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Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a political post. I’ll try for the most part to keep politics out of this blog, because otherwise like kudzu the blog would be overrun with nothing but political posts. This post is about acting.

Harry Shearer has a new YouTube series called Nixon’s the One where he plays Richard Nixon. It’s a six-part series and a new episode comes out every Tuesday. All dialogue is verbatim from the White House recording system that Nixon had secretly installed in the Oval Office. See Harryshearer.com for episodes and some terrific acting by a largely British cast that includes Shakespearean actor Henry Goodman as the manipulative and lugubrious Henry Kissinger.

Shearer held a live event last week promoting the show and he said a fascinating thing about acting. In a Q&A I asked him how he approached the part of Richard Nixon. He replied that he was basically an outside-in actor–he was very concerned about a person’s physicality, movements and so on. And then he said something I don’t think I’ve ever heard any actor say before, or read in any acting text, but I thought was very interesting. When imitating a real-life person, he said, it helps to figure out who that person was imitating. In other words, who were Nixon’s body influences, perhaps unconsciously? And after a while it came to Shearer. Although Nixon’s words were very macho: “Strength,” “Hard,” “Manly,” his physical movements were sometimes more feminine–especially when he loosened up a bit. So in one scene, Kissinger comes to visit Nixon in the Oval Office late in the evening and Nixon is pretty tipsy and feeling good. And Shearer said, he finally realized who the two people were that Nixon was channeling at that moment physically.

Would you like to take a guess? Spoiler below.

The relevant scene is here if you’d like to look before you guess:

*Spoiler:

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Shearer felt what helped him nail Nixon were the movements of Jack Benny and Bob Hope!