Jerry Stiller passed away this week. He was most popularly known as the gritty father of George Costanza on the Seinfeld TV show. That wasn’t the man we knew.
When we lived in Los Angeles, as large as it was, we briefly met many actors. Cindi and I quickly learned the casting directors’ jobs were not as hard as they seemed. From the classic goofball that I help get the keys he had locked in his car (the passenger door was unlocked) to the screen harpy that my wife’s ballet class voted out of their group; most of them had exactly the same personality on screen and off.
Their “acting skills” required more effort than just being who they normally were. Our neighbor Ken Kercheval was different and so was Jerry Stiller. I remember how clearly this came to me at a Fourth of July picnic on the green while sharing a meal with Jerry. My thought was, How different he is in person. So nice. He really IS a good actor.
Lately a good friend and I have been debating about how Christians act. He feels that the hypocrites in the faith show the falsehood of the religion. I contend that the religion identifies the hypocrisy. I also know Christ’s heart is broken when the question comes up. Christians should always be a reflection of the Master.
The question this begs: are we true characters or are we just acting? Is John Doe true to his wife in practice and in his heart or is he just playing a role? Is Jane Doe fantasizing about a screen-star lover when she and John are together? At work is she like the real Jerry Stiller or is she George Costanza’s father act?
Character matters. It matters not just the way we appear to others, though that is important. Character is significant down to the depths of our very soul.