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Tricks of the Trade: Judi Evans

How do you memorize a long monologue? “Honestly, it can be a lot easier than dialogue, because usually a monologue is telling a story. Each line leads to the next line, which leads to the next bit of the story. The only thing that sometimes is hard is when you’re saying a lot of names, like companies or people. When you’re trying to remember the order, sometimes you have to use little tricks. Like if it’s Alice, Tom and then you’re saying Hope and Bo in that order, you have to remember A, T, H, B. You know you’re going to get to that, so in the back of your mind you’re going, ‘A, T, H, B.’ Sometimes they’ll use a lot of adjectives in a row starting with same letter, so I have to memorize them in a way to keep them in the right order. It’s like using both sides of your brain at the same time.”

What do you do if your scene partner doesn’t feed you a cue you’re expecting or forgets a line? “This is where, if you’re really prepared, it’s easy. It means you know your lines, which also means you know their lines. If you have done your homework about what the scene is about and what your character is trying to do and all that, then you can relax. You’re not thinking about your lines and you’re listening. So when your scene partner says something and it’s different, or they give you a different cue, you can take what they say, twist it around, and move it into the dialogue that you are saying.”

How do you break down a complicated script? “First I get the lines down completely. Then it’s, ‘What is the scene about?’ ‘What do I need to get in the scene?’ ‘Where have I come from?’ Even to the point when I’m walking in the door: ‘Did I drive myself?’ ‘Did a driver drive me?’ ‘Did I have road rage?’ It’s really breaking down the character and doing that extra homework. I usually learn my lines at least a week in advance, then I’m mentally thinking about the scene and what the nuances will be. You have to figure out all the different things you’re feeling.”

How do you handle your nerves before a big scene? “I have nerves every single day I walk out on the set. I always feel like, ‘Today might be my last day.’ I just try to focus on what the scene’s about and breathe. Because I’ve done my homework, it channels those nerves into nervous energy, which channels into the scene. If I hadn’t done my homework, I would be a mess. Sometimes I still am a mess, if I have a lot of dialogue. I’m a perfectionist, and I really have a lot of respect for our writers. They took the time to write the script. I want to say it exactly how they wrote it, but make it my own. I’m such a stickler for that.”
How do you like to run lines with a scene partner? “As much as humanly possible. Usually when you’re running lines with another actor, it’s the first time you’re actually hearing it. You’re hearing what they’re bringing into it, and that might change something that you’re going to play. It can give you some surprises. You also get a bigger perspective sometimes about what the scene’s about and what you’re doing in it. Hopefully, you’re running it so much and so hard that you know it backwards and forwards, so in that moment you can do something totally different and it will add another layer to the scene. It’s like doing sit-ups until it burns, and then you end up with a washboard.”

How do you cry on cue? Is it easy or hard for you? “It’s always hard; I’m just open to the emotions. It may not happen on the line they wrote it on, but if I’m committed in the scene and where it’s going, it’s going to come, hopefully. I can’t cry on cue because I don’t do fake tears. I can’t squeeze out a tear. I’ve got to be in that moment. I’ve got to be feeling whatever I’m feeling and it’s going to come when it’s going to come.”

How do you prepare for stunts/fight scenes? “That’s so exciting. That brings out the tomboy in me. I can’t wait to do them. Sometimes the stunt guys will come in and they [start explaining things]. I’ll go, ‘No, no, no. I’ll take the fall. I’m good. I’ve got three older brothers. Believe me, I can do it.’ I get all excited and start thinking about it ahead of time, especially with physical comedy. When they write that stuff in it’s big and broad, and I like it. It’s a break from the crying.”
How do you prepare for love scenes? “I have to be honest, I work with great guys, but it’s always kind of uncomfortable. You’re playing very intimate scenes in front of a lot of people on the set. That’s always uncomfortable. I always have body issues and I sweat like a pig because I get so nervous and uncomfortable. Because I have negative issues about my body, I get really tense about it. So I’m thinking about it and sweating. Then the moment comes, that’s out the window, we’re in the scene, it’s over, and I’m comfortable again until I leave.”

What do you do when you can’t remember a line? “There’s that moment of panic, but you just have to relax. Usually, if you just take a breath, it comes to you. Or, if you’ve known in rehearsal that you’re doing a hiccup on a certain line, you have to figure out what mental note to give yourself in character. What’s going to make me think of it? Because you want to save the scene. If you mess up too much, eventually they let you go because time is money.”
How do you shake off feeling like you didn’t do your best work in a scene? “That’s really hard, because nobody beats me up better than I do. It’s so important to do my best. If it’s not my best, I’m so dejected. I think about all the ways I could have done it better all the way home and the next few days. Then I have to shake it off later. I go, ‘Look. You did your homework. You did the best you could.’ Sometimes the stars just aren’t in alignment. You’ve got 52 weeks here, so hopefully tomorrow or the next will make up for it. Because not every day is going to be your best.”

Is there a ritual or anything specific you do to get into character? “Mostly when I walk onto the soundstage, I’m already in character. I get up in the morning and think, ‘How’s Bonnie brushing her teeth? How’s Bonnie taking a shower?’ I’m always thinking about Bonnie — how she drives, how she grocery shops…. And when I’m doing things, I’m always thinking about how Bonnie’s doing things. When I’m starting to drive to work, I’m already in Bonnie’s world. When I’m on set, sometimes I’ll be Judi for a minute in between scenes, technically, but I can slam into Bonnie.”