Film Courage: I think this might be part of your new book [A SURVIVOR’S GUIDE TO HOLLYWOOD: How To Play The Game Without Losing Your Soul] but this is something that you talked about in terms of getting self-absorbed in Hollywood? What is it? What does it look like, so we can define it?
Robin Riker: Well I think being self-absorbed looks pretty much the same in every town and country across the globe. I see it in other people when they just don’t…you know, sometimes you’re walking down the street and someone goes “Hi!” And you are absent-minded or thinking about something else and you respond “Just fine!” No. That isn’t what they said! But you didn’t hear that. You were in your own mind. And there are lot of people in this town, in everywhere, that are in there own heads and they don’t ever ask about you, and they are not good ball players. In conversations, you pass the ball. And if you don’t pass the ball then you are having a monologue. It’s not really that interesting to people. And that’s what it looks like to me.
There is this one actress who I encounter all the time. She absolutely knows who I am but every time she meets me it’s the first time. And we have gone up against each other for roles and I’ve gotten some of them and she’s gotten some of them. I think that a lot of the people who are the most self-absorbed are also those who are the most threatened, who feel that if they are not focused on themselves and what it is they need and what it is they want and what it is that perhaps you can deliver to them, then they are not taking care of business. They have to be…it’s all about the next thing. And that sort of reminds me of this man. When I got my first television show, I was going to celebrate and I took myself out to this place called Joe Allen’s (it’s called something else now and it’s quite a popular place but I don’t remember). My father was an actor and my parents divorced when I was very young and he was a fantastic actor and even though I’ve written and acted since I could write or speak, I think I pursued acting in a way to kind of bring my father closer to me (at least metaphysically, psychologically). And so he was the first one I called. My mother had supported me my whole life, but my father was the one I wanted to call and say that I got my first job in TV. So I went to this bar and called him from a pay phone (do you remember what those are, any of you out there?). And I told him about it and he wasn’t that excited for me because he was a little jealous himself because he was self-absorbed. And instead of being joyful for his daughter, even though he was my father and we wouldn’t ever go up for the same parts, I had landed something that was really good. And he couldn’t really support me in that. And my spirit really felt a wound, I played it off because that’s how I roll, but it hurt me.
But I shook it right off and said “He is not going to crunch my buzz. I am going to carry on with this celebration.” So I went to the bar and I bought myself a cocktail. And I was chatting with the bartender and then a man came in and I struck up a conversation. And I was facing him and he was facing the door and he was talking to me, but I could see that he was always looking at the door, he was always waiting, every time the door opened. He was looking, because, you know, I was “nobody.” I was just some girl at the bar and he was waiting for somebody more important than I or somebody who could do something important for him. I watched it, I watched his face as he was [makes gestures of restlessly looking around]. I was just a space holder. And sure enough, somebody came in that he knew or that he started to chat up and he dropped me as though he had never seen me before in his life, he didn’t even say “Lovely talking with you. My pal is here.”
And I watched him like a scientist because I could see it happening. Maybe it was my father’s sort of recent lack of enthusiasm for my job that got me primed for this but I watched this guy (as I said) like a scientist. And I thought the casual rudeness and disregard that I saw and still see is really, well it’s no longer surprising but it is remarkable. It’s worthy of remarking on because it has nothing to do with you or me or whoever is the recipient of the rudeness, it says everything about the person who hasn’t any social grace or any experience in sharing life.
Film Courage: Well, I think there is almost an acceptable level of that here, where people need to size you up “Okay, what can you do for me? Okay, this person can’t do anything for me, I’m moving on.”
I want to go back to the parent thing [Robin spoke of previously]. I’ve seen two types of performers here and those are people who have (and I wouldn’t call them stage parents) but parents who just follow everything they do and they are their biggest supporters of them. And then I’ve seen the exact opposite. I don’t actually see a lot of grey area. Either extreme support or “Oh, that’s nice dear. Okay…” And they change the subject.
And I think it’s interesting that you were there to take care of yourself, to celebrate for you. What would you say to the performers that don’t have the parent who is the “cheerleader?”
Robin Riker: Get your tribe! Find your people, make your family and stick with them and support them and let them support you. And take care of yourself. Make sure that you support you. Because very rarely are members of the same family conceived or born under the same roof. You know, haven’t you noticed that you’ve collected family, that your friends are the family that you choose?
And so it’s nice. I know everybody wants their parent’s approval, that’s really important. I mean you can see all kind of psychological damage done to children who are now grown adults who are still struggling for the love of their parent or approval of their father or mother or something, it’s a struggle. But be there for you and allow yourself to celebrate. Other people don’t have to celebrate you. You can celebrate yourself and it’s not big-headed or anything. Let the Universe know “Thank you!” Something good has happened, this is terrific. And even if you are celebrating it by yourself with a taco or a Horchata or a glass of champagne or meeting somebody. “Let’s go to the movies.” Or “Let’s go for a walk on the beach or fly a kite.” Or whatever, but do it! Because we let all of these moments go by, all of these celebratory moments. And then we think we’ve just been living this kind of life [makes a flatline motion with her hands]. When we really could have been living this kind of life [hand raises up]…and this kind of life…then this kind of life [hand goes down]. You know, we have to acknowledge the moments, if you don’t acknowledge it, I think it’s with any kind of relationship (a human relationship, you know?), if someone does something for you, and you acknowledge it, it increases by many fold, that they will do another nice thing for you.
So if the Universe is doing nice things for you and you go “Muh? Hhmmm…” Don’t hurt the Universe’s feelings for goodness sake! You need to acknowledge, it encourages, it stimulates the flow of more good things to celebrate.
Film Courage: I feel like people don’t do this until a major upset or death happens. And I don’t mean to get so morbid.
Robin Riker: I know what you mean, it’s so true. It’s those moments in life that call everything into question “Oh my Gosh! Now I look around and all these passings that we’ve had in the last year of these musicians who are in their late 50’s or 60 years old or something? Way too young to go.
I can remember when I was 14, my boyfriend and I and his mother drove down to Connecticut to see his grandfather. And they were sitting around the table and my boyfriend asked “How is Mr. Smith down the road?” And they said “Oh he died. Only 70. Such a young man!” And up until that moment, I had never thought of life or age as relative. I thought of it as whatever the opposite of relative is.
I’m 14, 70…that’s a million years old! But suddenly I saw this man who himself was only age 69 or something, look at 70 as being young. And then I realized “Oh my Gosh! It is.” Why are we waiting to realize that life is worth living right now? Why do we need Mr. Smith down the road to die at the young age of 70 for us to start thinking about the days that we have? Because you know what, (and this is not morbid, this is just the truth) no one knows when their time has come, you know? So if you keep waiting to have your adventures or to celebrate…Oh! I have a really fun one to share with you…[to be continued].
Question for the Viewers: How important is it for a parent to celebrate their child’s successes?
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