This has been a rough evening, for me, upon learning the news of Robin William’s death. In my youthful desires to be an actress, Robin Williams would hold a very strong position in pushing that dream forward. He was a performer that I admired. I thought he was incredibly talented, funny, quick witted. His range of characters gave me hope that as an actress I didn’t have to be pigeon holed in as a comedic or dramatic performer. I could be both, equally good … as the role would require me. I loved how his genuine connection to his characters would come through the screen. I was envious of the fact that he had little inhibitions, he didn’t care about being embarrassed by making a fool of himself. I have watched some of his best comedy acts over his life, and I never laughed harder than when Robin Williams was laughing at his own jokes.
In college, one of the first things I was taught was that acting was “the art of lying”. The idea behind that statement is that a good, a truly GOOD, actor would be able to cause you to suspend your beliefs. Meaning, you would believe that people singing a song in the middle of a fight it totally normal… that you could be transported to ancient egypt…. or that Peter Pan could really fly. You would watch the screen and not think of the actor who was playing the role, but truly see the character first. It was true and honest connection, authentic emotions and pure delivery.
Robin Williams was capable of just that. You would not see Robin Williams on the screen…. you were watching Mork, Jack, Peter, Mrs. Doubtfire.. even Genie. He, for a brief moment, was that new person. And you believed it, totally.
Some of the most talented artists have been the most tormented. We mourn their death because they had an ability to touch us in a different way than even a “good” artist. These truly gifted people pay a price for all that they give to entertain others. We can hold these people to high esteem, follow their careers and lives, and still never fully understand the storm that brews inside of them.
Great actors, usually embrace their roles with such heart and vigor because they allow them to put on a mask. I know how this feels, to put on that mask & escape into a role. We can be anyone other than who we were born. We can escape our unhappy, unfulfilled, damaged lives for a fraction of time. That character can be anyone and anything, without limitation, that we could never be. And, we can rest in the safety of knowing when we are done, no matter how hard the role was… we can put that script away, put that character to bed.
Then, there are those who can’t. The actors that allow themselves to connect with a character to the point that it becomes part of you. You can’t shake it. This happened with Heath Ledger, in his role of The Joker in the Batman franchise. In conversations and interviews, Heath admitted that the role was so disturbing that he had to seek professional counseling over it. It was on the medications prescribed by his doctor, that Heath would overdose. Another great talent, lost.
Not that long ago, we lost Phillip Seymour Hoffman to overdose. Another great talent, lost. Suffering from a life time of addiction, struggling to be sober. Overcome and overwhelmed by the expectations put upon him. He wouldn’t be the only actor to succumb to the pressure and struggle that the truly gifted artists are burdened with. Leave us too long in our own reality and the world gets to us… deeply.
And now, we mourn the loss of Robin Williams… and there is shock and sadness. Heartbroken. Surprise. No one knew the man who had the greatest smile, purest laugh and immeasurable talent battled against depression. Even those who knew his struggle with sobriety, would have been surprised that while he was making us cry with laughter… he was crying himself to sleep.
Despite my greatest desires to one day make it to Hollywood or Broadway, God didn’t take me down that road. I can’t help but thank God for saving me from myself, from a life that seems like it has everything to offer but leaves the truly greats empty and hollow. Robin Williams leaves behind a family, who will not be able to understand how it came to this. He leaves scores of fans and his own peers grieving and wounded. But, there are also going to be those who get it. Those greats who have already passed, too soon… too young; and those who are struggling right now in silence, alone.
What does that have to do with you and me? Everything. Because we encounter these great actors every day in our lives, on Sunday’s at church and in the grocery store. The woman who seems to have it all together. The lady who tells you that everything is “just fine” with a beautiful smile on her face. The man who says that “recovery is going great”. The husband and wife putting on a happily ever after display for the kids. Or, even that person who looks you in the eyes and with out a tell tale sign otherwise says “the test results look good, the doctor is very optimistic”.
Every day we encounter people who are suffering in silence, putting on a good show for the benefit of others, and falling apart when no one is looking.
Some of the greatest actors in the world, have never graced a screen or stepped foot on a stage. You walk among them, every day.
Pray for them. Even though you don’t know them by name or what their exact problems are, God does.
Make yourself approachable. In time, they may start to open up to you. You can’t force it, but you can be open to it.
And, if the truth is that YOU are the one putting on the act….
You don’t have to play that role anymore. Be honest with yourself, those who love you, and those who are in a position to help you. Fight against allowing the despair to push you to a point of no return.
To a family I have never met, I give nothing but my love and prayers. Robin Williams was and is one of my greatest inspirations, favorite performers to watch and talented beyond measure. May he rest in peace, and may God be your comforter at this time.