Something happened last Sunday night. Something that doesn’t happen for too many of us. Four actors got the recognition of a lifetime and were awarded an Oscar. For their artistic contribution. For a piece of work that meant something to many. For telling a story that touched us.
Something else happened that night. Something that doesn’t happen to too many teachers. Sam Rockwell, in an acceptance speech that quite frankly ranks high in one of the classiest speeches I can remember, not only dedicated his award to his late great actor and friend, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but Sam also mentioned a name that most likely didn’t ring too many bells with many. His acting coach.
He thanked a teacher for where he was that day. For what we had accomplished up until that point. And that man is Terry Knickerbocker.
Now Terry doesn’t coach actors for the praise. He certainly doesn’t do it for the awards. He doesn’t do it to say he got to meet this person, or rub elbows with this one. And that’s what made Sam’s recognition of Terry’s contribution to the artist he is today so special. It’s nice to see those at the top, recognize those who helped them get there.
Terry and Sam have been close friends and collaborators for over 25 years. Sam has lovingly called Terry his “secret weapon” and we at the Studio have annoyingly repeated this phrase more times than I care to remember.
No man is an island, and it’s inspiring to see when those bellow deck, quietly helping chug a ship along for years, emerges to see the sun for the briefest of moments, in one of the most public of spotlights.
So in short, who is this Terry Knickerbocker that Sam Rockwell happened to mentioned in his acceptance speech? He’s a man who has the biggest drive for teaching actors I’ve ever seen. As fellow actor and TK alumni Darius Homayoun writes:
“I’ve yet to meet anyone more in love with the art of teaching actors. Terry may first strike you as simply gifted…but that would belie the fact that no one works as hard as he does. And that is what makes him not only a brilliant teacher but, more importantly, an unceasingly reliable one.
“Terry always knows which parts of you to encourage: when to push or when to back off. He knows when to let you fall flat on your face and when to hold your hand.
When to ground you in technique and when to coax your imagination into flight.
His depth of knowledge of acting, theatre, film and all the arts is apparently bottomless.
His breadth of knowledge covers so many differing facets of life that it hurts my head.
Honestly, the man knows more about everything than anyone I’ve ever met, which impresses me mostly because it’s indicative of just how interested he is.
Most importantly: he knows when to leave you alone. That, to me, is the mark of a truly great teacher. One who actually wants you to not need them anymore.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Darius.