Ryan Perez, Terry Knickerbocker, and Allison Spence Brown sit down for a frank and honest conversation about training, theatre, life, and the work!
Ryan Perez: Welcome to An Actor Despairs. I’m your host Ryan Perez. Today’s guest is legendary acting teacher, coach, professor, Terry Knickerbocker. Terry Knickerbocker runs Terry Knickerbocker Studio. But prior to that, he worked with Bill Esper at William Esper. He is such an iconic New York presence, you’ve definitely heard of him before. He’s Sam Rockwell’s coach, he’s Emmy Rossum coach. He is one of the most legendary teachers of all time and I’m so excited to have him here. Here’s our conversation.
Ryan Perez: Terry Knickerbocker, welcome to An Actor Despairs.
Terry K.: Thank you so much.
Ryan Perez: And we have special guest, co-host, Allison Spence Brown.
Allison Spence: Hi.
Ryan Perez: How are you doing Allison?
Allison Spence: I’m good. How are you doing Ryan?
Ryan Perez: I’m doing good. Thanks for being here.
Allison Spence: Thanks for having us.
Ryan Perez: So Terry, we’re so excited to have you on the show today. I’ve known about you for such a long time and I just literally said to you that I’ve been meaning to take a class and you rightfully said, “Where the fuck have you been?” I’m so excited to get to talk to you and I have so many questions, and I’m so interested in your work and your process, but before we dig into the work, I’d like to start at the beginning. So, you grew up in the Northeast, right?
Terry K.: I did. I’m a Brooklyn boy. Grew up on Willow street, first 2 Grace Court and then Willow street in Brooklyn Heights, which is a very pricey neighborhood now, but it wasn’t back then, right under the Brooklyn bridge and then moved to Boston when I was seven. Grew up in Boston, went to some boarding schools in Western Massachusetts and also in Providence, Rhode Island. And then, came to NYU, took a couple of gap years.
Ryan Perez: What did your parents do?
Terry K.: My parents were both attorneys. My father was a Republican guy and he was a tax attorney for an insurance company, John Hancock. My mom was a democratic labor lawyer, so she used to carry me on picket lines.
Ryan Perez: Wow.
Terry K.: We’d have interesting discussion.
Ryan Perez: Ideological opposition.
Terry K.: Yes. Yes.
Ryan Perez: That’s amazing.
Terry K.: I would always ask my dad who he voted for in presidential elections and he would never tell me. He’d say, I voted for one.
Ryan Perez: That’s so funny. Because oddly I texted Allison on the way here. I said, who did Terry vote for in the 2000 presidential election?
Terry K.: You did not.
Ryan Perez: You can check her text.
Allison Spence: He sent me a lot of questions, he kept it off with that one.
Terry K.: That’s so weird.
Ryan Perez: But that’s so amazing. So I’m curious, how did the arts thing happen for you then?
Terry K.: Well, my parents were so good. My dad loved music and he loved theater and he loved operetta in particular, Gilbert and Sullivan and the ballet. So we went to see the Nutcracker every year. That was a family tradition that even went to his grandchildren. And we went to plays, we came into New York city and went to Broadway and then when we went to Boston, we went to the equivalent of Broadway there.
Ryan Perez: Because a lot of things test there before they come here, right?
Terry K.: Yeah. They don’t anymore, but that was the process back then, yeah.
Ryan Perez: Wow, that’s amazing.
Terry K.: And then we’d have subscriptions to stuff and he took me to concerts. So, I was exposed early on and that was great.
Ryan Perez: What about to cinema? Was that integral part of your childhood at all or?
Terry K.: I loved movies, but it was not something that the family was really a big part of, I mean I’d just go. I’m having a memory, I saw Mary Poppins whenever it came out I think maybe 1966 or ’68 or something like that. And it was playing in a part of Boston that was not a very nice part of Boston, but everyone had to see Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews. And it was incredible animation. So, my mom left me on a Sunday on line with the money to buy it, maybe I was eight or nine, and it’s sold out and my mom was gone. So, I’m in this bad part of Boston, it’s sold out, and then these three 12 year olds in hoodies came up to me and two of them pinned my arms back.
Ryan Perez: No way.
Terry K.: And the other one took out of the pocket of his hoodie, a tinfoil wrapped half of an apple pie, and they mugged me with apple pie.
Ryan Perez: No way.
Terry K.: They unwrapped the foil and smooshed it in my face. That was what they were doing, they were looking for some … And I was dressed up because we’d gone to church that morning. So, I had my red blazer on and my shirt, and I’m crying. And then this really swanky, kind of Las Vegas couple comes up older, like in their fifties, the guy had white patent leather shoes. There was a bar there, they were going to go have Sunday drinks. They said, “What happened little boy?” I said, “Apple pie. Mary Poppins.” And, “Come on in, we’ll get you a ginger ale and we’ll call your mother.”
Terry K.: And so we went in and we called my mother and mother is a very anxious lady and she’s like, “Who are you with? Who are these people? Let me speak to them. Listen, I’ll have you know that my son’s mother is an attorney and if you do anything to him …” Right? Like stranger danger.
Ryan Perez: Oh my God.
Terry K.: “So I will be down there quicker than you can …” And she got down there and then my mother went up to me while the lines forming for the next show. I want to go see Mary Poppins. I’m cleaned up, I loved that Las Vegas couple, and this bar, it was a cradle dive bar.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, God bless them.
Terry K.: And so my mother goes to the manager of the theater and says, my son got mugged and he got sold out, and so they let me in on the handicapped line, which was completely embarrassing because all these kids are going, “How come he’s getting in? He’s not handi.”
Terry K.: So, I think that’s my earliest movie memory. That plus Wizard of Oz, which was on every year on CBS and I’d have to turn it off for the monkeys because that scared me a lot.
Ryan Perez: Oh yeah, the witch cared the hell out of me. Oh God. Yeah.
Terry K.: But movies came later, yeah.
Ryan Perez: That’s amazing. And then did you dabble in theater?
Terry K.: A little bit. My dad used to carry a picture of me at four years old with a robe on and a beard. I don’t know where that came from, but maybe some church play or something like that. I keep saying church, we have to understand that my mom is Jewish. So, it was a very confusing religious life in our family, we just celebrated everything. But the Jews didn’t have as many plays as the Christians did, so we did that kind of stuff.
Terry K.: I remember, and so I went to an Episcopal school. Episcopalianism is sort of a cleaner version of Catholicism. Same incense and stuff like that, but less guilt.
Ryan Perez: Guilt, yeah.
Terry K.: So, I was in the choir and we’d go to church every week and I loved the ceremony of it. So in my bedroom I used to hold mass. I mean, I would just put a towel around me and you have the cup and the wafer.
