Babies are stinky, crying creatures that keep you awake at night and vomit on you – and yet everyone loves them because of their innocence. Puppies can be peeing, pooping, whining, barking and chewing fiends – but they are cherished because of their innocence. The reason that babies and puppies steal focus is that Humans are naturally drawn to innocence. W.C Fields said “Never work with animals or children” (and my favorite “I like children – fried”) because he knew that an audience’s eye would always go to the innocence. Innocence is different from vulnerability in that vulnerability speaks to one’s capacity of being hurt. Innocence is lack of guile or corruption; purity. You can be vulnerable and not innocent. When I’m around a baby I’m aware I’m a little closer to the Angels. Children are not thinking about yesterday or where they’re going from here. They are fully in the moment. As a result, I think that children and animals are more connected to everything. When you watch a great actor, even one that you wouldn’t think of as ‘pure’ (such as Marilyn Monroe who in every performance seems to imply that she is ‘have-able’) – there is innocence. Marilyn is never vulgar or dirty. She bravely helped make female sexuality acceptable in the 1950’s. It takes great courage to maintain one’s innocence; hence, it is very compelling.
Guile is when we walk into a room with an agenda – trying to manipulate people into liking or wanting us, trying to shift ‘what is’. If you’re behaving in any way that is not pure and you – then you are corrupting yourself in order to please. Whether you find yourself doing this with your family, or in an audition – you’re taking yourself away from your truth.
When you see greatness, it tends to have innocence in it. When people are aware there is innocence present – it creates sacredness. So how do we bring that into our acting? Start by practicing walking into situations from a place of innocence. To bring it forth more in yourself, notice it more in the world. Nature is never corrupted. One of the profound learnings for me about going to Auschwitz was my expectation of it being hell on earth… and it wasn’t. Grass was growing and birds were singing, trees that had been there since the holocaust were still blooming. You would never have known the atrocities that took place there. Nature was present, so there was no longer any corruption . Man corrupts. Nature always returns to innocence.
There is a strong correlation between depth and innocence. Innocence is noticing what your soul’s intent is… and following it. Even if it is unpopular.