutrition?
I try to keep it healthy and clean, but I’m not always successful. Burgers, milkshakes and chilli cheese fries are simply amazing! So it’s definitely a good idea to have a cheat day to prevent insanity. However, in between I try to simply break it up into protein and carbs. I’ll reserve carbs for breakfast and lunchtime. Healthy carbs like oats and brown rice for example, while having a decent measure of protein in all meals. Also, anything green is always a must! Spinach and broccoli are your friends! I also try to have at least 4 to 5 meals a day to help keep the metabolism going. One of those meals could easily be a protein shake too.
4. Do you practise mind fitness and how does that benefit, or hinder, your process?
I suppose if I practise any mind fitness it would be pushing my body to get out of bed early in the morning and not only exercise, but exercise intensely. I hate exercising most of the time. You’re willingly putting your body through pain. That sucks. But I guess nothing worthwhile is ever easy. So you just have to not over-think and just do it. Be kind to yourself, but not lazy with yourself. Realising that no matter what you feel and think, your physicality does not stop you from putting one foot in front of the other! I am certainly no master of this, but I find by constantly committing to such thinking it eventually bleeds into other areas of my life other than exercise.
5. Your body is something you have worked on, what advise would you give to guys wanting to create a strong and functional body?
Get fit in the gym, get ripped in the kitchen. Variety. Change up your workouts every now and then. Instead of a weight session one day, do yoga. And also don’t forget to stretch before and after! STRETCH!
In the vlog below, Marcus takes us through a workout his Shannara trainer put him through called 7.7.7.
Sounds like a piece of cake right?!? HA!
This one focuses on cardio and fat burning as we did it outdoors with no equipment. You could move the concept into the gym and add some weight for a strength workout.
It took us approximately 20 minutes to complete and let me tell you, it’s a killer. Every part of my body was on fire, I was as bright as a beetroot and I felt AHMAZING afterwards, I just had to lie in the sand with the water lapping over me for five minutes before I stood up again!
This is a great workout that’s easy, quick and really hits the spot, give it a try folks!