Richard Janes: My guest today is on-call to Oscar nominees, Emmy winners and independent film award winners. He regularly gets calls from movie sets all over the world where an actor needs help getting to the truth of a given scene. As one of Hollywood’s top-acting coaches, his unique no BS style can be best described as raw ensuring the actor is bringing an authentic and intimate performance that is in response to reacting moment to moment to the other cast and their surroundings. Passion is clear and my guest today is no stranger to embracing it any cost as he demonstrated when at the age of 16 he stole a car in Florida, left home without telling anyone where he was going and drove all the way across America to fulfill a dream of surfing the North Shore of Hawaii. It's the purpose that took him a little longer to find, the “why” behind his work. And as with most of us, he found it in the struggles of his childhood. My guest today is the wonderful Guy Camilleri, actor, acting coach and poet. Now having worked with hundreds of actors and artists myself, helping them build their authentic personal brand, one of the big things that jumps out with those at the top of their game is this ability to dig deep and really personalize their work, exposing their own insecurities and becoming vulnerable in service of the art, in service of the bigger story. But in Guy’s case, his own story set him up to do exactly the opposite.
Guy Camilleri: The way that I was brought up is that everything stays in this house. You don’t go public with anything that happens within the family. You don’t talk about those things in public. It stays in the family, it stays under this roof. And so then it was almost borderline like a threat, like “Who do you think you are to go out and disclose anything?” And when I started writing poetry, “Who do you think you are that you could be a poet?” You know, “How dare you write about anything that might be personal or reveal anything about this family?” It stays in the family. I mean, I’m struggling with it right now. Like right now in my mind, the chatter in my mind is actually telling me I’ve already said too much. You know, my parents were divorced, my father was an alcoholic. Look, people listening are going like “Well, that’s nothing. I’m sure there’s much more challenging stories for kids being raised in families.” But it was traumatic, it was toxic and I knew that that’s not where I belonged and I wanted to get out. Part of it was, you know, the pioneer in me, the adventurer inside of me and the hero inside of me knew that it was time they go. At the age of 16 I ran away from home, and I and a friend stole a car and we drove across the United States to the North Shore of Oahu and surfed. In hindsight it wasn’t only to just go and surf the best waves. It was also in a sense to get out of dodge, to have a sense of what it feels like to be at home or to have a home. So at 16 it's challenging to be able to articulate that. I can look back now and I know that the conditions that I was living under, let’s say it was definitely authentic and it was toxic, and I knew I needed to get out and get away, and at the same time I just happened to be living a block away from the beach and I saw the ocean every day and I was surfing and I kept seeing the photos of Hawaii, and for me, Hawaii was the next step from Florida because Florida was just flat and it was humid, you know, and it was warm. Right? So then you look at Hawaii, you see mountains, you see rainbows, you see green palm trees and mountains and then there’s perfect waves and the water is warm. Living in Florida didn’t make sense. For me, there was just Hawaii.
Richard Janes Commentary: Across cultures and over centuries, a huge amount of importance has been placed on what we call home. And just as with Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, the very word ‘home’ strikes a chord inside each and every one of us. At its core, a home is sanctuary; a place we can just be. And for Guy, sanctuary was so far from Florida that he latched on to the one place where he really felt sanctuary, where passion was able to fill his heart, and that was the barrel of a waif. What we identify as home says a lot about who we are and what we think is important in life. What does the word ‘home’ conjure up for you? I challenge you to get really specific with the memories and the feelings around those memories to uncover your unique specificity within the word. It’s often there that we can find some of the early roots of our passion and find an immediate purpose to work out how to lean into that feeling and fill our heart because as the proverb says, “home is where the heart is.” So here’s Guy and his eyes have been opened to knowing that there is life that can be had where everything is built around some of the best surf in the world.
