Go figure the actor to blast method acting is one who not only studied in Moscow at the very theater that method acting creator Konstantin Stanislavski founded around the turn of the 20th century. While Stanislavski's "method" was based in authenticity and understanding, demanding that the performer put themselves in the mindset of their character as much as possible, what is deemed "method acting" nowadays has come under fire as over-the-top and unncessary with some actors remaining in character off-set. Jared Leto is often brought up as a prime example, being reported as creating issues during filming and using it as an excuse to do things such as sending dead animals to the entire cast of Suicide Squad. But is that really acting? Bernthal doesn't think so.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter looking back on the history of David Chase's The Wire, Bernthal (who is currently getting praise for his work in Chase's newest show We Own This City), had some choice words about the indulgent and self-serving concept behind modern method acting. To make this point, he references his current role as Detective Wayne Jenkins in We Own This City. Check out his full statement below:
"Absolutely. And that's why these conversations are difficult for me, honestly, because every actor has a process. Having studied in Moscow at the Moscow Art Theater, I guarantee you that making everybody call you by your character name and not showering for eight months was not what Stanislavski had in mind with the Method. But at the end of the day, these sacred seconds between action and cut, that's all we got. So that means that I got to stay in proximity to that role, close to those sacred seconds, that I'm not on a cellphone or eating Chinese food or making plans for the evening. But if I'm talking like Wayne and I'm acting like Wayne, because it's going to help those seconds, I think you got to do that. And sometimes that's a day, sometimes it's a week, sometimes it's five minutes. But I think this idea of Method acting where George [Pelecanos, who wrote much of The Wire] was only allowed to call me Wayne, I don't roll like that. I don't see any benefit in that."
This debate on method acting goes as far back as Dustin Hoffman's acting for the 1976 thriller Marathon Man where Hoffman literally immersed himself in the job, including insisting that the men trying to drown his character in one scene hold his head underwater for longer stretches in repeated takes. His co-star, acting legend Laurence Olivier, is famous for quoting to Hoffman, in response to seeing his extreme preparation, “Why don’t you just try acting?” While supposedly the comment was made in irony and jest, nowadays it's often taken as a serious criticism of performers that avoid truly crafting characters and instead using extreme stimulation to trigger realism. Is that acting? Or masochism? As the debate continues, we'll most likely keep getting answers to these questions. Stay tuned!