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Sam Rockwell: Rage and Vulnerability

Sam Rockwell is a trained Meisner actor who recently received an Oscar award for his performance in “Three Billboards OutSide Ebbing”. In this video Sam talks with students at Maggie Flanigan Studio about vulnerability and anger.

studio talkback - sam rcokwell at maggie flanigan studio (917) 794-3878

Studio Talkback – Sam Rockwell at Maggie Flanigan Studio – (917) 794-3878

It was long overdue, Sam Rockwell’s Oscar. His performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was a nuanced, deeply vulnerable and compelling performance from one of this country’s consummate actors. His thirty-year career on both stage and screen has provided a generation of aspiring actors with a blueprint for approaching an artistic career. Sam is a Meisner trained actor. It’s apparent in how we works. His vulnerability, his imagination, his ability to be fully present in the moment, listening intently, and malleable to the nuances of human behavior is the mark of a very talented Meisner actor.


"Underneath the rage is great sadness and vulnerability. I think that's a big key to emotional power."

Sam RockwellMeisner Trained Actor

Maggie Flanigan has been an important teacher and coach for Sam in his long career, and one day he came to our studio for a talkback with our students about craft and technique. One particular insight of his has stuck with me. He spoke insightfully about the importance of vulnerability. His Oscar winning performance as the police officer Dixon was a case study how to avoid superficial and clichéd choices. Most untrained actors not only lack craft, they do not possess an instrument that is capable of functioning from a sensitive, deeply empathic place. That takes serious professional actor training. Meisner believed that it was important to chisel away the socializing, parenting, and education that walls us up and keeps us defensive and guarded. The Meisner Technique accomplishes this in the first year of training.

Dixon, if portrayed by a less talented actor could have easily been carved into an angry, bigoted cliché, lacking depth and humanity. Anger can be an easy emotion to access, especially for men, and can be mistaken for intensity by young actors. Sam spoke of this, and it seemed prescient on his approach to the part. “The key to being a tough guy is actually vulnerability,” he said, “because under the rage that you see is vulnerability and hurt….under the rage is great sadness…that’s a big key to emotional power.” Dixon’s loneliness, his low self-esteem, his painful journey towards something redemptive was a tribute to Sam’s craft.

For those of you interested in a career as an actor, who may look to actors like Sam, Christian Bale, Idris Elba, Viola Davis, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jeffery Wright, Edie Falco and others as inspiration, go get trained. If you have questions about professional actor training, the Meisner Technique, or NYC acting programs, you might consider a six-week summer Meisner Intensive. This is the work that will begin to challenge you to be a more vulnerable and sensitive actor.

two year acting program - Maggie Flanigan (917) 794-3878

Professional Actor Training – Maggie Flanigan Studio – Call (917) 794-3878

Acting Programs and Meisner Training at the Maggie Flanigan Studio

Learn more about the Meisner training and the acting programs at the Maggie Flanigan Studio by visiting the studio website ( ) or by calling (917) 794-3878 during studio hours.

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