Ryan Perez: And the bread, yeah.
Terry K.: So, I started using Ritz crackers and a water glass, and I had my prayer book and I just loved the ritual of it. To me that feels like my earliest acting stuff.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, sacred.
Terry K.: And of course it is sacred and it’s a ritual. And I did that every day. I would hold mass every day in my bedroom.
Ryan Perez: I don’t want to go to your class, I want to go to your mass.
Terry K.: That was awesome. And then, did a play in eighth grade. I remember my mom helping me to learn lines and then took some time off, and then did West Side Story in my senior year of high school.
Ryan Perez: So you’re a singer?
Terry K.: Yeah, I love singing because we did the choir stuff and I love singing. All these memories Ryan. I was auditioning for the part of action in West Side Story. He’s the guy who goes, “Boy, boy, crazy boy, get cool boy”. And it was between me and this other guy and Mrs. Ghanaian who was the drama lady, said, “I’m going to decide who’s going to get the part based on the following. You’re both going to walk across the stage and whoever’s walk feels more like the part, you got it,” and the other guy got it. All right.
Ryan Perez: What the fuck?
Terry K.: So-
Ryan Perez: You didn’t use that mug, PTSD?
Terry K.: No, man. Yeah, it was terrible. And he’s not acting anymore. He’s not in the theater. So the part I got ironically enough is a part called Big Deal, right? And he gets one verse in the Officer Krupke song and he’s just like part of the Jets. He’s a Jet guy, and then the hook was in. And then I didn’t want to go to college.
Ryan Perez: Interesting. Obviously having attorney parents, they were probably not …
Terry K.: They did not like that.
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: No. But I was a classical classic underachiever, and so I just started doing … I went to BU, my dad taught at BU and-
Ryan Perez: Okay, so you could get a free ride?
Terry K.: Not a free ride, but a free in, right?
Ryan Perez: Okay, yeah.
Terry K.: So, in May or June he said, “Just fill out this paperwork and you’ll get in.” I don’t think it was illicit, but I got in.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, half illicit half man.
Terry K.: And I was … No, no, no, no. That was good. I was going to be a French major because I really loved French, and I love the language and I bought all my books. I think I literally went to one class and then I saw an audition notice for a thing called the Boston University Savoyards, which was a Gilbert and Sullivan Society that that year was doing a very obscure French operetta by a guy named Jacques Offenbach called The Grand Duchess of Gérolstein. I auditioned and got it, and I was part of the chorus, I was a soldier and-
Ryan Perez: This was part of BU or no?
Terry K.: Part of BU. It was like a club. It was like-
Ryan Perez: Okay. The drama club.
Allison Spence: Like a music club or something.
Terry K.: Like a music club. What was the thing you did at NYU?
Allison Spence: Like Danger Box the Improv Group.
Terry K.: Yeah, it was like just student theater, but anyone could be in it. You didn’t have to go to BU.
Ryan Perez: No way.
Terry K.: And there were all these people who didn’t go to BU who were part of it, right?
Ryan Perez: That’s awesome.
Allison Spence: They were just really geeked out about Gilbert and Sullivan.
Terry K.: Geeked out about Gilbert and Sullivan, which is huge in Boston. Huge. I mean I’m still a part of a Facebook group called the Boston University Savoyards. And we used to have reunions 20 years later. I ultimately became the president of the Boston University Savoyards while not going to class, but while still enrolled. And of course we didn’t have the internet back then, so I was living in a dorm. My parents were paying for this, I think it was like $5,000 a year, which was a lot back then. But, NYU is 70 grand now.
Ryan Perez: It’s insane.
Terry K.: And doing all these shows and then running home to my parents’ house to intercept the mail whenever grades would be coming out.
Ryan Perez: Smart man.
Terry K.: So they wouldn’t know. But eventually they caught up and said, you got to go. And then I stayed in Boston and the two places that Gilbert and Sullivan geeks worked were at Harvard and at BU. And whichever shows were going on, we’d just audition and I got a lot of parts. And then, I did a straight play, an Ionesco play called Macbet, which is his version of the Scottish play. That was amazing, and I went, I think I need to get training because I don’t know what I’m doing. I was getting all these parts. I mean everyone starts acting and they don’t have training.
Ryan Perez: Totally.
Terry K.: Ballet dancers have to train before they perform. Violinists have to train before they perform, but actors, because we’re human beings and we watch people and we understand something about stories that we can just start acting, but then you need a craft. And so three years out of high school, maybe four, I auditioned for NYU, came down here on the train. It was the only place I auditioned and I got in. And then that was it.
Ryan Perez: So you transferred?
Terry K.: Well I wasn’t at BU, I got kicked out of BU. Kicked out with all in completes or flunks, I was doing all this theater and working at a record store for money because we had vinyl back then and I loved music. So, that was great.
Ryan Perez: Was Louis here then? Scheeder?
Terry K.: Louis Scheeder was not there then. No, it was run by a guy named Yannis Simonides who was a graduate of Yale. It was very different. I went to a studio that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s still a school, but Circle in the Square.
Ryan Perez: Oh yeah, Kevin Bacon.
Terry K.: Yeah. So that, and I studied with Terry Hayden who just died a couple of years ago in the 90s who was part of … She worked with Lee Strasberg.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, that’s where I went.
Terry K.: So, Lee was alive. So she took us to the Actor Studio and I watched a session that Lee was moderating.
Allison Spence: That’s great.
Terry K.: So, she gave us Method training, and then I had a guy named Tom Brennan who taught scene study and Nikos Psacharopoulos who founded Williamstown was the rock star teacher of Circle in the Square. He taught at Yale and then he’d come down once a week and we were actually taking classes in the downtown Circle in the Square space for Nikos’ class. And once a week we’d have a four hour scene study class with him.
Terry K.: Our first week we were doing Streetcar. I mean he’s specialized in Tennessee Williams and Chekhov, and maybe a little O’Neil. He was brilliant but mean, right? He was a mean teacher and-
Ryan Perez: Sounds like NYU.
Terry K.: I mean, but especially mean. I’ll never forget he once told a woman, this is verbatim, this is my bad Greek accent. But he said that, “Darling, why don’t you try something more suitable for your talents like maybe accounting,” right? You can’t say that to a freshman acting person, right? I mean that just, it goes through my heart now and I think I carry that experience in terms of what may be ultimately become a teacher.
Terry K.: It’s like when you’re a parent, because I’m also a parent, I have a six year old. You want to make sure you do better than your parents, and my parents did a great job, but you want to even do better. And as a teacher I wanted to make sure I never damaged anyone. I don’t know if this person was damaged, but it hurt me what he said. He never said anything mean to me. And then, after the first semester Nikos would make a cut. So, there were two sections-
Ryan Perez: [crosstalk 00:16:09] they were doing cuts still at NYU.
