31: Peter Coyote, "Every other role but your authentic self has already been taken"
Peter Coyote is familiar even if he's a stranger to you. Maybe that's because his voice reminds you of someone you know, or think you already know. Maybe that's because he has a plain spoken way of talking about big ideas. Or maybe it's because even if you don't realize it, you've heard him before - narrating documentaries (he's Ken Burns' go-to-guy), on film, in commercials and television shows. So when you hear him speak, it's like hearing an old friend.
For me I suppose it was a bit like finding a new teacher as well. I think I wanted him to give me some kind of guidance, or permission. I didn't know that's what I was looking for before we spoke, but it seems to me that I wanted to know how he managed to stay so true to his own personal code and authentic self, and also survive as a film actor.
He began his film career at 39, after living nearly fifteen years in the counter-culture during the 1960s and 70s. Since then, he has performed as an actor for some of the world’s most distinguished filmmakers, including: Barry Levinson, Roman Polanski, Pedro Almodovar, Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderberg, and Sidney Pollack.
He's also a long time Zen Buddhist practitioner (and lay priest), a writer, and a blues musician.
In our conversation, he talks about
- the value of meditation ("it's like walking in fog - you get drenched!"),
- having a career based on self expression ("every other role but your authentic self has been taken"),
- the way to stay true to yourself in the midst of commercial pressures ("there is no pure place to stand outside of the mercantile world"),
- why musicians are so enlightened ("they found a way to short circuit language").
I really think you'll enjoy this conversation.
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