Guy Camilleri: Yes, it is paradise. Yes, you could say it was a rose garden and yes, there were thorns. And for me, that truly did become for me the first time that I felt at home in Hawaii. I think there was a need and then it was finding a way out. And the stolen car was because there was enough money to be able to catch a flight from Los Angeles to Hawaii but not necessarily from Orlando to Hawaii. So then it was a matter of “Okay, well do we get from Orlando to LA?” So it was out the bedroom window, my bag, and the stolen car. And gone. I contacted my mom about three months later from a phone booth. First thing I said was “Hi, mom.” That was the first thing. I remember the last thing that my mom said is, “If you’re going to stay out there, make me proud of you, son.” Unusual thing I think for a mother to say to a 16-year-old who’s just about to turn 17 who had stolen a car and ran away from Florida and is now living in Hawaii. It wasn’t that she didn’t care. It wasn’t, you know, that my mom didn’t care and didn’t get on a plane and come to Hawaii and come after me. I think that she in a sense understood why I was leaving and she believed in me. At the age of 18 she ran away from home from Connecticut to escape her family to Florida. I think that she knew—she knew why I was leaving and some level I believe that she believed in me and she was happy that I was getting out and that I got away. I think that’s why said “If you’re going to stay out there, make me proud of you.” Sometimes I feel like life at times feels a bit anticlimactic. It was almost as if I hit the climax then, that that was the peak experience. I don’t know if I will ever be able to recreate that again and that sometimes is sad, you know, the sadness washes over me because that was such a heightened experience. Life sometimes feels a bit dull. It can feel sometimes maybe a little bit dull because the stakes aren’t as high. When you read a play, you’re in a scene in a film or movie or television show, it’s elevated, the stakes are high. So, you know, it’s like being called to duty. You’re being called to action. And I operate really well under high stakes. Because acting isn’t just conversation; it's a heightened reality. Everything is heightened. There’s nothing conversational ever in a scene ever. It may sound conversational, maybe that's the tactic you’re using in order to get what you want for you and I right now. “Let’s see, maybe I need to be conversational. Have a little bit more conversation with this person.” Maybe that’s a tactic to be able to get what it is that I need to fulfill. But it's always a heightened reality, and if you’re in a heightened reality and then your powers of observation and concentration are unlike any other time.
Richard Janes: Looking and hearing a story, what is the biggest stake?
Guy Camilleri: Lack of regret. Looking back on your life and not having that sense of regret. You didn’t live the life that you knew that you were.
Richard Janes Commentary: And it’s this heightened sense of reality that is a true line to Guy’s story as he strives to live the life that he knows he is truly capable of living. It is the magnet that’s pulled him through his life journey. From stealing a car and riding the barrel of a massive through to assisting actors to tapping into their own magic, raising the stakes for each scene so that they can become wonderfully magnetic for us all to watch. And this highlights one of the traps we often fall into with passions. We think that the passion is the actual doing of the task or activity, but as Guy found, the passion is actually wrapped up in the emotion felt from doing a particular task, the feeling it evokes. And the wonderful thing about taking this position on passion is that once you tap into that emotion, you can look to find it in other things. You can work to bring that energy to other areas of your life that you’re struggling with or want to level up. One of William Shakespeare’s most famous lines is that “the whole world is a stage”. And in watching Guy coaching his students, you’re struck with this realization that yes, acting is about bringing high stakes to each scene, but so is life. If, as Guy suggests, the biggest stake is that we leave this planet with a sense of regret that we didn’t live our life to the fullest, then the stakes are high each moment of each day that we have a breath. Each and every moment of the day we have a choice to fall back and play real life scenes as if doesn’t matter or we can take it up a notch and say “What if this interaction… what if this action… what if this fort were to be my last?” Now, the stakes are high. Now, we can be spurred into taking action that we’ve been dreaming about but putting off. The stakes have gone up. And with that, I ask Guy what would he say to someone listening to this right now, perhaps in their car or on their way to work that realizes that they haven’t been playing their part to the fullest, that their life has perhaps been on cruise control for too long, that they haven’t been playing the stakes as high as they could have been.