Terry K.: Well, they do a cut of who Nikos wants, not out of NYU, but-
Allison Spence: But just for his …
Terry K.: For his niche little group. And he tended to take really pretty people, really attractive people, and I guess I wasn’t as attractive as I should’ve been or something. So I got cut, which hurt at the time, because all the in people were with Nikos. And then I felt like a loser, but actually I ended up with this amazing teacher, Jacqueline Brookes, who happened to be Terry Hayden’s lover, but also was a wonderful working actress who did a lot of theater and film. She just gave me such permission.
Ryan Perez: She was your artistic mother so to speak.
Terry K.: Oh my God. Yeah. I mean, I said, “I want to do Streetcar.” She said, “Yeah, do Streetcar.” And helped. I did Stanley. I mean, I didn’t think that was me and she helped me to find that and a lot of other stuff.
Ryan Perez: So she brought your voice out in you?
Terry K.: She did.
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: The problem was at NYU and we were taking classes at this place called the Martinique Hotel near Macy’s, which is now a fancy place. But back then we were in the basement and there was a couple of cats in the basement and they were there for a reason. I remember that a lot of kids were auditioning because backstage was there and they’d go to class but they’d miss class or they not work in class because they were dressed for an audition because Woody Allen was doing a movie or something else was going on. And that really disturbed me that people were focusing on the business while they were in training.
Terry K.: And the Experimental Theater Wing was also happening in NYU and the founder of the Experimental Theater Wing, one of the founders, was a guy named Ron Argelander who was a real rock and roll theater studies professor who taught a class I took. NYU was so different back then. First of all, it was a third of the size it is now.
Ryan Perez: I can imagine.
Terry K.: It was a safety school, it was not a world-class university. It’s where you applied if you couldn’t get into Princeton or something like that. And he taught a class called contemporary experimental theater, which was all about like Robert Wilson and Richard Schechner and all these Mabou Mines. And my mind was blown, and he said, “Well you got the Experimental Theater, why don’t you come.” So, I auditioned for that and transferred from Circle in the Square after two years and did my final two years at ETW.
Terry K.: But, there wasn’t like primary level, you just had a group and each group stayed with a group. And then teachers would come to us. So, that’s where I met Kevin Kuhlke. He came into our class who later became chair of drama, head of ETW.
Allison Spence: Yeah, he auditioned me for NYU.
Terry K.: Yeah. So, we met 40 years ago, this was, I graduated in 1981. Excuse me. And I had an amazing Israeli acting teacher named Rina Yerushalmi who came out of Carnegie Mellon. And we would do Feldenkrais every morning, which I had never heard of, but it was this amazing movement stuff because she knew Feldenkrais. He was an Israeli guy who was … We’re not even talking about acting really, but this is just so cool.
Ryan Perez: Yeah. No I love it.
Terry K.: He was a judo champion of Israel, and he was also a molecular biologist. I’m getting this wrong. But he had these like two-
Ryan Perez: Amalgamation.
Allison Spence: [crosstalk 00:19:47].
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: And then he had a terrible accident and he was told he would never walk again. And through his understanding of judo and neuroscience, he repatterned through people moving his body the way he told them to, while lying on a bed to bring himself to walking again. And then, he turned that into a movement philosophy and discipline called Feldenkrais after himself where you do things called awareness through movement. And it’s like little things on the left side and all of a sudden things really open up and then you’d think about it on the right side. You work on the left side for half an hour and then you think about it, just go over it in your mind, you picture it, and then you go just as far on the right side in a second.
Terry K.: And then he came to our class. The year before he died, Rina had him come to our acting class and he watched us do Shakespeare and stuff. And he said he saw some scene and someone picked up a coffee cup and Rina said, “What do you think of the acting?” He said, “Well, what kind of coffee taking is this? You’ve got to use your back when you lift a cup, so can I just pick …” So, it’s like Alexander technique in that way. And that works.
Terry K.: So I got great training there, and I met Anne Bogart. Anne Bogart of the CT company was my acting teacher. She taught a class called composition where we just make stuff up and do site-specific stuff and do street theater and she’d say, okay, let’s go into groups. And-
Ryan Perez: So, you really got into academia, meaning like acting. You just thrived there.
Terry K.: But experimental acting. It was downtown acting, we never thought we’d have to go above 14th street. We were just going to change the world.
Ryan Perez: Was the Wooster group a thing?
Terry K.: The Wooster group, the Wooster group then it was called the Performing Group and Richard Schechner was the head of it and Joan Macintosh, his ex-wife was part of it and they did a very controversial piece called Dionysus in ’69 and some other stuff.
Ryan Perez: Wow, I love the name.
Terry K.: Yeah.
Allison Spence: Were you guys doing Grotowski work?
Terry K.: Grotowski came … So, Grotowski came. He was alive. It wasn’t so much part of the curriculum, but Richard Schechner, who also was part of the performance studies project at NYU and also the editor of the Drama Review, which started out as Two Lane Drama Review TDR, and then he moved it to NYU, like they bought it, brought Grotowski to America. He came a lot and Ron Argelander was really into Grotowski.
Terry K.: So we weren’t really doing it, but we were watching him. He would come and talk and it was like, oh my God, this guy’s amazing. He was just brilliant. And then his lead actor, Ryszard Cieślak who if you watch these videos of the Polish Lab Theater, which was the work Grotowski did before he left theater behind. He’s the guy in a loin cloth and he’s doing-
Allison Spence: I know what you’re talking about.
Terry K.: Yeah, he’s incredible undulations that are just extraordinary, the plastics and corporals. He came and I did three workshops with him. Over spring break was the first one. So we did a workshop that would start … Everyone smoked back. I mean they smoked in classrooms.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, sounds like the life.
Terry K.: It was wooly, right? So, he’s sitting in studio three on the floor. He had this like raise smokey voice, Polish smokey voice, “So, tell me what do you think.” And I said, “Well, I love you and I love the work and I want to do this.” He said, “Okay, come, you do.” And over spring break, which coincided with a blackout in New York, which was weird because we’d work from seven at night till six in the morning. We’d flip things over and do all this work. We went for 10 days and it was mind blowing. And then he was at that time doing para theatrical.
Terry K.: So, he was doing some of the theater stuff that you guys learn in Grotowski, but he had moved on to, how do we just do theater in the world? How do we take the audience out of it? And so then we did another workshop in the summer upstate at this Indian reservation. And then he said, can we do one in a van and we’ll go across America? So, a bunch of us went with him all the way to Arizona, and ultimately we had a fight and we split and I got out of the van in Arizona, four of us left. I stuck my thumb out. And, it was a great time, NYU was great.
