Need to cry on cue? Maybe you should think about tear duct surgery

Can you cry? For some, the volume of tears produced is shorthand for how emotionally capable an actor can be. New research sheds light on why this is far too simplistic a measuring stick. A New York Magazine feature describes how crying can be the direct result of the size of one's tear ducts. This is especially true when taking gender differences into account. 

“There are several studies over the years that have shown that men have larger tear ducts in their eyes, so that it is less likely for the tears to well up to the point of spilling over the eyelid onto the cheek,” said Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow, an associate professor at the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago."

Hormones also play a factor. The more testosterone you have, the less likely you may be to cry. Of course, both testosterone and large tear duct size correlate with men, but obviously these differences in anatomy will vary within all men and women. So let go the expectation of liquid volume. As an acting teacher of mine was fond of saying when discussing if an emotional scene was effective: "It's not a matter of water." 


From the same interview I linked to last week, Laura Dern talks about how she needs to have empathy for her characters (as do her directors). To judge them makes it impossible for her to be as free and creative as she needs to be. 

The great gift that I’ve been given in the parts that I’ve been able to play [is that the characters] are deeply complicated and they are deeply flawed. And with that can come a great deal of judgement. So I won’t be in judgement of them because I can’t play a part if I am... What’s the most truthful thing that this person can do? And it may not be pretty and it may not be kind and it may be embarrassing but it’s the truth.

In a recent LA Times roundtable of Hollywood actresses, Jennifer Aniston, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Shailene Woodley touch on the same subject.

Aniston: But for Claire, I just had a lot of empathy for her struggle and I think she is beautiful and I think problems and her choices and her journey is beautiful in the fact that we feel empathy for people going through pain.

Blunt: I think that’s almost what it is sometimes if you sum up what acting is. It’s just the ultimate expression of empathy.

[LA Times]: Have you ever played someone who is hard to empathize with?

Blunt: I guess “The Devil Wears Prada” girl. I mean she was just vile.

[LA Times]: Yeah, she was a tough cookie.

Blunt: She was but I got it. She was desperate and I just decided to play desperate rather than bitchy. Her whole identity was wrapped up in the fashion industry. And so without it she was nothing.

Chastain: I find that the monsters are usually the people that I have the most empathy for because they’re the ones that are hurt the most. There’s a reason why they’re the monsters.

Laura Dern Loves Sean Penn

In the terrific podcast Off Camera with Sam Jones, Laura Dern speaks about how essential it is to work with actors and directors who don't bring judgment to her character, who are open to whatever happens and like the gray areas. She specifically mentions Sean Pean, also highlighting the importance of scene partners pushing each other to do better work. 

Sean is a great example... he’s my favorite actor I’ve ever worked with for off-camera. This dude is off-camera and he’s there 8 million percent even more. He just wants to try everything he can for you and its a very selfless experience to witness. And he just wants to give so much for you to - not just for to do your best or be good but for you to explore all the options. And you know, that’s super fun to work with people like that.

Have Faith In Silence

We've heard it many times: behavior isn't all words, it's also what happens between the words. Great! Then why is it so hard to do, to be silent in a scene? For a million reasons, but to stiffen your resolve to keep at it, here is an interview in The Paris Review with novelist Herta Muller where she discusses silence in human behavior. If you are trying to be truthful and simple, have faith in the silence. 

Silence is also a form of speaking. They’re exactly alike. It’s a basic component of language. We’re always selecting what we say and what we don’t. Why do we say one thing and not the other? And we do this instinctively, too, because no matter what we’re talking about, there’s more that doesn’t get said than does. And this isn’t always to hide things—it’s simply part of an instinctive selection in our speech. This selection varies from one person to the next, so that no matter how many people describe the same thing, the descriptions are different, the point of view is different. And even if there is a similar viewpoint, people make different choices as to what is said or not said. This was very clear to me, coming from the village, since the people there never said more than they absolutely needed to. When I was fifteen and went to the city, I was amazed at how much people talked and how much of that talk was pointless. And how much people talked about themselves—that was totally alien to me.

For me, silence had always been another form of communication. After all, you can tell so much just by looking at a person. At home we always knew about each other even if we didn’t talk about ourselves all the time.
— h/t @sullydish