Pasquale Esposito, a Zen monk among the new faces in the cast of the Tv show “Gomorrah”
Pasquale Esposito lives a bit everywhere. He holds workshops in the UK, he lives in Hamburg with his wife and new born twins and shoots a successful TV series in Italy, Naples, to be specific. Actually, Gomorrah: he will be “O’Sciarmant” and will hunt down the youngest of the Savastano’s.
Contrary to the nature of his character on set, Pasquale is a Zen monk and in his workshops he proposes a non-method that is at the core of “Something From Nothing” a Nick Rizzini short documentary, and that’s what we talked about:
Pasquale how did the project “Something From Nothing” come to be?
It all started from Nick, from his interest to film my work, after attending my workshops in London.
So, I invited him to follow me to the University of Huddersfield (Manchester) where I had been asked to share my research during the International Symposium on “Performing Arts and Mindfulness” and a month later to Munich, where I was rehearsing with my own company for the play “A looking glass”.. I told him that he could film anything he felt like filming with no limits. Only one promise: Tell a story in a new way. I invited him to leave everything he'd learnt about filmmaking behind, to try and find a new way of telling a story, to put him in the best situation to live directly the experience I’m consciously researching.
He accepted the challenge.
He was fascinated by it, but it wasn’t easy and we laughed a lot about it. I didn’t think someone so young could get interested in having a feel of what is true with so much passion.
It was an exchange between two different generations that I believe enriched both, it definitely did me.
I don’t believe in methodologies and technics, I love research, questions and pioneering. What I find out today, with my research, I could discover is not true tomorrow. It’s a bit like in science, truth is more important than holding some knowledge.
Did you see Jim Carrey’s video on YouTube?
Millions and millions of views and the first reactions have been: “He’s crazy!” or “He’s out of his mind” but he says interesting things, they have to be contextualized though. We are now on a wave that won’t stop, we won’t be able to escape from facing the ultimate reality of our self.
Why all this work on yourself if the job of an actor is to let go of yourself and play a new character?
I started to work as an actor with the Strasberg Method, studying between Rome and New York: you learn to use your personal emotions to bring real life to the character you are playing.
When I then encountered Zen education, I started to explore the possibility that to be true, to be real, it could happen like it happens to children.
When immersed in a world that's real for them :if you give them a sword and a black mask, they don’t act like Zorro, but through their imagination, slowly, they find themselves somewhere in a sensory world and they become Zorro.
In my research I noticed that more than personal emotions, sensations are important.
The point is that an authentic experience, that is not a personal experience, makes a great difference in terms of expression and communication.
In my job I keep the question alive without an answer. In many oriental religions and philosophies, Zen included, the self it doesn’t really exist, doesn’t have an identity by itself, but instead what exists is the principle and the nature of “relationship”: “I exist only in relationship with something else”
So to be true, to be real, I need everything around and in interaction with me, to be real, obviously in my perception of it.
I exist thanks to the other; I exist as a dynamic co-dependence. Nothing that we call alive exists in isolation and independence, not even what we call “myself”.
But the job of an actor is one of interacting with all that is not real, by definition.
The goal is to live an authentic experience. Actors fake it, some better than others, using technics, they prepare everything in rehearsal, and they fix and repeat intonations, even before interacting with the other. You live an authentic experience when you are engaged in an action for the first time, when you don’t know how to answer, when you interact with something you don’t know and you have nothing to hold on to control and get out of the situation. That is a creative and spiritual space. If I could break it down to one sentence it would be something like: If you know ,you don’t exist, if you don’t know, you exist. That is a creative key and that is what I asked of Nick.
Let the action come out of the unconscious.
Yes, it’s the art of letting the inevitable engage you. On set it's amazing, I improvise and often change lines to make them more appropriate to what’s happening in the moment.
For your Directors happiness…
I can’t lie, it hasn’t been easy with everyone, but I understand their point of view.
I get what you are saying.
What I propose in my workshop and in my job as an actor is the possibility to let myself be the space through which the happening is seen, a space where you can see something happening. It’s a little bit like offering to be a window from which people can look through and follow the action, to get the audience involved. Communication is never in what is said, but in what is happening, what is moving, what you see. I propose the happening to be the protagonist, not the person.
Don’t you think you are limiting the audience imagination?
I don’t believe so. Proposing the happening as the protagonist, the audience has to follow, has to be active, and often has to complete it with it's imagination.. The real show doesn’t happen on stage or on the screen, but in who sees, in who is the witness.
How do your students process all these messages?
There’s interest and curiosity, but most of my students ask for a method, they are looking for a technique that can help them with the problem ,“How does it work?” I always change exercises to make sure they don’t develop an ability. What I propose is to be engaged where I’m not able, where I have no knowledge. I don’t believe there is anything to learn that is not mental, actually there is a lot to discover, to unveil: Finding something out of nothing.
Something from Nothing.
Every action is contaminated by what we know and this creates affectation; creativity is based on what we don’t know, on surprises, being original. Creativity implies the process of answering for the first time, unexpectedly, unconsciously. The creative process is something like jumping consciously and leaving the landing to the unconscious.