While listening to a recent episode of The West Wing Weekly, a story that Josh Malina told about a conference he had early during the filming of the show’s fifth season struck a chord with me.
Showrunner John Wells told Josh “Here’s the plan I have to keep you on the show,” going into detail on his reasoning for having Josh’s character, Will Bailey, change jobs and accept an offer to work in the office of the new Vice President.
Josh said he wasn’t used to this kind of explanation from a writer or producer, and that while he appreciated the additional conversation about the reasoning for some dramatic changes for his role in the show, his overall reaction floored me.
“At the time I didn’t dwell on it much, because I don’t think that enhances one’s acting, to obsess about the storyline. Your job is: Here’s the script – act it. I never really gave it two seconds of thought. I never really cared deeply about Will’s decision. That’s not the kind of actor I am… it’s not going to improve my performance to go through the mental gymnastics of whether or not I like the storyline. This is my storyline. This is what I have to say. Go say it.”
– Josh Malina
I want to frame that quote on my wall.
There are a lot of times in life where the unexpected changes our plans, or we get straight-up served a shit sandwich.
But no amount of thinking about the situation is going to essentially change it.
While we don’t all have the convenience of a script to feed us our lines, there’s still the option to train ourselves to not get caught up in the emotional side of the response and focus on the task at hand.
We can shut down the response to procrastinate, to fume, to come up with any number of alternate scenarios that would be better. Or we can live with what’s presented to us and move forward.
This is what’s happening. It’s your story. Do what you have to do.
If you want to listen to the whole story (or the entire episode), you can check it out here.