Practicing Showing Up: Off Camera with Sam Jones & Robert Downey, Jr.

Part of the aim of Perspectives on Practice is to share the views of people who don’t necessarily have thousands of twitter followers or an enormous audience outside of their own communities, but who have important insights to share regardless of the amount of traffic or attention they garner. I won’t rule out these people out however – some of them are shared so heavily precisely because their perspective is so valuable and needed. So, while I finish editing the next interview in the series, here is a great conversation with a big fish, Robert Downey, Jr.

Although I admire his acting, I’ve not read much about Robert Downey, Jr. – or seen many interviews. I had no idea what to expect, but I loved this conversation with filmmaker Sam Jones for his project Off Camera (which I highly recommend reading or viewing on the source page, it’s beautifully done), and the insights that they both share. Although practice is not a stated topic, the entire discussion relates to practice and the role it plays in their individual and shared work. I had not thought much about acting as a practice as I’ve worked on this project, but it became clear to me through RDJ’s words that of course it must be, and must also require volumes of empathy to get inside the skin of the human being played.

On being a generalist:

RDJ: “Everything pays off. Anything you take an interest in as an artist, you’ll be able to use in your work.”

Sam Jones: “I think that my favorite artist are generalists. I feel like they just have this natural curiosity about everything, so there’s no way you can’t get involved.”

On leadership and on being present:

RDJ: “I recognize that great leadership requires a great ability to not do anything. In other words, to not try to make things happen, to be conscious of what’s occurring in the moment and be very flexible with where things go but very rooted in, you know, the principle of what you’re trying to do.”

SJ: “… As you get older I think that’s really true, get enough sleep, have the energy, and you’ve gotten to the end of the day successfully so many times that you just come to trust that.”

On being prepared vs. just showing up:

RDJ: “Extreme precision and extreme imprecision both yield great rewards, it’s that grey area in the middle that to me is the danger zone.”

SJ: “In other words have a plan. Either yes, be totally prepared, or know that you’re going to go in and grab the magic.

Jones and RDJ also shift into a wonderful discussion of how songwriters work and different approaches to the practice of songwriting, which I found to be a wonderful lead in to the next interview, a conversation with songwriter Taylor Carson that I’m so pleased to share. Look for that early next week.

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