Life Lessons and Career Advice from House of Cards’s Kevin Spacey

Photo: Kevin Carroll/a digital cure Photography

The sinister Francis Underwood from House of Cards and maniacal Dave Harken from Horrible Bosses 2 aren't exactly guys you would turn to for wholesome career advice, but Kevin Spacey is a different story. The Academy Award winner recently sat down with Levo, a professional network aimed at elevating women in the workplace, to share some life and mentorship lessons in an Office Hours session.

Spacey talked about his experiences as a young theater actor being mentored by such legends as Jack Lemmon and how that inspired him to go out and help other emerging artists. He said Lemmon was really the driving force behind him creating the Kevin Spacey Foundation, which offers support to young actors, writers, and producers. "[Lemmon said] if you've done well in the business you want to do well in then you need to spend a good portion of your time sending the elevator back down."

Having just a small bit of encouragement at the right time can be huge for a person, Spacey emphasized. He said it was a major moment for him when Jack Lemmon told a then teenaged Spacey that he was a born actor and should move to New York and pursue it. "Sometimes an adult or even a friend, a person of influence, a teacher, a mentor can just say the right words at the exact moment when they need to hear it and it can be life changing. I've had innumerable experiences where I'm working with young people in workshops. They just need someone to say something that encourages them."

One of those experiences took place when Spacey hosted an all-female workshop in the Middle East for aspiring actors. Spacey describes how during the workshop, he asked a timid woman to perform a monologue, and she selected a piece from Fried Green Tomatoes. ​After a couple of stiff tries, Spacey asks her to really connect with her feelings during the performance, and so she honed in on a line that resulted in overwhelming emotion: "And every time he beat me, I thought of God." When he asked her why it was different for her, how she had finally connected to the piece, she said something incredibly revealing about how women are treated in certain countries: "When you asked me to share my feelings ... That's something I'm not ever asked."

"I was like that's the problem with this place and that's why arts and culture can be so important and extraordinary, particularly in places where women are treated like second class citizens often. It's about that we were in this room giving her the attention and detail to have an experience. It fills them with a confidence they never knew they were capable of and that is what is extraordinary about the kind of work I'm able to do in these workshops." he said. Kevin noted that the woman wrote him a few months later and said she had moved to London to study acting.

For more career advice from Kevin Spacey, watch the full interview here (you must sign in with a free account).

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