Guy Camilleri: So if there’s a person in the car and now who’s listening to this and they find themselves being affected, I would pull over. I would pull over and just allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling in the moment. If we’re living in the moment fully, then we have an opportunity to be able to live fully in the next moment and then you begin to have a series of these full moments and the more full moments that you have, the more that you want and then you begin to realize that in order to have a full amount then it’s part of surrendering. And then in the surrendering comes vulnerability, and vulnerability is strength—and vulnerability is strength because it’s the ability to be able to be emotionally naked. Mostly it’s just the ability to surrender and know that you don’t have to know the answer, that literally being in the moment is enough. Be with yourself and maybe that allowance to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling in that moment may lead to something else. You won’t know but that's the starting point. The starting point is being able to acknowledge and feel the sensations in the body and sometimes to that person who’s listening or that person who doesn’t seem to be able to have the time to do that, you literally have to schedule time in your day. You’ve got to carve out whether it’d be 10 minutes, 15 minutes, half hour, 5 minutes. You have to carve it out. You’ve got to schedule the time to be able to feel that what you’re feeling. I would encourage you to create and build a character. I would encourage you to endow the space that we’re in and give yourself permission to live within the rules of that world. I mean, look at the different roles that we’re always playing. We slip in and out of role playing all day long and won’t even think twice about it. But the moment we get up on stage and all of a sudden, we put on a costume or we have these lines in front of us, oh my God, all of a sudden we can track and we think “Oh no, you know, as if you’re now playing a role and you have to perform.” I mean, look we’re standing here and we could be standing on stage and if the listeners could see how you’ve endowed this room with the props, the objects, the wardrobe, everything, and guess who did it? You did it. You’re the co-creator. You’re responding to that which is inside of you that has a need to get out and be expressed. And then you’ve gone out and you went shopping. Right? You bought the wardrobe, you bought all these props, all these objects, the art on the wall. Then you’ve planted yourself in this environment and you’ve explored it, you’ve set up the room the way that you feel like “this character” would be doing it. See how you’re in control, you’re the one whose control in a sense that you are the creator of it. You’re using your imagination to create, to give life and to breathe and to live and, most importantly, what children do until they're taught not to do it anymore, they play. It's the sense of play and, hopefully, that's what we’re doing. That's the basis of the work, is to be able to be of assistance to each person, to make sure that they are living life out loud and finding that voice and then for me to see if I can be of assistance to creating opportunities so that voice will be heard. You know, right or wrong, good or bad, you have to trust the wise voice in you, and you don’t know how things are going to play out. So it was when I was in Hawaii and I also bottomed out and was suicidal and then found acting in Hawaii. So I think I was living a life that I felt that was the life that I'm supposed to be living. You know, a successful job, a car, money, relationship, and then to see it all fall apart that led to, you know, being suicidal. I was convinced that my blood was bad blood, that it was black blood. It was a dark, dark blood and it was bad blood in my body and literally feeling like I had to get that blood out of my body. Fortunately, I went into therapy and as a result of the therapy, little by little, I began evaluating my life, the way I was living my life and that was the first time that I was introduced to the possibility of living an authentic life. And so through that work is when I found an advertisement for an acting class in Hawaii. I took that class and I knew then when I was in the class, I started to again have that feeling again of being at home. You know, I was in Hawaii because I had run away from home, went to Hawaii but then I came back to Cocoa Beach and I did graduate high school and I stayed in Cocoa Beach. But several years later I moved in New York to then pursue and study the craft of acting.
Richard Janes: What is an actor?
Guy Camilleri: An actor is a human being that has a need to express themselves and is fascinated by human nature and what human beings are capable of doing. An actor is somebody who is extraordinarily passionate about wanting to explore the human condition and to experience the humanity of that particular character. For me, acting is the best platform for me to express myself. It allows me not to hide behind a character but it allows me to bring everything within myself to honor that character under those give circumstances and to live truthfully.
Richard Janes Commentary: When we’ve moved so far away from living truthfully as our authentic selves, the thought of going through those places can seem an incredibly daunting one. A monumental mountain to climb that could upset the balance of your current world. As I talked about in the very first episode of this podcast series, I sat down and wrote a “love list” and through doing that, it had me seek out an acting class to flex some old muscles from years ago where I felt full of passion and purpose. It was through this that initially met guy walk into a studio a few miles from Venice Beach and with his help I was able to take to the stage, play out emotions that I kept bottled up for years, emotions that I felt could have destabilized my current world. Through that exploration I was then able to introduce those colors into my own world and have the courage to take to the stage again hosting seminars around my work.