Ryan Perez: Wow, sounds amazing.
Terry K.: It was an amazing time, yeah.
Ryan Perez: I’m curious to ask you after graduating, obviously now there’s Third Rail, and Punchdrunk and Sleep No More, then what did you think you could do with all of that experimental? Did Broadway have experimental plays then?
Terry K.: No, not really. I mean Peter Brook was coming here, but that was less Broadway and more like PS 122 or Bam or something like that. It was less commercial. It was just for the sake of it.
Ryan Perez: For the laugh.
Terry K.: We were doing stuff with Anne Bogart that would get written up in like the highest level German theater magazines. But no one in New York paid attention to it except for-
Allison Spence: They didn’t know what to do with it.
Terry K.: Yeah, it was like the Village Voice would review it. And then, I was working with Rina also, so I was doing this experimental stuff with Anne and Rina.
Ryan Perez: Continuing after graduation?
Terry K.: Yeah, after graduation, I did six projects with her. She had a company. This was before Mr. Suzuki came over and the Suzuki work and the CT company, because she believed that theater was a journey. That was her idea of what theater should be is it takes the audience on a journey. So she did all this traveling theater. She’d have a guide and an audience would be taken somewhere. They’d say, meet at this restaurant in this village. The guide would be there and then there’d be actors on the phone or you’d go to a house and you’re look in the basement and actors would be acting out a scene through the windows or an abandoned schoolhouse and all this weird stuff.
Terry K.: And then meanwhile, Rina formed a company that Kevin Kuhlke was in and Wendy Vanden Heuvel was in, and Jessica Litwak who was my first wife and Steven Grafton Steen and a few other people. And we were at La MaMa and we’re like a resident company at La MaMa.
Ryan Perez: Steve is still on fourth street?
Terry K.: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was there. Yeah. And we did a couple of plays there and then she had the scene study class and we’d go on Saturdays and we’d do scenes. And so I did one scene from Bertolt Brecht’s Baal, that went well. And then, I had a scene from Morning Becomes Electra. She would choose the scenes. The scene between the brother and the sister where the father’s body is the living room.Calls for Greek proportion emotion. And I didn’t know what the fuck to do with that. My head knew, oh I need to have all this stuff.
Terry K.: But for all the great training that I got at NYU, I had not been prepared to do any material. If you do scene study, which is what we started, Nikos Psacharopouloss freshman year, that teaches you how to do that scene, but it doesn’t teach how to do a new play or a new TV show.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, stylistically.
Terry K.: I just didn’t have a foundation. And around the time Rina was dating a guy named Joel Rooks. He was a wonderful actor and taught with Bill Esper and studied with Bill Esper, and I saw him in a play like five nights in a row. He worked backstage at La MaMa. It was brilliant, it was genius. It was the most perfect character work and the most consistent. He had emotion, he had character, he had behavior. I said, I want to do that. Yeah. And he said, “Well, study with Bill.” So, I went to talk to Bill. After four years at NYU, He said, yeah, it’s a two year program. Bill had worked with Sanford Meisner, who just died in January of this year.
Ryan Perez: Rest in peace.
Terry K.: So, what a Titan. And so, it was a two year program. I said, great.
Ryan Perez: It was under Sanford or?
Terry K.: No, it was his own studio.
Ryan Perez: So Esper existed then?
Terry K.: Esper existed. He had started in 1965.
Ryan Perez: I didn’t know that.
Terry K.: Yeah, it’s 50 something years old. Yeah, I mean.
Ryan Perez: How long did he live to?
Terry K.: He lived into his 80s, but he was a young man when he did that. And he was, I think maybe simultaneously teaching at the Playhouse, but moving away. He had been with Meisner for 17 years and then started his own thing. He said two years and I said … I mean I didn’t think twice.
Ryan Perez: There was no yearning for you to go to LA or to do Broadway or to do Woody Allen movies or?
Terry K.: No. Woody Allen would have been cool. I didn’t know about him, his current stuff.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, we’ll leave no comment on that.
Terry K.: I had a Woody Allen audition back then, which was a cattle call. It was also like the walk for West Side Story. You just walked by him holding your picture and resume and if he liked your walk and your look, you got called in.
Allison Spence: You need to work on my walk Terry.
Terry K.: I got to work on my walk.
Ryan Perez: Where is that? It was at Suzuki.
Terry K.: So, I decided to study with Bill and do the Meisner.
Ryan Perez: So, you went into training again right after graduation?
Terry K.: About a year after.
Ryan Perez: How were the parents? Were they receptive to this or were they like-
Terry K.: I paid for it.
Ryan Perez: Wow.
Terry K.: I mean.
Allison Spence: What were your parents thinking about your path at this point too?
Terry K.: They were supportive. I mean, they paid for NYU, God bless them, right?
Ryan Perez: They didn’t think the experimental thing was nuts?
Terry K.: I don’t know what they thought. I don’t know. They came and saw my shows.
Ryan Perez: That’s awesome. So, they were supportive.
Terry K.: Yeah, they were.
Ryan Perez: Bless them.
Terry K.: So, I studied with Bill and God that was the best two years of my life. That was just-
Allison Spence: Weren’t you in a show with Anne Bogart when you talked him?
Terry K.: Yeah, I was in a show. I was cast in a show when I talked to Bill in the fall. So, his class started in the fall, I talked to Bill in the summer, and Bill said, “Yeah, sure, come on.” I mean, first of all I said, “I graduated from NYU, so where should I be in your program?” He said, “In the beginning.” And he said, because everyone starts at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what experience you’ve had because we don’t know where the holes are. So, it’s like starting at the bar as a ballet or starting with a scale. There’s no advanced Meisner, it’s just you start and it’s a process and it’s two years. And I said, great.
Terry K.: Oh just about the schedule, because I had a day class. I was a waiter at night. I might have to miss one or two classes in the fall because I have some tech rehearsals. And he looked at me and said, “For what?” I said, “Well I’m doing this show with Anne Bogart and it’s off-off Broadway, but I’m part of her group.” And he said, “It’s not Broadway I didn’t know. It’s not Manhattan Theater Club or the Public Theater?” “No, but it’s so good Bill.” He said, “I don’t think you should do that.
Ryan Perez: No way.
Terry K.: I mean I was just like, “Why not?” And I was getting really mad and scared. He said, “Because we’re going to teach you how to win races and we’re going to start with crawling. And it’s all about process. And if you go from my class in the beginning of this very delicate process to rehearsal or performance, that’s all about results. A director is going to tell you, could you be loud here? Could you get angry here and because you want the show to be a success and you’re a team player, you’re going to do something that’s probably inorganic and you’re going to disrupt everything I’m trying to do with you.” I said, okay, I got to think about that.
