I always take great delight in seeing a director's face light up because of something I have done. I don't mean the loathsome ass kissing which goes on, I'm talking about delivering a difficult moment such that it solves a problem the director could not previously articulate – this often leads to genuine relief and joy on the part of the director. I always try to fit myself into the mode of the production, even if it contradicts my own aesthetic - this is correct – the production is not for the actor to impose himself on and make bend to his will, rather he is there to serve it. The actor should never compete with a director, and always remain respectful, if there is disagreement then it should be handled privately. It's not the job of the actor to judge the director, it's the job of the actor to communicate the play to the audience. The director is the actor's boss, and has brought the actor in to deliver very specific goods within the overall production. Moreover, if an actor cannot keep his petty insecurities in check, then he should get lost – the actor who allows his neurotic fears to dominate his reason and make the rest of the group suffer is despicable, and guilty of an act of gross selfishness - it's singularly the most destructive behaviour I have ever witnessed within a company. As the saying goes: keep the drama in the play. We are living in a society which has infantilised it's citizens by enshrining “how you feel”, however, all good actors know that how you feel is unimportant, it's action that counts. Great actors are spiritual warriors, and exercise self-control. Ultimately, generosity toward those he is working with is an important quality for the actor to possess. The actor comes across many varied working cultures and working methods, and those actors who survive in the jungle are the ones who can adapt to changing circumstances quickly, infact, I have come to believe that this is how the quality of an actors talent should be measured, ie: his ability to function effectively in a diverse range of situations. The actor then, needs to be adaptable.
However, it is important that the actor take a break from adapting to the modes and cultures of other peoples' productions, and produce his own. I've written before how an actor can understand his own work better and come to define his own aesthetic by producing his own stuff (and therefore function better on other peoples' stuff), however, I also think he should take time out periodically to do this, a sort of creative pit-stop, a chance to tend to the core which is present in all his work. Writing, directing and acting in his own productions can give the actor a crystal clear view of his work, he will be applying his own aesthetic from top to bottom, and so can see what's changed in his work, where any kinks may have developed and iron them out, what needs to be improved, what has improved. Producing one's own work means working with actors and crew, which provides a test of whether the ideas behind the work can be communicated to other people. Personally speaking, I find directing other actors is an especially useful task because it forces me to articulate my thoughts about the script in simple, actable terms (the way I would want to be directed), which also functions as a confirmation of my own working methods. Explaining what I think to other people is a very good bullshit test too, because if I can’t explain it to another such that they understand it, then I don't know what I'm talking about. Furthermore, these explanations must be practically useful to the listener when in the field, pretty theories are useless in the rehearsal room. The pressure which comes with taking responsibility overall for a production then, keeps you honest because other people are relying on you to help them do their job well, this humbles, and helps to shake off the crust of decadence which may have formed while working on other peoples' productions, where the actor is responsible for himself only, and need not concern himself with the minutiae of production (where even finding the right prop can turn into a major endeavour). Accountability is the thing, there is no place to hide, there can be no excuses, that work up on the screen or on the stage is undeniably yours, the totality of it this time, not only your performance. You set the standard, how you perform sends out a message to those around you, a message about the work in hand, about your work generally, and about how you think it should be done. Accomplish a standard which is high enough to keep the idealism of those who decided to collaborate with you intact, and hopefully then, they will want to see your face light up by solving a difficult problem – this happens when we work on something we're proud of.