Review: “The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide,” by: Jenna Fischer

Review of:
Jenna Fischer

Reviewed by:
On Friday, May 11, 2018
Last modified:Friday, May 11, 2018


Feels like an elongated article from People magazine

This is the fourth book written by a cast member from “The Office” that I’ve read, even though I’ve only ever seen one episode. I read Mindy Kaling’s first book back in high school, then picked up her second book as well as BJ Novak’s book in college. I’ve been watching “Splitting Up Together,” starring Fischer alongside Oliver Hudson, so I decided to buy her book.

One of my lifelong dreams was to become a famous actress or singer. However, I’m not good at either. I took singing lessons as a child, but my voice isn’t the best. I tried dancing as well, which was another fail. And in college, I joined Alpha Psi Omega, a theatre honors society, and starred in a one-act student-directed play. I starred as La Poncia in the final scene of “The House of Bernarda Alba,” and I embarrassed myself in front of everyone. In the play, my character sees a dead body, so I was supposed to let out an ear-piercing scream. Even though I was nervous, I just couldn’t get the scream out. Then, I even took a screenwriting course in college and earned a B, mostly because I attended every class.

The spotlight isn’t for me. Despite this, I’ve been intrigued by the glitz and glam of Hollywood lights. Television has been my hobby for as long as I can remember, and I’ve even been fortunate enough to meet cast members from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and Bill Nye. As an aficionado of TV and movies, I’ve read countless books written by celebrities. I’ve read about Hoda Kotb, Sara Bareilles, Judy Greer, Andy Cohen, and Neil Patrick Harris.

In this book, which feels like an elongated article from “People” magazine, Fischer delves deep into the world of acting to provide readers with advice on how to navigate a path through the treacherous streets of Los Angeles. The intended audience of this book is comprised of aspiring actors and actresses; therefore, the chapters contain theatre-heavy terminology. Although some terms are clearly defined within the book, I would caution all readers to do some outside research. I used context clues to figure out some words, but an added glossary would have greatly improved the book so that it would be more palatable for readers from every background. Another challenge I faced while reading occurred when Fischer shared stories and insight from her on-screen appearances.

As previously mentioned, I’ve only ever seen one episode of “The Office,” so I was completely lost when she discussed her first on-screen kiss with John Krasinski’s character, Jim Halpert. Additionally, she shared humorous anecdotes about her experiences of filming “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” and “Blades of Glory.” I did not see either film before reading Fischer’s book, so I had no idea what she was referring to.

Regardless, I found the book to be a refreshing look at Hollywood. It took Fischer eight years to secure the role of Pam Beesly on “The Office,” and her story to fame is a humbling reminder of the difficulties that befuddle young actors and actresses. I admire Fischer’s resilience and vulnerability throughout the book. She shares her earliest headshots and is unafraid to recount a time when she cried in public.

Despite these anecdotes, the book is not all about her. It is a guidebook for those who want to work as actors and actresses. I’m currently following my own career path away from the streets of Hollywood, yet I was still able to gain valuable insight about the world of theatre and performance. I found inspiration in my own path, as Fischer emphasizes the importance of following a passion.

After reading the book, I saw two of Fischer’s movies to better understand her stories. The only problem with watching her movies after reading the book is that it takes away from the magic of cinema. This book clearly enunciates her training, so it becomes painfully obvious that her on-screen personas are just another day on the job. It was difficult for me to see her as the characters she portrays because I know her backstory. I couldn’t envision her as Darlene Madison, Dewey Cox’s second wife, because I saw her on-screen as Jenna Fischer, the struggling actress wearing make-up and a costume.

In a way, reading this book before seeing Fischer’s work becomes a bit of a double-edged sword. The book makes me want to see her in her craft and working an occupation she truly enjoys. Yet, these anecdotes trivialize her on-screen appearances as nothing more than culminations of a career that started when I was just a toddler.

I would recommend seeing Fischer’s films before reading her book so that you have a better sense of her acting style and can understand where she is coming from. Every author should establish credibility when writing non-fiction, and only knowing her from “Splitting Up Together,” made it hard for me to see her as a more seasoned artist. Then, as I learned more about her, it became hard for me to see her portraying a character because I know she is just acting. It is a two-way street.



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