Terry K.: I went home and I was just so torn and pissed off, but also really pulled to what I saw Joel do. The next day I quit that show and signed up with Bill and haven’t looked back. It was the best thing I ever did, the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.
Ryan Perez: Wow. When you graduated at that point, you knew you wanted to continue down the teaching path or did you-
Terry K.: No, no, no, I was acting. I was doing some acting. I was auditioning, I was doing some shows, wasn’t thinking about movies, movies weren’t … I mean, I love movies, especially those great seventies movies like the Godfather and Kramer vs Kramer-
Ryan Perez: [crosstalk 00:32:05] cinema.
Terry K.: Gene Hackman, The French Connection to like just Deer Hunter. Loved Pacino loved Dustin Hoffman. Loved Meryl Streep, loved Diane Keaton, but wasn’t thinking of myself like that. My wife at the time, as I said, was a woman named Jessica Litwack, who is a wonderful performer and a wonderful writer and part of this Anne Bogart world, excuse me. And she’d written a one woman show about Emma Goldman, The Anarchist, which Anne had directed in an earlier incarnation. And then she got it into a festival of women’s voices through the women’s project at American Place Theater, where Wynn Handman, who still teaches, there’s a wonderful documentary about his teaching that just broke on Netflix. He’s in his nineties.
Terry K.: So Jessica’s play was accepted and Anne had a conflict. She was doing an opera in Santa Fe and we were together at that point. So she said, “Well, would you like to direct at hand?” Is okay if Terry directs it?” So I said, okay, sure. And then, it did really well and I love directing. I went, oh, this fits. Because all the time I was acting, I always wanted to control everything.
Ryan Perez: Totally.
Terry K.: I wanted to tell-
Ryan Perez: [crosstalk 00:33:25].
Terry K.: That’s a no, no. You don’t tell other actor-
Ryan Perez: Yeah, oh God. Give me more.
Terry K.: Don’t move your hand so much. Maybe you should change that shirt. I wanted to control everything. So being a director that was like a dream come true right? So then I applied for this fellowship with the Drama League, which is now this very famous early career director’s thing, but it had just started called the Directors Project and I got accepted.
Ryan Perez: Oh my God.
Terry K.: That was a nine month fellowship where they paid for me to go to Washington and or go to some regional theater. The project was, you went to some regional theater, some local theater, and then they gave you an equity production where they paid for it all. So I went to Arena Stage, which is an amazing, an amazing theater down in Washington DC, Theater in the Square. Zelda Fichandler was the artistic director. She later ran the NYU Grad program and assisted on a production of Measure for Measure, which was amazing.
Terry K.: Then did an assistantship at Ensemble Studio Theater when Curt Dempster was still alive of a wonderful play directed by Jack Gilbert, who’s an amazing director and then adapted a Maria Irene Fornes musical to be a play. Turned the songs into monologues, the first act of it, and worked with her on that. And we did that and that was it. It was directing. So, then I was like, shit, how am I going to make money? Because directors, stage directors, unless you’re like Joe Montello and you’ve got Wicked.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, Dan Sullivan.
Terry K.: Well you have to have something running all the time or and be that top, top tier. So it’s very hard to make a living as a director. So, the three ways that directors made money were you worked on soap operas, you had a staff job at a theater and you taught. So, I tried the soap opera thing. I had a friend who was on Guiding Light and I went and shadowed. I mean, I felt unclean after doing that. It just wasn’t me, I couldn’t do it. So then I applied to … Does The Public need anybody? Does Manhattan Theater Club need anybody? Does Circle … Nobody needed anybody, maybe in Oklahoma.
Terry K.: So, that left teaching. So, I was watching Bill teach anyway, every so often just when I was around, I’d go and watch him teach. I could do that. And I said I want to teach. He said, I don’t need any teachers. I said, well how would it be if I watched and you tell me when to leave if you want me to go. And that started a 32 year path with him.
Ryan Perez: Wow. Amazing.
Terry K.: Yeah.
Ryan Perez: That’s incredible journey.
Terry K.: Yeah, it was great.
Ryan Perez: Wow.
Terry K.: That’s where I met Sam Rockwell. Sam was studying with Bill in the summer and was only going to do the summer.
Ryan Perez: Sam’s parents were actors, weren’t they?
Terry K.: Both his parents were actors. Yeah. Penny and his father Pete, who are wonderful people. Sam and I started coaching on some stuff and he was just going to do the summer and then go off. Because he’d already-
Ryan Perez: How old was Sam at this point?
Terry K.: He was 23. Yeah, exactly 23, and he had already done Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He’d done some stuff for HBO. He was starting …
Ryan Perez: On the cusp.
Terry K.: Yeah. But he loved the work, and Yul Vasquez was in that summer and they became buddies, they’re like best buddies. And so, we’d coach together and then Bill said, “Why don’t you do the two year?” And Sam said, “I got some TV commercials I have to do.” And he said just do it. And so he did it, and so did Yul, so did Kevin Kuhlke. That was a great-
Allison Spence: I didn’t realize that.
Terry K.: Yeah, that’s how I got teaching at NYU is that I taught for Bill that year a lot. And, I was teaching Kevin, which was weird.
Allison Spence: I didn’t know that. That’s …
Terry K.: Yeah. And that began whatever that is, 1991 so a 28 year relationship with Sam. I’ve worked on just about everything he’s done with him.
Ryan Perez: Wow.
Terry K.: Yeah.
Ryan Perez: I’m curious, I’m sure you had a lot of students, what was it about Sam that resonated with you and you resonated with him? What was so, the synergy that created there? Because I imagine you had so many different students that-
Terry K.: Not really, I mean I was just beginning. I mean I was training, it was an old fashioned apprentice system with Bill. You watched him for a long time, maybe a couple of years and just sat in the back and took notes. I didn’t get paid. So I had to figure out some way to make money during that, so I could just be and watch him because I had to watch a lot. And when you watch a master teach like that and teach the same stuff to many groups and how he custom tailors the work to each individual actor, that’s extraordinary.
Terry K.: So I taught Sam’s class and also watched his class and he just had this incredible spark. I mean, he’s so inventive, so playful, and so emotional. I mean he’s just got this depth of rage and hurt and just his instrument is an extraordinary instrument. And so, I was just so impressed and Bill had a great class. Bill had so many good students, everyone was studying with him.
Ryan Perez: My former guest Dean Winters came through.
Terry K.: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, but Sam, there was a spark and then we enjoyed it. We enjoyed working together.
