For many reasons, the average person has come to recognize “the method” above other acting techniques, most notably because of stories associated to method actors taking their work to extreme levels. Take Jim Carrey, for instance, he played Andy Kaufman and was “in character” the entire shoot, backstage and on camera, basically driving everyone crazy and insisting on being called Andy. People notice such devotion to the art. The stories are many, like actor Daniel Day Lewis in just about every movie he's made.
But there is another side to the method actor's life - or any professional actor's life - that also merits mention. It involves finding and creating work, and building a career. For Leila, a graduate of the famed Lee Strasberg Institute, that's also paramount as she prepares to take on the female lead role of Amy in Tape, opening at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre next week. For Ms. Berkane, the process has a few extra layers that don't always get noticed: finding the right characters to play, consistently finding acting work, and a critical part of any professional actor's life, searching for the right representation. That's how she wants to get noticed.
Her female lead role in the upcoming limited engagement production of Stephen Belber’s play, TAPE, is keeping her busy these days, but we did grab a moment to chat with her about how she plans to approach this coveted role, and her career.
LocalTheatreNY.com: From an actor's perspective, what is it about Taped that got your attention?
Leila Berkane: Personally, I really like Amy’s character because she’s vivacious, She doesn’t play victim. She’s a strong character to play. She has a fiery personality. I like to play those kinds of roles. And I can relate to her on a personal level because I went through some similar experiences that her character did, so it’s relatable to me. I guess that’s what attracted me to the play. I also like the dark humor in the play. It’s kind of twisted and quirky.
LocalTheatreNY.com: How do you approach the character of Amy utilizing the Method? What are the first steps in that approach and how do you build from there?
Leila Berkane: I do a lot of character work when I have a role in a play. I start with a backstory for the character, what was her family like, Does she have siblings, how was her upbringing, were her family well-off, who was she friends with, what was her relationship like Vince in school, why did she decide to break up with him, why did she decide to sleep with Jon that night, what was going through her head, why did she decide to become a district attorney, does prosecuting criminals somehow help her to deal with the injustice that was done to her years ago. once I have a good backstory for my role established then I use some method techniques like the place exercise, sense memory exercise, animal exercise. I find substitutions from my own life for the actors I am performing with, that helps a lot!
LocalTheatreNY.com: How do you as an actor work with one technique and navigate with other actors who might be using different techniques? Does it matter?
Leila Berkane: Everybody’s different. Even working with other method actors, I find that everybody has their own way of going about things, some method actors are more hard-core than others. I feel like as long as everybody’s respectful to each other it doesn’t really matter if you’re using different techniques, sometimes you can learn from other actors and explore new techniques also. Open mind is important!
LocalTheatreNY.com: How deeply do Method actors embrace a character during production and compare that to your personal approach.
Leila Berkane: Method actors I guess are kind of famous for embracing their characters on a very deep level. I personally use some techniques that work for me, but not every single technique that I learned in acting school, some of them don’t work for me. It also depends on the role I'm playing and what I need to reach on an emotional level to play my role. I do take it seriously and I do embrace my character on a deep level but I know some method actors that have gone to pretty extreme lengths for their roles, and I think Safety has to come first.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Have you ever experienced 2 or more actors in the same production deep in method character development? What is that like compared to actors using different techniques?
Leila Berkane: When I was in school I worked with two or more actors that were using method techniques, because I went to Lee Strasberg, which is the only method acting school in the country. All of the exercises we learned were method exercises. Since Ive graduated Ive worked with plenty of actors, all from different backgrounds, All let use different techniques, funnily enough now that I think about it since I’ve graduated I don’t think I’ve come into contact with another method actor. I’m coming to contact with a lot of actors that studied Meisner. You learn to work together.
LocalTheatreNY.com: What kind of characters in general appeal to you? What are your acting goals in terms of those types of characters you would like to play?
Leila Berkane: I want to one day play Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway. That’s always been my dream role. I like doing offbeat quirky stuff. I’m drawn to roles that show a wide range of emotions. I also want to be in movies like kill Bill. Love roles like that.
To purchase tickets to the show, please visit https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4485719