Long before Orange became the new black, the crazy land of Oz existed on Showtime. I’m not a television guru, but I believe this show began our nation’s affinity for prison shows. Back when Oz was airing, I wasn’t watching. I remember seeing previews for it and thinking, why would I want to watch something that brutal? I was also only 19 years old when it started, and the seedier side of television had not gotten its hooks in me, yet.
Fast forward a number of years, and I finally decided to check it out in its entirety through Prime Video. Imagine my surprise when people who had become some of my favorite actors over the years were present. Some, in their acting infancy. Three actors from the Law and Order franchise alone are present together in this raw look at life in prison, from completely different sides than what I’ve become accustomed to them portraying.
JK Simmons role on Oz is such a departure from his character on Law and Order. I’m sure we’ve all seen the Farmers Insurance commercials, with Simmons playing the intelligent, yet mild mannered spokesperson, not surprised by anything. His character in Oz, Vern Schillinger, is the leader of the prison white supremacist group. On Law and Order, he plays Dr. Emil Skoda, a clinical psychologist. This is not an exhaustive list of Mr. Simmons accomplishments by any means.
But these two major roles, and the differences between them, highlight something important.
We all have the ability to wear different hats. It’s crucial in this day and age, as most of us must be more than one person, so to speak, in our daily lives. Hollywood actors get paid to do it, but our performances are no less important or stunning.
I’m a SAHM who works from home. Mommy me and work me are two different people, when things are going well. I can’t very well tell a client, when they are being rude, if they don’t stop, I’ll put them in time out. There are times I wish I could, and that it would work! As a writer, it’s my job to show instead of telling out right, which would not work so well with my two year old. I’m teaching him things, in each of our interactions, so I tend to over explain, a lot. That isn’t a great trait in a writer, so I must remove my Mommy hat when it’s time to put pen to paper.
Some people in my life don’t know that I’m a writer, and if they do, they aren’t aware of my work. I recently shared an article I wrote here, among friends and family. For a number of them, it was the first time they had seen my work. I received messages like:
Where did THAT come from?
I’ve never heard you talk like that.
I didn’t know you were that kind of writer.
Did you go to school for that?
Are you really qualified to write stuff like that?
Essentially, these people, who have known me for years, never saw my “Oz” performance. They see Mommy, Wife, Friend, Sister, on a regular basis. Those hats are similar enough that switching from one to another doesn’t elicit much surprise. But the Writer hat, that performance was a shock.
But are you qualified?
I’ve been questioned often regarding my qualifications, and that’s okay. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. As I saw mentioned elsewhere recently, my qualifications come from life, and I never say otherwise. There’s a bit of college thrown in there for good humor.
Being more than what people see on the outside is part of being human. When we choose to let others in on our inside traits, or the things that may scare us, we open up a new world for ourselves. You’ll hear negativity I’m sure, that’s part of the process. But in the end, allowing yourself to be you, in all your forms, can bring on the performance of a lifetime.
I’ll win no Emmys, Grammys, or the like. But I’m pretty great at being me.