Ryan Perez: Wow. And were you coaching actors on TV, film, auditions at this point or that didn’t really …
Terry K.: Not lot. I mean it just …
Ryan Perez: So, Sam was your first?
Terry K.: No, I’d done a little bit with some friends and stuff, but I have never actually ever promoted my coaching. That’s all word of mouth. But Sam became a regular, Yul became a regular, some other folks.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, Emmy Rossum.
Terry K.: Emmy Rossum, yeah, for the last 13 years.
Ryan Perez: Did she study with you?
Terry K.: She did not.
Ryan Perez: Wow. It’s word of mouth?
Terry K.: Yeah. Her agent knew somebody else. She’s not with that agent anymore, and she had an audition. This was way before Shameless.
Ryan Perez: Mystic River days?
Terry K.: After that.
Ryan Perez: Got it.
Terry K.: After that. Because she came up through singing. She’s not …
Ryan Perez: Yeah, she was in opera.
Allison Spence: She was fan of opera and stuff.
Terry K.: And she was in the Metropolitan Opera chorus and is really a trained singer and we did not hit it off, Emmy and I. She’s a very headstrong person who knows just what she wants. She’s mature way beyond her years and brought this audition to, it was a story about John Wilkes Booth, a guy who assassinated Abraham Lincoln and she played the wife of somebody. Well, she didn’t get the part, but we auditioned, but something about that. We fought. I mean, I wouldn’t say fought, but every idea I had she didn’t like. She didn’t like anything I had to say, but somehow it worked and we kept working together.
Terry K.: And then she got the pilot for Shameless, which I coached her on and she got the part, and that was nine seasons and several movies and the hiatus that we did and now we’re working on this amazing project. I mean, I just hope it really all comes together the way I think it’s going to, about this woman, Angeline, who’s this before the Kardashians, self-made person in LA who’s famous just for being famous.
Ryan Perez: About real figure?
Allison Spence: Is she the one that drives the pink car.
Terry K.: She’s the pink car lady. Yeah, yeah.
Allison Spence: Yeah, I see that car.
Terry K.: So there was a story about her in the Hollywood reporter, which Emmy read, an expose of who this mysterious because her name’s not really Angeline, but she would never tell you that. She has a pink Corvette. She just had all these billboards all over LA that she had paid for just of her, she had a boob job and blonde hair.
Ryan Perez: It was nepotism money or?
Terry K.: She’s really good at getting people to pay for things, she trades them. I don’t know, she’d get her dentist to pay for it or whatever. I mean she’s a fascinating person, and this Hollywood reporter article fascinated Emmy and so she bought the rights and it’s now going to be a six episode limited series that she’s going to star in. She’s the producer of, they’re getting ready to start shooting in January. And she pitched that and Netflix wanted it, Hulu wanted it, Amazon wanted it. And ultimately Universal, who also does Mr. Robot because her husband is Sam Esmail are the ones who bought it. So, she’s all in on that. She’s working on the voice. She’s working on the walk. She flies here just to work with me on it.
Ryan Perez: She lives in LA?
Terry K.: Well, she’s bicoastal, but yeah.
Ryan Perez: Got it. That’s amazing.
Terry K.: Yeah.
Ryan Perez: I’m curious to ask you, I’ll dig into your studio, but with someone like Sam, I am such a big fan of Sam Rockwell. And-
Terry K.: Tell me why.
Ryan Perez: I just always thought his acting coach was just so fucking good. No, but there was something I … The way-
Terry K.: Because, I don’t think there’s anyone like him.
Ryan Perez: The only person that I would put like him, he’s a very close friend of mine is Shea Whigham. Do you know Shea?
Terry K.: I love Shea.
Ryan Perez: She did my podcast.
Terry K.: Emmy directed Shea in that Modern Love thing for the New York Times with Julia Garner.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, she did Homecoming. Yeah.
Terry K.: Yeah, yeah.
Ryan Perez: Oh yeah, Julia was at his house. That’s right. The same way that Shea is like, I don’t mean to sound rude, but they’re not Leo in the sense of that Romeo and Juliet looks, but they’re not ugly in the sense of like …
Terry K.: It’s like quirky leading man.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, total leading man. You identify for them and you root for them. I remember, God, what’s the first Sam Rockwell experience I had? Maybe it was Matchstick Men or I can’t-
Terry K.: Galaxy Quest.
Ryan Perez: Galaxy Quest, that was it. Yeah, it was Galaxy Quest.
Terry K.: So, good.
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: Or the Green Mile.
Ryan Perez: The Green Mile, of course. Yeah. And I loved him. He was such a magnetic performer. I hear what you mean by the anger and-
Terry K.: But hurt, right?
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: He’s got a broken heart.
Allison Spence: He’s got some swagg to him too. You know what I mean? I like-
Terry K.: He’s a bad ass. He dances a lot , he’s a great dancer.
Ryan Perez: I’m so curious for someone like him, I feel now he’s obviously in the mainstream, but it wasn’t really until three billboards I feel in a way that people in Iowa were like, yes Sam Rockwell. I feel like even five, six years-
Terry K.: Charlie’s Angels.
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: Sam was incredibly strategic, just talking about the business for a second, because he’s a consummate artist, but he also has an amazing agent, Rhonda Price at Gersh who’s been with him the whole time.
Ryan Perez: He’s still with Gersh?
Terry K.: Yeah.
Ryan Perez: Wow, even after the Oscar.
Terry K.: Rhonda is amazing.
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: His Oscars is at Rhonda’s office right now, because his house is getting renovated and he’s got a loft down in the East Village and he didn’t want it to get dusty, so it’s at Rhonda’s office.
Allison Spence: Rhonda’s taking care of it.
Terry K.: They together were very strategic of laddering up his opportunities. Like he’d play a good part in an indie film, which would lead to Charlie’s Angels where he’s the bad guy, and then he’d do a lead role in an Indie film and then that would lead to Iron Man 2 where he is the bad … Right? And so they kept bouncing back, one for me, one for you, one for me, one for you. One small where I get to be totally artistic and one more studio film where it’s a smaller part. It’s not a lead, it’s not Three Billboards yet.
Ryan Perez: And he and McDonagh had a relationship, right?
Terry K.: Yeah, where he did …
Allison Spence: He did Behanding, right?
Terry K.: He did Behanding in Spokane the Chris Walken on Broadway. He did … What’s the other …
Ryan Perez: The Christmas movie.
Terry K.: Seven Psychopaths.
Ryan Perez: Seven Psychopaths, yeah.
Terry K.: Which he wrote the part for Sam. He wrote Three Billboards for Sam and for Francis. And there’s another project somewhere out there that they’re going to do.
Ryan Perez: Amazing.
Terry K.: Yeah.
