People Who Studied Abroad #697:
Jon Bernthal, actor
He began his college career at Skidmore College, but then dropped out and enrolled in the Moscow Art Theatre School (Russia).
Why did you pick acting as a career?
I went to college to play sports. I wanted to be a baseball player. I took a drama class and the teacher ended up virtually saving my life. I was a knucklehead kid, getting into trouble, being an idiot. I didn’t finish school – didn’t know what to do – and she told me to go to Russia and enrol in the Moscow Art Theatre School. It taught me discipline and focus. It was great for me. I didn’t respond well to American theatre training – it’s very coddling.
What was the Russian training like?
There were a lot of acrobatic, ballet and movement classes. Only the best actors in the country teach theatre in Moscow. Often in the US, the teachers are people whose acting careers haven’t worked out. In Moscow, it’s difficult to get into the school and then only a small proportion of the people who get in actually graduate – they keep cutting people. So if you graduate, you’ve got a good chance of becoming a professional actor. In the US, there are so many theatre schools, a lot of them will take anyone, so it doesn’t mean you’ll get work. Going to Russia really put my life in a different direction.