By October 21, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

Why Kevin Spacey thinks we should “send the elevator back down”

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 9.32.46 PM by Jean Rhodes

 I recently attended a lecture by Kevin Spacey at the University of Virginia in which he drew on provocative quotes from the House of Cards to dole out advice to the many students in attendance. Although most of it followed the usual contours of working hard and taking risks, he also talked about the vital role of mentors in his life and the need to pay it forward. As Spacey noted, if you have reached a comfortable level yourself, you have the moral obligation to “send the elevator back down.” This phrase, spoken by his own mentor, has served as his constant reminder to provide young people with the same sorts of opportunities and role modeling that he had. As Spacey noted in London Mirror article earlier this year:

“I was 13 years old when I met someone who was to change my life. His name was Jack Lemmon and he was running a workshop for young students like me who were interested in drama.

As one of America’s most legendary actors, Jack certainly did not need to be running a workshop, but he believed in the philosophy that if you’ve been successful in your chosen path, then you should help those who are just starting out.

He coined the phrase ‘sending the elevator back down’.

I will never forget that day when Jack encouraged me to go to New York and train because he thought I was “born to become an actor”. I will be forever grateful to him for this.

As a young man, I was very shy, insecure and there were times when I felt lost and it meant the world to have my idol believe in me.

Any success I have enjoyed on screen or stage since can be charted back to Jack and the gift he gave of encouraging me and helping me to discover my self-confidence.”

At the UVA talk, Spacey told a compelling story of attending a play in a small London theatre about the relationship between a young autistic man and his parents. Spacey was blown away by the authentic performance of the young actor. In fact, it was so convincing that he privately suspected that the actor must actually be autistic. Over a drink after the show, Spacey invited the charming, young actor to take a role in his upcoming movie. He later introduced him to his agent, who was equally impressed. And through Spacey’s generous support and advocacy, Colin Farrell’s film career was launched.

Particularly given the growing barriers to success, perhaps we all have an obligation to send that elevator back down.

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