Guy Camilleri: A big part of the work is because you’re working opposite somebody. That allows you to be able to focus on the other person to notice that person, to listen. And I think also that I just have an incredibly safe and dynamic space which sometimes allows you to be able to stand up in front of a group of people and even though you may be really uncomfortable over a period of time through the work, then you start to really enjoy being in the light and you enjoy the ability to be able to find the comfort and that discomfort. And that's because you’re in a space that you’re not being judged. Not everybody wants to go there, you know. Not everybody necessarily wants to go to those deep dark places. Not everybody necessarily brings, you know, what we call as kind of old-school but an actor’s energy. Not everybody has an actor’s energy. Not everybody is capable of being their own best generator and kickstarting their own engine and being able to get themselves to the level they need to be at. Other people are able to do it and the ones that couldn’t do it at the seams in some way, maybe it comes easier to them. Others need prodding and need pushing; they need nudging, they need nurturing, you know, they need tough love at times. Anything and everything that I have to assist that person, I will do. I’ll go to those depths. I'm going to stay with that person until we get there. That's the one thing about the way that I coach, you know. I will not abandon you. We’re in the trenches together. I have the ability I think to be able to stay with a person and listen and not be led by an agenda. Unless we’re in a scene. If we’re in a scene and then there’s a need and I need to accomplish and fulfill my need then I'm going to do whatever it is that I need to do in order to accomplish that goal, and then if that means that there is an agenda and I'm going to go ahead and fulfill that agenda to get there. Sometimes coaching is about finding specific triggers and knowing what those triggers are and being able to find them and then either sometimes literally having to in a sense push the trigger so that it will elevate where the actor needs to go to or it’s being able to coach somebody so that they become their own best generator and they know what those triggers are and they’re able to access them when needed. Look, you know, you only get out of studio what you bring to it. That's it. Right? So it’s really up to the individual. The type of actor that I'm drawn to is an actor who has passion, has purpose, has the sense of unbridled enthusiasm and also is able to say the three most powerful words I think are “I don’t know.” Which I wish more actors would say. There’s such a place of strength and what a great starting point to be at. With every new monologue or scene or role that you get, you’re starting all over. It's like you’re a newborn baby. It’s like “I don’t know where I'm going” and it’s like “Great! Let’s discover it, let’s find where we’re going.” What I'm promoting is you finding your own voice and what’s unique about you. And if you’re harnessing and focused on what’s unique about you then you begin to see that there is really no competition. There’s plenty of room for every one of us. I mean, there’s only one Richard Janes, there’s only one Guy Camilleri. So who am I in competition with when I walk into an audition room? I'm not in competition with anybody. I'm there to allow the people in that room to bear witness to my interpretation of the material in hand on that given day. That's all I have. And to leave it all in the room. So the actor who’s watching a television show or a movie and is starting to become cynical and is starting to criticize that actor is the very actor that I would engage, I would love to work with to be able to assist to see if they're interested in finding out what’s on the other side of it—and what’s on the other side of it, is the actor who’s watching that television show, who’s watching that film, watching that actor and then being able to recognize “Oh, okay, yeah, that worked.” “No. To me, this didn’t work. If I were in this scene, this is how I would do it.” So then you’re noticing literally, you’re literally noticing what’s in front of you, what’s around you’re also aware of the mind and how the mind is a mini making machine and it loves to evaluate and criticize and judge and assess and everything else. This is what the mind does. My top 3 pieces of advice for a new actor is: Find your own tribe. Find a studio that feels safe, a space that you can grow, you can explore, you can take risks in, a space that you feel that you will not be judged. And third would be that nobody knows better than you.
