“I guarantee you that making everybody call you by your character name and not showering for eight months was not what Stanislavski had in mind with the method.”
Jon Bernthal may have thought he was the “wrong guy” to revive “American Gigolo,” but he is the right actor to drop a few bombshells about method acting.
While filming “We Own This City,” Bernthal told The Hollywood Reporter that there was no room for the modern understanding of method acting while on set. Bernthal portrays real-life police officer Detective Wayne Jenkins, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiracy, racketeering, and robbery charges while leading Baltimore’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. The HBO series is helmed by the creator, writers, and producers of “The Wire.”
When asked by THR if method acting has been “abused” by actors, Bernthal replied “absolutely,” before saying, “And that’s why these conversations are difficult for me, honestly, because every actor has a process. Having studied in Moscow at the Moscow Art Theater, I guarantee you that making everybody call you by your character name and not showering for eight months was not what Stanislavski had in mind with the method.”
The “Wolf of Wall Street” alum added, “But at the end of the day, these sacred seconds between action and cut, that’s all we got. So that means that I got to stay in proximity to that role, close to those sacred seconds, that I’m not on a cell phone or eating Chinese food or making plans for the evening. But if I’m talking like Wayne and I’m acting like Wayne, because it’s going to help those seconds, I think you got to do that. And sometimes that’s a day, sometimes it’s a week, sometimes it’s five minutes.”
Bernthal clarified, “But I think this idea of method acting where [writer-director] george [Pelecanos] was only allowed to call me Wayne, I don’t roll like that. I don’t see any benefit in that.”
While in production on “We Own This City,” Bernthal extensively researched Detective Jenkins and went on ride-alongs with the Baltimore Police Department. The “King Richard” actor even carried over his Baltimore accent between takes.
“But I think more importantly with Wayne, I think he was a code switcher,” Bernthal said. “If you look at it, he talks one way with Black folks and another with white folks. He talks differently on the streets than he does in command…It’s what made him so uncanny in his ability to manipulate people.”
Bernthal is not the only actor who has recently spoken out against the modern, arguable misuse of method acting. Mads Mikkelsen called the technique “bullshit” that takes embodying roles “into insanity,” Jake Gyllenhaal mocked the practice during his “Saturday Night Live” opening monologue, and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” star Will Poulter said it “hasn’t been necessary” in his career.