Acting advice from a pro in the know
Although known for a confidence underscored by her distinctively deep voice, Kathleen Turner admits that her self-assured attitude comes from a place of uneasiness.
“When I get nervous, I get cocky,” the actress confessed to a group of USC theatre majors.
Turner, who recently starred in Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins at the Geffen Playhouse, visited the USC School of Theatre on Feb. 9 for a Q&A session moderated by Lora Zane, associate professor of theatre practice.
In an intimate moment, while seated casually in front of more than 100 attendees, Turner leaned forward to share a piece of wisdom.
“One of my first rules … ” she said, before interrupting her own thought with a pause. A smirk appeared on her face as she bellowed, “Turner speaks,” and gestured quotation marks with her hands.
Garnering laughs from the audience for her frank attitude and amusing story telling, Turner went on to share advice and tales of her past – including topics relevant to the aspiring actors and theatrical designers in the audience.
Among her stories, Turner recalled missing her last recording session as the voice of Jessica Rabbit in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit because she went into labor on that day. She remembered asking someone to call the studio since she didn’t think she would be able to make it in.
Driven by the idea of being proud of her work, Turner encouraged students to do the same instead of picking jobs for the money.
“Say ‘no.’ Be brave,” she told students.
During her career, the actress has picked various types of roles to challenge herself – from playing “sexy” to “funny” to “plain.”
“I didn’t know what role would be next, but I knew it would be in direct contrast from the one before,” Turner said about her acting choices. “I don’t want to do something I know I do well. I want to do something I don’t know I will do well.”
Turner also discussed a career high for her when she played the role of Martha in the Longacre Theatre production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in which she performed 500 shows and received a Tony Award nomination for best actress.
“People ask, ‘How can you do the same play over and over?’ It’s not. The words are the same, but the audience isn’t,” said Turner, who teaches an acting class at New York University called “Practical Acting: Shut Up and Do It.”
Turner began her professional acting career in off-Broadway plays in New York, eventually getting her on-camera break in the late 1970s on the daytime series The Doctors. Within a couple of years, she landed her first starring role in a motion picture as the femme fatale Matty Walker in Body Heat.
She received Golden Globe awards for her roles in Prizzi’s Honor and Romancing the Stone and was nominated for an Academy Award for Peggy Sue Got Married and a Tony Award for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Turner also starred in the stage production of The Graduate, as well as in the films The Virgin Suicides and The Man With Two Brains.