Richard Janes Commentary: And again, I want to make it clear that the reason I invited guy on to this podcast as with all my guests is because his teachings apply just as much to his Hollywood acting students—students that include Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges from Manchester By the Sea all the way through to Jordan Roberts who co-wrote the Pixar hit ‘Big Hero 6’ as they do to each and every one of us. Nobody knows better than you, what you are truly capable of achieving. When you push aside the voice in your head telling you that you can’t do something or that you are scared to take an action, what is it that your heart is telling you you are truly capable of? What comes to your mind if you were to play life with the ultimate stake in mind? What are you truly capable of achieving?Remember, the whole world is a stage and the spotlight is yours for the taking. For Guy, he’s taking that spotlight as a poet, as one of Hollywood’s top acting coaches, but he’s also taking it as an actor in his own right.
Guy Camilleri: The reason why I'm actor is because I'm extraordinarily fascinated about being a human being and all of the infinite ways of expressing ourselves as human beings and what we’re capable of doing. I want to be able to explore the human condition and experience and find the empathy and the compassion and to have a moment of understanding how is it that a human being behaved in that manner and within that, hopefully, be able to bring forth the humanity within that character. And then behind that is if there is the recognition because I feel like those two basic human needs are love and recognition, the recognition that if you were to ask me if I'm seeking would be to have my voice be heard and to hopefully leave behind some art. I'm not interested in fame or fortune. I do want recognition. I want recognition for hopefully what would be a sense of artistry. Yeah, I want that and, you know, if money comes as a result, that's great. I mean, you know, Joseph Campbell said, you know, “If you follow your bliss, you always have your bliss,” right? Where if you follow money, you’re not going to be guaranteed you’re going to have your bliss and then you may lose the money and then you have nothing. So I think in terms of fortune, yes, yeah, money is energy. Yeah, I want money and if I'm generating money as a result of doing that which I love, then fantastic, it’s a good marriage. I can’t think of a better art form that allows me to be able to express what an honor and utter amazement it is to be a human being. And so now as an actor, as a coach, as a poet and the work that I'm doing and the work that you and I are doing, also with your encouragement, I feel at home in my body and in my skin. So for that person who’s in that car, that’s one of the questions he could ask or she could ask themselves. Do I feel at home in my body doing the type of work that I'm doing? I was a personal trainer for years before I became an actor and I was a fine personal trainer. And I was making a very good living doing it but it was not an authentic life, I wasn’t at home. I was wearing the wardrobe really well. Everything. I even had the ‘vanity license plate’, you know. Everything. All of it. But it was a persona. I wasn’t at home in my skin. We all have an opportunity to live an authentic life and the only way you can live an authentic life is by being able to speak your truth, is to be truthful, I mean, to be radically honest. It's never too late for you to be able to go ahead and use time to listen to that wise voice inside of you and follow your dreams. What’s the resistance? Where is the resistance? What’s on the other side of the resistance and what steps can you take in order to experience that pocket of joy under that umbrella just as you’re experiencing the joy in the other areas of your life. How much joy can you stand? How much joy can you stand? And I think, you know, therein lies the rub again. I'm not sure just how much joy we can stand as human beings and how long can we sustain it for. Because if we were, I think we might be on a different plane and we’d have less drama and I think as human beings, we love drama. We love drama. The purpose in life is to have a purpose and if you have a purpose in life, then there’s less opportunities you’re going to wake up in the greasy mattress of life. If you know what your purpose is and you’re living that purpose, you’re going to be passionate. You’re passionate about waking up in the morning. You’re passionate about going to sleep at night so you can get the sleep needed to be able to wake up and continue the passion. It’s a sense of having this unbridled enthusiasm about life, about what it is that you’re doing, about literally doing that which you love.
Richard Janes: Guy Camilleri, thank you for joining me today and showing your wisdom and excitement for being who you are and what you do. I enormously appreciate the help that you give me over the last 18 months to 2 years, in stepping into my own voice and embracing that vulnerability. You are a master at what you do and I love you to pieces.
Guy Camilleri: Thank you and I appreciate you for all of your coaching, and I acknowledge and appreciate you for being a master at personal brand and helping people to find their passion and purpose because you’ve certainly enriched my life and you’ve really, really helped me to get very, very specific about my own passion and my purpose and my brand. And on that note, I would also express to you I love you, Richard Janes.