Hollywood star David Corenswet reveals the secret to playing a bad actor
"The highest compliment I could possibly get is that my bad acting is believably bad."
So says David Corenswet about portraying an actor who's maybe not the best as his craft in the new Netflix drama Hollywood.
In the limited series, Corenswet plays Jack Costello, a young man who dreams of making it big in 1940s Tinseltown — the only problem is that he couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. When Jack finally lands a screen test by sleeping with a casting director (part of his day job, if you will), he bombs, spending the entire audition yelling his lines and turning his face away from the camera.
As a Juilliard graduate, Corenswet is no slouch when it comes to his own performances. So how does a classically trained actor portray a hopeless, ham-fisted one? "We're playing characters who are themselves actors, who in the show are making a movie where they have to be acting as well," he says of the challenge. "You're going three layers deep, where nobody knows who anybody is or what acting is anymore at all."
In other words, "You have to sort of inception [it]."
Luckily, the script came with a built-in guide for how to tackle the scene. "For my one big moment, where I'm supposed to be really, really bad, immediately afterwards you hear Joe Mantello's [character] describe why I was so bad," Corenswet says. "I just decided to do exactly what he described, because he says, 'He just yelled at her the whole time and then turned away from the camera.' [So I did that]."
Is it a relief, then, to not have to be a paragon of acting talent, even for one scene? "It was a lot of fun," he says, "having no pressure to be good but having this great challenge of trying to be specifically bad."
Even with that task before him, Corenswet says the series was the stuff Hollywood dreams are made of: "That's my most fantastical dream, of getting to pretend that I'm in Singin' in the Rain or all those great movies from the golden age of the studio system."
Hollywood is now streaming on Netflix.