Finding A Rhythm That Works With Hollywood Acting Coach Jack Turnbull

Hailee Seinfeld. Brittany Snow. Joey King. Taylor Lautner. Victoria Justice. Bailee Madison.

What do these successful young actors have in common? They've all worked with acting coach Jack Turnbull.

Jack, an acting coach from Actorsite in North Hollywood, California, and a former talent manager, has a background of young stars and many adults who he's coached to callbacks, book roles, and sharpen their acting skills.

Hailee was one of his most dedicated young students, coming to class 3-5 times a week, said Jack.

"I had a chair reserved for her mom every day," he said with a laugh. "Another mother whos kid was the star of a popular Disney show at the time also sat next to Hailee's mom. They're still really good friends. We all stay connected on Facebook."

Jack said that while many young actors really embody the character they're auditioning for, they don't always have the chops to make it work for them in the audition room. That's what Jack works on with them. And then, he instructs the students to go home and continue to work on their scenes or sides.

"Acting is a muscle and you have to work it out," he said is the main idea behind his teachings.


Jack doesn't follow a specific technique, he said. He avoids techniques because he believes that "no way is the way".

"The greatest coaches in Hollywood don't get into different methods or swear by techniques. They know about them and use them from time to time on different clients, which is what we do. I have seven different techniques that I coach with. But I don't use any of them unless there's a problem," he said.

Jack said the most influential coach in the past 30-40 years was Roy London. He taught over 250 actors weekly and never had to advertise his classes.

"Roy worked on an outside-in substitution type of technique. What it did was create life behind the eyes. I use that for a lot of my clients if I see that their eyes are dead. It's about how to be still with your face but still have life behind the eyes. Most of my kids have a lot of life, but with adults it usually helps to get them thinking about other things instead of just thinking about the sides their working on," said Jack.

Roy's most successful student was Ivana Chubbuck, who now owns her own studio and is a highly sought-after coach in Hollywood. Doug Warhit is another successful coach to come from Roy London's teachings. (Note to actors: this is some good information to research and learn about the evolution of some of these successful coaches and their ways of teaching. I think it's great to know these things.)

"When I was a manager, I used all of them to coach my clients because they were so good," he said.

Jack said that while he was a manager, he began hosting workshops that escalated his success, and that's when he started getting a lot of kids on series in tv shows.

"It was a really big hit with the kids and the adults. Many of the adults I taught are now teaching and they're really great coaches," he said.

"As a coach all we can do is try and analyze the material. It's like in football: if we're coaching somebody during the game, it's a lot different than coaching them to prep for the game. I'm much better at prepping for the game than during the game, because that's what we do. It's our job to solve the problems before the auditon," he said.

Basically, Jack said, some coaches are better at working with actors on set to become that character they're playing, whereas others, like himself, are better at working with the actors to book the character by using more of themselves in the audition, and sell that to the producer.

"It's just about building up the confidence, helping them to be themselves, and coaching them to have the room at 'Hello' when they walk in the door," said Jack.


At an audition, Jack said that actors typically have about ten seconds before they lose the attention of the casting directors and other people in the audition room.

Actors must speak clearly, deliver every line with clarity and compelling emotion, and have a legitimate conversation with the reader.

"They have to see that you can tell the story," said Jack.

He praises acting teacher Margie Haber for her ability to encourage actors to simply tell the story, without getting into their heads too much, something that Jack believes is a key to a compelling audition.

"I've had great luck with young adults, however I've found that young people have a much harder time defining their character. Once they reach 25 or 26, many of them become great character actors. If they can accept that they are a character actors, they can go on to have fantastic careers," said Jack.

Kids can learn so quickly, and within 3 months of consistent training they can become very skilled young actors. Whereas with adults, it could take them up to 3 years to break down their walls.

"Adults don't think they can be silly, or they say that they can't see themselves being weird or crazy for a role. And all they are doing is wasting their money. Everybody has all of these qualities within them. They just have to find it," he said.

That's where different techniques can come in handy, such as emotional recall or simply, using their imagination.

The biggest key for a good scene, said Jack, is being able to flip emotions immediately.

"I teach that crying isn't emotional at all. With little kids, it's a manipulation. Kids know that they have to cry in order to get something that they want. There's no magic to feelings and emotions. Eventually I actually have to work with my students on toning it down."

Access to their emotions is a sign of a talented actor, he says, and this is something we began learning from the acting teacher who started the basis of how acting is taught today, Konstantin Stanislavski.

"Stanislavski in the Moscow Theater progressed his teachings to an imagination-based technique so that his actors didn't have to actually experience trauma to be able to play a trauma victim, for example," said Jack.

And today, with scene study classes that teach actors to break down a scene, Jack warned that in the scene, it should be about your partner and feeling from them-- not yourself.

Also, the classic book "Audition" by Michael Shurtleff is a book that Jack recommended, saying that most acting coaches today derive their teaching about auditions and preparing for them from Shurtleff's original 15 guideposts.


When I asked Jack about some techniques that he uses when working on scenes with his clients, he said the rhythm technique, which is about finding the most unusual rhythm with the lines and words, is one he uses a lot.

"I worked with the coach and casting director from the set of Seinfeld on this technique and I began using it with my students. Because when you go into an audition and have the most unusual or interesting rhythm, they'll book you! That's what they want!" said Jack.

Looking at the words and finding new emotions by saying them or enunciating them differently makes for a very interesting performance that will grab the attention of casting directors in the room.

"Even the simplest of lines can become more emotionally charged with this technique, and we look for what I call 'the callback line', which is the line that we make sound unusual, and when the casting director sees that, they almost always call that person back in," said Jack.

He said that when writers or directors highlight a word in a script, actors should take a breath before and after that word, with the same tone of voice, to put a different kind of emphasize rather than just being loud. Jack said to consider lines and words by experimenting with higher, lower, faster, slower, louder or softer levels of speech.

"Try and play opposite of the script, and opposite of what would usually be done," Jack said.

For adult actors, Jack said to consider dynamic speech -- saying words in a higher or lower tone of voice than they are used to, and speaking the words clearly.

"Good actors can do that. Almost all of the stars, you understand everything they say. Even when Johnny Depp is playing a drunk, you can understand him still," said Jack.

With all of this in mind, Jack said that there is no magic behind acting. It's simply saying the words and having a conversation with your partner.

"There's no secret formula to become a great actor. No way is the way. Experiment with the lines, find a unique rhythm, and find that character in yourself."


Thanks to Jack Turnbull for his time, and for this great information for actors!

ACTORS: For only $99 a month, you can join Jack's Awesome Acting Club via Actorsite and take online OR in-person classes. You can be anywhere in the world and still study with Jack! (I've been taking the classes and I love them!)


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