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Actors use YouTube to prepare for roles

  • Slate
  • Published Friday, August 2, 2013, at 12:34 p.m.

Cop shows and medical dramas have always called upon the services of lawyers and physicians to ensure that television represents their professions with at least a semblance of accuracy. As Alyssa Rosenberg noted on Think Progress recently, technical advisers are also helping actors to provide credible portrayals of autism (“Parenthood”) and paraplegia (NBC’s “Ironside” reboot).

These days, though, motivated actors have another powerful tool at their disposal when they are preparing a role: YouTube.

When he was cast in the new Ironside, Pablo Schreiber, who grew up in Canada without television, used the service to find clips of the original series so that he could get a sense of its tone.

That kind of basic research is just the beginning.

Claire Danes told the Television Critics Association recently that when she is preparing to enter the chemically imbalanced mind of Carrie Mathison, she consults books about bipolar disorder, but she also fires up YouTube: “People who have this condition, bipolar, are often up late at night and have a lot of energy and a desire to talk and no one to talk to, so they talk to the camera, and that’s always very useful.”

But YouTube is especially helpful to actors cast to play characters who really existed. When Gregory Itzkin landed the role of Mayor Fletcher Bowron in “Lost Angels,” “Walking Dead” creator Frank Darabont’s forthcoming TNT series about Los Angeles in the 1950s, he did a Google search and got a glimpse at the man himself. He learned that Bowron, who served as mayor between 1938 and 1953, had made a guest appearance on “The Burns and Allen Show” in January 1953. Itzkin found the episode on YouTube and was able to watch the man himself working in his City Hall office, awkwardly exchanging dialogue with Gracie Allen, and even donning an apron to do the Burns family’s dishes. That video was far more revealing than any consultant’s advice.

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