How ‘Brockmire’’s Amanda Peet shook off her stage fright
The future didn’t look promising when Amanda Peet first thought she wanted to be an actress. While she’s gone on to impress in shows like “The Whole Nine Yards,” “The Good Wife” and “Brockmire,” which is in its fourth and final season, she suffered from paralyzing stage fright.
When she attended Columbia University, she failed at every single audition.
“I’m not bitter about it,” she shrugs. “I think I was offered some kind of handmaiden type of role in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but I swear to God that was it."
A self-confessed “class clown,” Peet explains, “I did all the school plays in my tiny little Quaker school in Manhattan growing up. I was the star of a lot of those plays. But then when I got to Columbia, I think I was probably a little too cocky coming from that tiny little school.
“And no one would have me, which was good for me to go through that before being tossed out into the real world, where I got rejected every five seconds.”
Every five seconds, for sure. She tagged a few commercials, managed some off-Broadway stuff, and was supporting herself by nannying and waitressing. But she was still incapacitated by stage fright.
“I was very scared, even if I was shooting a commercial,” says Peet. “I was usually trembling and couldn’t catch my breath. My experience of doing any tiny little thing was as if I was doing a movie with Robert De Niro or something like that.
“So I started just saying ‘yes’ to everything. Everything I got, I would just do it so I could try to feel less precious about it. After a while, it started working, and I started to feel a little more comfortable when I saw the camera, when I knew it was my turn for my coverage. I started to learn to breathe.”
She confided her fears to veteran actress Anne Meara (Ben Stiller’s mom). “She was smoking a cigarette and looked at me and said, ‘As soon as you want to be good, you’re dead!’ It was an important moment, and I’ve held on to it,” says Peet.
“There are different degrees of nervousness,” she says. “You can be paralyzed. I couldn’t stand it when people said to me, ‘That’s a good thing! That means you love it.’ No, I’m talking about paralysis or diarrhea — either way, I can’t function.”
The 48-year-old admits she may have suffered from attention deficit disorder, too. “I think I did have ADD, but I’m sure I was not diagnosed,” she says. “If you try to become an actor, it’s a pretty good fit for someone with ADD. You can work in spurts. I think that’s a good thing for someone like me.”
After college, she rented a studio apartment in New York while she looked for work.
“Ít was on the ground floor so it had bars in front of it, so it kind of resembled a jail cell,” she laughs.
“It wasn’t cheap … It was across from the Palladium, so drunk people used to come and pee through the bars so it kind of smelled like urine. So I have a funny memory of my mom leaning her arm through the slots pouring vinegar to try to get the smell to go away.”
Married to writer David Benioff (he co-wrote “Game of Thrones”), Peet is the mother of three: daughters, 13 and 9, and a 5-year-old son.
She says Benioff has been guiding her efforts to become a writer.
“For a while, I thought about going back to school, but it wasn’t really feasible … so he’s been a mentor to me,” she says. “Sometimes I get really scared about what would’ve happened if I hadn’t met him — because for so many reasons.
“When I met David, he started saying, ‘Don’t take that role. The writing isn’t there.’ And I’d say, ‘But it’s such a big movie. It’s going to be so HUGE.’ He’d say, ‘So what? No one’s passing you the ball; there’s no role here. You’re just the wife — there’s no story here. You’re playing the same note over and over again.’ It wasn’t until I had children that I started really saying no,” she recalls.
“Having children has made me more flexible. I have a wonderful therapist who told me, ‘As a mother, strive for mediocrity.’”
Peet confides she’s sad that IFC’s “Brockmire,” which features Hank Azaria as an uncensored sports announcer, is ending.
“I guess I loved the fact that my character was a raging alcoholic, owner of a minor league baseball team, not interested in having children, pushing 50,” she says.
“It’s one thing to get a part like that in your 30s, but I liked that she is just unapologetically single. And I hadn’t read something like that. And I’m pretty crass, I have a bawdy sense of humor, so that appealed to me. And I love Hank.”
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