Ryan Perez: I’m curious, so now that you have a studio, can you talk about the decision to form that?
Terry K.: Yeah. Well, I love teaching actors. I like the coaching, but I don’t think I’d be happy just coaching because you’re always coaching for the project, not necessarily for the art of it. And there’s some stupid projects out there that actors have to do to pay the rent. And so sometimes when you work on those sides or those scripts, the people I’m working with, obviously we’re trying to make the best work possible, but at the end of the day, it’s that writing, and that directing, that whatever. And sometimes that can be a little disappointing. It’s not as pure as I would like and nothing’s pure.
Terry K.: So, I love teaching because that’s really just about the art. I mean we do focus on, okay, now that you know how to act, how are you going to go out there and make it work? We have a Third Year Program with a wonderful set of teachers, Katie Flahive and Allison Brzezinski, which is all about taking charge of-
Ryan Perez: I know Allison.
Terry K.: Yeah, she’s great.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, what an angel.
Terry K.: Yeah. So she teaches people about branding, but we don’t think about that for the first two years. We just get in and like, let’s get your instrument opened up and then let’s really learn how to be craftspeople and artists. So I love doing that. It’s the Meisner work, it’s what I learned from Bill. Bill was an amazing and extraordinary teacher and an amazing mentor, and also a great businessman. I mean he really took a small studio and organically grew it into one of the most important studios in the world and I could have stayed there. That was a great place to work, a wonderful place to work and it’s a wonderful place to train.
Terry K.: Ultimately, this part of me that likes to control things, wanted to have some more influence on the curriculum, wanted to decide what color to paint the walls.
Ryan Perez: The logical next step.
Terry K.: Just wanted to … I mean, that is a next step for when you have a mentor, eventually you want to spread your wings. And so much later than Bill did, I decided in 2015 to step away and start this thing in Brooklyn and knock on wood, we’re doing okay.
Ryan Perez: I’m curious just to ask you, because Allison and I, we went to NYU together and I have a lot of things I could say about that training, but it wasn’t my favorite and I’m-
Terry K.: Meaning the Strasberg training?
Ryan Perez: Yeah, they-
Terry K.: I studied there for a summer.
Ryan Perez: They dropped the studio while I was there.
Terry K.: No.
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: It’s still there though.
Ryan Perez: They took three years off and brought it back.
Terry K.: Wow.
Ryan Perez: They fired Strasberg while I was there and it was in a really bad place.
Terry K.: Meaning Anna Strasberg, when you say they fired Strasberg?
Ryan Perez: Yeah. They severed ties with the studio. I was allowed to stay if I waned, but I was like my, the only person that I was friends with who’s honestly obviously working now, Rachel Brosnahan, she stayed. I was like fuck this place, I dropped at NYU and I went on tour, came back later and got serious about acting. But none of this has to do with me. I’m curious to ask you, speaking of talking about Kim Kardashian and things like that, I’m curious to ask you now, when you have students, Shea Whigham speak of the devil, said on this podcast, now we have so many people that want to win American Idol, but nobody wants to be like Janis Joplin or Bob Dylan-
Terry K.: 1000%.
Ryan Perez: Playing subways. So, how do you deal with these actors that come to you that have Instagram and they see all these people that can be famous?
Terry K.: I’m not the right teacher for them.
Ryan Perez: Wow.
Terry K.: The tagline for our studio is training the passionate actor committed to excellence. So, that’s our North star is getting good, right? I believe that excellence leads to success. You can also get successful and never take an acting class. There are personalities out there who hire coaches who have 100,000 Instagram followers and they will work. But when they’re done working, meaning at the end of whenever they stop working, they will not have a body of work that they can be proud of for the most part.
Ryan Perez: Of course.
Terry K.: Acting’s very hard to learn on the job. There are a few people who do. Elizabeth Moss didn’t really take too many acting classes and she took ballet, she took acting, but not really that much. And she’s a self-taught person, but that’s very unusual. Most really good actors need training and that’s why places like Juilliard and NYU and Yale still exist and are not doing badly. People still want to go to Yale and go to Juilliard.
Terry K.: So, I really believe in the conservatory approach. I taught at the Experimental Theater Wing while I was teaching at the Esper Studio and in my own studio until just this past September, I left. I retired. So I think there are two kinds of actors. There are actors going with this Shea thing who want to be famous and there are actors who want to be good. And I want to work with the actors who want to be good. So if someone comes in and I mean I do the same thing that Bill said to me, I don’t want you to audition. And I lose a lot of students because they want to work on their career and work on their training simultaneously. But that goes to that story of when I was at Circle in the Square and people were training and then not putting so much into their training because they want to go audition. You’ve only got so much energy.
Ryan Perez: You can’t be one foot in one foot out.
Terry K.: Yeah. But, they get scared and agents are making this bad because they’ll say, “You don’t need to train. Come on, it’s pilot season. Get a coach.” Two years? We didn’t think twice when we studied with Bill. Two years was nothing. Now they go, “Do you have a weekend workshop where I could learn how to act?” Would you say that to a violinist? Right? I mean, honest to God, I mean it’s horrifying.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, it is horrifying.
Terry K.: It’s horrifying, right? But that is the big hurdle that most of … What we’re doing is anti-glacial, right? The thing we’re trying to do, this two year training, most actors don’t want to do that. It’s just too long. That’s the biggest, I can’t audition and it’s too long. But if you want to be good, it goes by in a heartbeat. And you will come out a better … It’s an investment in your talent.
Allison Spence: [inaudible 00:52:03] you always say, invest in yourself and it will come back.
Ryan Perez: Yeah. Also, not to discredit the very institution that created all of us. I believe you’re doing …
Terry K.: I’m not going to let NYU have the credit for creating me.
Ryan Perez: I don’t want to say God because [crosstalk 00:52:17].
Allison Spence: It brought me to you though that’s why I’m a Terry-
Terry K.: It brought me to you but would you say that it created you?
Allison Spence: No.
Terry K.: God no.
Allison Spence: I mean, I met you at Esper actually. So.
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: Yeah.
Allison Spence: Yeah.
Ryan Perez: But, I love that you’re doing that and you started on your own and that, because I spoke to Kathleen Turner about this, just like would you recommend an actor go to an NYU, Yale and encumber a quarter of million dollars debt? Now, I personally wouldn’t, but to a studio like yours, I would tell you, it’s paramount that they do that. And before we wrap up, this is a very loaded question, but I’m sure there’s a lot of answers you’ll give.
Terry K.: Are you ever low energy, Ryan by the way?
Ryan Perez: I just did a kilo of cocaine.
Terry K.: Yeah, right.
Ryan Perez: No, I’m not actually. And, I’m sure Allison has experienced this. I’ve seen a lot of actors who study, but they can be really bad auditioners.
