How Does Acting for TV Differ From Movies?

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March 15 2014 7:09 AM

How Does Acting for TV Differ From Movies?

These questions originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Jason Bateman, director/actor/producer, Bad Words:


A: In television, actors have a great advantage if they want to transition into directing, because we work with a ton of directors. In regard to directing in film, directors don’t work with other directors, so they have no idea if their process on the set is slow, fast, inspiring, boring, etc. We get to cherry-pick those things. The other advantage of working in television is you usually have a short schedule and high page count, so you have to be good and fast. With comedy, that’s more difficult because you’re trying to make scenes work really quickly, blocking things out, perform well, while keeping a sense of heightened believability.

These all add to the beauty of directing. You’ve got to be pretty nimble.

Rohan Chand (left) and Jason Bateman attend a screening of Bad Words on March 7, 2014, in Austin, Texas.

Rick Kern

A: In regard to casting and to how we found the right actor for Rohan, he was a kid who auditioned. He sent in a tape because he was living in New York. He was one of the first few kids that I had seen and really didn’t know how to judge whether he was a good actor, because how do you judge a 10-year-old kid? So I looked at 20 or 30 kids and then went back to him. Not only was he a great actor, but also he had this very authentic genuine quality of lightness, kindness, etc. You needed his lightness to counterbalance the cynicism of Guy. He softens me, and I harden him. It’s a nice cocktail there.

The only burdensome thing was the limited amount of time you get to spend with him on set. Kids can only work for six hours, and when you’re doing a certain amount of scenes with 12-hour days and you only get six hours with him, a lot of my coverage was done when he wasn’t even on set. But, since I started at his age, I remembered what it was like to be on set and how I preferred the atmosphere to be so I could do my best work. So that was fun to create for him.

The character was actually written as an Indian kid, and all of these jokes were Indian-related. And Andrew, our screenwriter, wrote some really funny stuff. I initially thought that it was hard enough to find a great 10-year-old actor and we were limiting our pool that much more by being specific with the ethnicity. And even with the sex. I said let’s look at white, brown, black, boy, girl, etc. It didn’t matter, because I just wanted to make sure that we got the best quality in there. It was just very fortuitous that he was Indian because we didn’t have to change any of that.

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