My first memory of Hugh Jackman will always be from this film. I mean, what more could I have wanted from an early 2000s romantic comedy: Meg Ryan, time travel, a man in tails, Liev Schreiber, margarine…I’m not seeing a downside here! Oh, and Bradley Whitford too. 😉

But regardless of my teenage taste in movies (don’t judge…), the role that really defined his career involved having giant retractable knives sticking out of his hands. Yes, in between several Broadway runs, hosting the Tony’s multiple times and winning a Golden Globe Award, the character that has stuck by his side for 17 years has been James (Logan) Howlett, better known as the X-Men’s* Wolverine.

*Side Note: The X-Men were my gateway superheroes. I was a big fan of the animated series in the 90s. This was probably largely due to the fact that it was one of the only cartoons that had women heroes (Storm, Jean Grey…pretty awesome). I can still sing the theme song. I’ve also always appreciated the storyline about a group of differently-abled people who learned to see their differences as strengths, and used them to fight for a better and more inclusive world. Pretty righteous…

So I was interested to hear what Hugh had to say in a recent New York Times article about playing Wolverine for the last time in the upcoming movie, Logan. Was he ready to say goodbye to the role?

For many of us performers, the struggle of letting go of a character (or feeling, or song etc.) at the end of a project is familiar. Patrick Stewart (Professor X in the X-Men series) talks about it in the same article, in regards to his time performing Shakespeare. An actor friend told me about an overwhelming feeling of loss she felt as she peeled off the costume of a beloved character on closing night. Hey, I even felt it when a character I played died on stage for the last time on closing night. Needless to say, after spending so much time as Wolverine, it is understandable that letting go of the character was a bit of a process. Even if he is a superhero mutant…

So what were some things that helped Hugh Jackman part ways with Wolverine after a 17 year relationship? Here are my highlights:

1. Remember, you don’t own your character.
It’s important to know that characters, even if you’ve created them, do not belong to you. Characters have a unique energy unto themselves (sound bit freaky? check out this previous post). That energy will keep existing, even after you’ve stopped playing the role. It’s meant to inhabit other people who take on the role after you. That character is meant to be brought to life again in a new and different form. It’s not a monogamous relationship. 😉

2. Be grateful, and show them love.
We learn a lot from the characters we play. They can open our eyes to new worlds and our minds to new ideas. They make us better performers. And they can make us more compassionate, more open-minded, and more understanding people (even when the role is challenging). Make room to be grateful for this. Acknowledge what the character has taught you, and be thankful for the time you got to spend with them. Know that the insights they gave you will stay with you, even after you’ve stopped playing the role.

The truth is we grow to care for the characters we play. So when it comes to letting them go, we need to make time to say goodbye in a way that acknowledges this special relationship.

*EXERCISE: Looking for an exercise to help with saying goodbye to a character? Try this!

After closing a show, take a bit of time the next day and write a letter to your character.

• Find a quiet space to write, where you feel relaxed and comfortable.
• Do it right. Use a real pen and paper. 😉
• Take a few moments of quiet to focus on the task before your begin. Close your eyes and visualize your character. Take a few deep breaths with this focus.
• First, write about what it’s been like to play this character: how you felt about getting the role, what it felt like to embody the character, etc.
• Next, write about what you’re thankful to the character for: what you enjoyed about the role, what they’ve taught you, and what you’ll remember about the role.
• Finally, include any hopes you have for the character in the future (in their imaginary lives, or reality).

Then sign and seal the letter. You can keep it or you could burn it (safely!), to symbolize releasing the character and their energy back into the world.

So try it out and let me know what you think! Have questions? Write them in the comments and I’ll respond. 🙂

In the meantime, you can check out the full article on Hugh Jackman here. And of course, you can check out his last adventure as Wolverine in Logan, in theatres this week*.

Here’s the trailer:


*This is not sponsored content, just a friendly FYI. 😉

Act(ing) Mindfully is a part of my work with Five Winds. It’s a space where I explore the connection between performance and energy, and offer tips and ideas on how to stay balanced and healthy (body, mind, emotions and spirit) while living the life of a performer.

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