Terry K.: Yeah.
Ryan Perez: What do you think makes for a great audition?
Terry K.: Practice and a mindset. I mean, you have to treat it … I think it was Bryan Cranston who said, no, Kevin Spacey, another tricky name these days, but that you’re not really auditioning for this part, you’re auditioning for the next part and you’re there to form a relationship. And Bill always used to say, because on the last day of class, what’s on everybody’s mind is, okay, what’s next? We’re going to leave the nest. We’ve been here for two years, so ah, right? And he’d say, look, he told the story of a guy who was in a movie called The Lady Killers with Peter Sellers, right?
Ryan Perez: They remade that, didn’t they?
Terry K.: They might’ve. So, he was this British actor, this British character actor. And then he didn’t have another part til 20 years later. And so Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show was interviewing him. This is the story Bill would tell every last class. And Johnny Carson said like, “Well tell me, I mean, what’s it like for you to have a job 20 years ago and then not act for 20 years?” He said, “Well, Mr. Carson, the very best job that I think exists in the world is to be a working actor. But the second best is to be a non-working actor.” So there’s that and there’s the love of it and just having fun.
Terry K.: First of all, I think you should prepare well and then say, fuck it, because the odds are you won’t get the job. If they’re going to see a hundred people, you have a 1% chance of getting a job.
Ryan Perez: Even when you get the audition.
Terry K.: Even if you get the audition. So you might as well just not be attached to it. Go in, have some fun.
Ryan Perez: Bloomerang it.
Terry K.: I was listening to a podcast recently where immediately after the audition, the guy rips up the sides, and throws them out as a ritual to say, I’m done. It’s done. And then if they call, that’s a bonus. And just-
Ryan Perez: That’s the vacation.
Terry K.: Right.
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: And if you just keep doing that and you just have to audition a lot, you have to find opportunities to meet people and put as many fishing poles in the water as possible, and eventually you’ll get to know the casting directors in New York and eventually someone’s going to like your work and remember you for the next time. That’s what happened with Sam and Moon, Sam Rockwell. It was directed by Duncan, David Bowie’s son, I’m forgetting his last name, and Sam auditioned for him. He doesn’t audition that much now, but it was an audition and he didn’t get the part, but Duncan Jones is his name because David Bowie, David Jones, remembered him and wrote Moon for him three years later. And sent it and said, “Hey, I wrote this for you.”
Ryan Perez: One of my favorite films.
Terry K.: An amazing film, right? So, you never know when you cast your bread upon the waters when it’s going to come back. So, you just have to keep putting out good work. And auditioning is a mindset like a lot of actors freeze. You need to stay playful, and loose and say, look, this is my version of what you got. This may not be what you’re looking for, but here’s what I got and I love moments, so let’s rock and roll and have some fun.
Ryan Perez: I’m not saying everyone will get to Sam Rockwell, but do you genuinely believe that if you keep putting in the work and you keep doing the work, something will come?
Terry K.: If you keep doing good work.
Ryan Perez: Good work.
Terry K.: Right. This reminds me, he used to say it takes two years to train an actor, which is astounding because it takes a lot longer to learn the violin or ballet, but it’s because of all this human training that we’re doing, and observing people and then 10 to 20 years to master it. It’s like the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours thing. But that’s use it or lose it. So if you’re out of work, you’ve got to do something, get together with friends. Read a play every week, do something in a basement. Find a way to keep doing the work, do a student film because if you’re waiting for something and your six months between jobs, you’re going to get rusty.
Ryan Perez: Totally.
Terry K.: You want to do Kung Fu, you got to do it every day.
Ryan Perez: Yeah. Where can people that are interested in taking a class with you or auditing or enrolling in your conservatory, where’s a good place for them to go?
Terry K.: Yeah. Thank you. We’re not big on auditing, which also loses us students, but we’re trying to create a very safe space for actors to explore stuff and-
Ryan Perez: Yeah, got to have 20 strangers in a room.
Terry K.: Yeah, just to change those things. So, we interview students. We do this two year program twice a year, so we got one that just started in September and we’re currently almost full for January, but we have a few spots left and they can go to my website.
Ryan Perez: Wait, what is that website, Terry?
Terry K.: That’s a secret, terryknickerbockerstudio.com.
Ryan Perez: Terryknickerbockerstudio.com.
Terry K.: They can find us on Instagram.
Allison Spence: Instagram
Terry K.: Allison is the curator of the Instagram account, which we have a lot of fun.
Allison Spence: Yeah, we do. We have a lot of silly stories on there too.
Ryan Perez: Amazing.
Terry K.: I wanted to say that my studio has, in addition to an amazing faculty, I’m not the only … I mean we teach movement and voice and we do consider ourselves to be an affordable alternative to an MFA program. So that $250,000 debt thing, we think there’s no evidence that-
Ryan Perez: I might be enrolling.
Terry K.: Yeah. You don’t have to go to Yale to be a good actor and it’s a great school. But we also got an amazing community and we’re in an amazing place out in Industry City in Brooklyn. So everything we do, we’re aiming for excellence. We don’t always get there, but we think that our staff has to be excellent, our space has to be excellent. Our teachers have to be excellent, and everything we do we’re aiming to be really interested in doing the best we can do every day. Yeah.
Ryan Perez: Well you just gained a new student here. I’m going to have to come interview for your-
Terry K.: I’m going to hold you to that.
Ryan Perez: Yeah. Well, Terry Knickerbocker, thank you so much for being here and it means a lot to me. Thank you for sharing your story. And Allison, you know how much I love you. Thank you for your time.
Allison Spence: Thank you.
Terry K.: What do you love about Allison?
Ryan Perez: How can you not love her? She walks into a room, that energy. She’s just so warm.
Terry K.: She’s warm.
Ryan Perez: Yeah.
Terry K.: Warm and sweet and funny and cookie.
Ryan Perez: Yeah, you just root for her.
Allison Spence: Glad I have that on tape now. Thank you guys.
Ryan Perez: There’s going to be a lot of cool things coming from her too. But Terry Knickerbocker-
Terry K.: I want to tell you a joke.
Ryan Perez: Yes.
Terry K.: Two jokes.
Ryan Perez: Okay.
Terry K.: What do you call a cow without legs?
Ryan Perez: Ground beef.
Terry K.: Ground beef. What do you call a cow that’s very tall?
Ryan Perez: I don’t know.
Terry K.: High stakes.
Ryan Perez: Parting words from Terry Knickerbocker. Thank you so much.
Terry K.: You’re welcome.
Allison Spence: Thank you.
Ryan Perez: If you liked the show, rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen the podcasts. Thank you for listening.