Tuesday, 12 January 2010

In defence of Bradley Whitford's moustache

Unless you are one of those obsessive types who searches Twitter on the hour every hour for West-Wing-related gossip (and who would do that? Hmm?), you have probably missed the most controversial issue to hit the West since the Monica Lewinsky scandal: Bradley Whitford now has a moustache.

I’ll give you a minute to recover from the shock.

The Twitterverse is in uproar, myself included, because my intense devotion to (a clean-shaven) Josh Lyman is second only to Donna Moss’, and not by very much, I can assure you.

Here’s the thing, though – and those of you with sensitive dispositions may wish to look away now.

Bradley Whitford is not Josh Lyman. That some of us cling to the belief that he is, is actually testimony to his talent as an actor.

I have not (as yet) had the immense pleasure of meeting him and asking him about this (and would no doubt be too tongue-tied to say anything coherent at all in that happy event), but I assume, and think I may have read somewhere, that he practises something called Method acting. I know a tiny amount about this thanks to the wonderful book “Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist can Learn from Actors”, by Bradilyn Collins, easily the freshest, more original and all-round best book I have read about writing (along with Francine Prose’s “Reading like a Writer”). (And I’ve read a fair few.) I admit that part of the reason I bought it was that I could get one tiny step closer to my heroes, Bradley Whitford himself (who needs no adjectives) and the thoroughly exquisite Janel Moloney.

Purely gratuitously, and because neither Twitter nor Facebook give me enough room to do this on my profile page, I’m copying my favourite quote from the book here. Favourite because it’s inspiring, and because it make me feel as if, if I were to sit down for coffee with Brad and Janel (and let’s throw in Allison Janney, because she’s fabulous, and Josh Malina, because he’s cool, and he makes me laugh every day), I’d have huge amounts to talk about with them, and it would be the start of a several beautiful and mutually inspiring friendships.

(I haven’t left the topic of Brad’s moustache though, so don’t tune out. This is all relevant, I promise.)

We writers of fiction are alike in one way. We’re a mighty strange breed. We view the world differently. We walk around with voices and shadowy figures inside our heads. We tend to stare out windows and mumble to ourselves. The Normals can’t begin to understand us. Only our first cousins, the actors, can come close to matching our eccentricities. For we share the same goal: bringing characters to life.

There we have it. Bradley Whitford was not put on the West Wing to be Bradley Whitford, and he’s not been put on Code 58 to be Bradley Whitford. Unlike some actors, who only really ever play some version of themselves, Brad is talented enough to be able to create a character, and it’s details like knowing that Dan would have a moustache that make a difference.

Method acting, which from what I can gather is really just good acting, means you create a new character for every role you play. You give them mannerisms in keeping with their personalities and backgrounds. You still your own inner rhythm, your own emotions (while drawing on them when necessary), in order to better portray theirs. You consciously become a blank canvas onto which you can paint all the physical, emotional and character traits of the person you are bringing to life, drawing of course on your own experience and observation of life.

So, there you have it. Bradley Whitford did not just grow a moustache because he heard I was coming to the US and wanted to hide, though it pains me greatly to think I may have walked right past him and been denied the opportunity of said beautiful friendship.

He did it because he is, and always will be, a great actor who understands his character. Which is why we loved Josh Lyman, and why we love Brad. Well, that and the dimples...







6 comments:

Laura and Ben said...

I like your West Wing posts (despite not having the faintest idea what you're talking about). You write very passionately about it.

Claire said...

Aw thanks. I sometimes worry I am just boring everyone to tears!

And I'm nothing if not passionate about the West Wing (among many other things, I promise!)...

Rastone said...

Well Claire, I do know what you are talkling about..and I am so proud of you for finally accepting Brad's moustache. Now that he explained it to us in his Fox interview..I think we all can move on. Josh will always be in our hearts, minds, all that wonderful fan fiction,(your's included),and our many times watched and much loived 7 season set of DVD's.. OH and those great You Tube Videos too!! We will always love Bradley in everything he does..because he puts his whole heart and huge talent into every character he portrays. WELL SAID , CLAIRE...

Claire said...

Yes, I have grown as a person through his whole proces... but I have to say, I still love Josh best and have the sneaky suspicion I always will!!

Emily said...

8th time's a charm!

The dimples indeed...

Laura said...

It's great to see someone defending the moustache; Bradley can do or grow anything as far as I'm concerned too!

Laura, another WW obsessive