Actors spend days, weeks, and even months taking on new roles—studying the people they are playing, learning how to imitate their mannerisms, tones, and posture, trying to bring the characters to the big or small screen.
The results can be spectacular. But they can also be scary. And for one actress, they can be permanent.
TERRIBLE SIDE EFFECT
Mary Garrison (not her real name), an award-winning actress now playing a famous scam artist in a limited streaming series, has confessed to her agent and a few friends that her extensive preparation getting into character has had a terrible side effect. “I can’t get out,” she said.
The show, which takes a close look at the disreputable path of either Elizabeth Holmes, Anna Delvey, Carole Baskin, or a similar figure, has garnered good nice from critics, but it has been an albatross for the actress.
“I learned not just to imitate her,” says Garrison, “but to be her. That’s a harder process than you might think. It involves dressing a certain way, driving the same kind of car she drove, eating the same kind of foods she ate, and even asking my friends to call me by her name. That was great until it was horrible.”
GOODBYE RIGHT THEN AND THERE
Due to the comprehensive preparation, Garrison says, she cannot depict any other character. “The other day, I auditioned for a role in a movie about, let’s say, a famous artist. Ten seconds into the audition, the casting director stopped me. ‘Are you still playing that other role?’ she said. I said I wasn’t, but then I burst into tears, because I was. They said goodbye right then and there. They were polite about it, but very clear.”
Garrison’s partner, either a man or a woman—to say more would be to more clearly identify her, which violates not just the spirit of the interview but the letter signed by both the actress and by the editors of this newspaper (though not, it should be said, by this reporter, who agreed to the conditions under duress)—says that this is the worst situation imaginable. “She’s frozen out,” says the partner. “We have here a talented performer who has done one thing more but can do no more.”
Garrison’s agent says that the only remedy is something that he calls “Identity Rehab.” “Look, look, look,” he says, talking fast. “We get her in there. It’s a small room next to a big room. They come in every day and remind her who she is, show her pictures, and home movies. Maybe eventually she’ll get herself back. It worked for Hanks. It worked for Streep. They’ve had failures, of course — Jim Backus, Jason Alexander — but their success rate is high.”