Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Professionalism and Jon Cryer

I don’t know Jon Cryer and know nothing about his personal life, and I generally avoid all the “scandal rags,” celebrity gossip, etc, like the plague. But during the meltdown of Charlie Sheen and its impact on “Two and a Half Men,” you couldn’t really avoid hearing about it, even on the radio.

As a society, we’ve come to accept and even expect immature behavior. Tantrums pass for “speaking your mind,” and whining and back-biting is the norm. It’s always made me very, very sad that our desire to be young forever has led us to embrace the childish, rather than adult and professional behaviors. In fact, I often wonder if anyone knows what it means to “be a professional” and act thoughtfully and rationally, anymore. To my delight, however, it appears that some folks still value the traits we used to associate with being an adult.

Now, most of the time, when someone in the Hollywood gang breaks down, you get one of two reactions from his/her associates: nothing (as in “No comment”); or a scathing retort wrapped in a whine. Perhaps even hysteria accompanied with a good bout of crying. But not with Cryer.

I’ve always thought Cryer was a good actor. To a large degree, he quietly carried “Two and a Half Men.” But he never really came to my attention as a true professional until this Sheen drama unfolded. Two things really stood out. He didn’t do the “no comment” thing, but he also didn’t whine or speak badly about Sheen.

He behaved with quiet, amused dignity. I wish some of our politicians would behave as well as Cryer in the face of a public scandal or disaster. In fact, Cryer behaved exactly the way I wanted my character, Prudence Barnard, to behave in “The Vital Principle”. She didn’t go to pieces, weep or lash out when she was accused of murder. She behaved with dignity and met the challenge to prove her innocence. I wanted her to have the traits I’ve always admired most in adults: a sense of humor, kindness towards others, and a sense of professionalism. She’s not perfect, but she’s not a childish mess, either.

Cryer’s professionalism first “hit me over the head” when a morning radio program played a snippet from an interview with him. I don’t have the specifics and my memory is so bad I’ll probably get most of it wrong, but it does show how a professional handles a frankly terrible situation.

“He called you a troll, how do you feel about that?” the interviewer asked, obviously trying to spark a ratings-booster outburst of some sort from Cryer.

Cryer said, “Well, I haven’t wanted to admit this…” (And I thought, NO! Don’t sink to his level! Don’t do it…) “But I am a troll.”

He then went on to do an incredibly funny bit about how he’d tried to hide the fact that he was a troll for years, etc. It was one of the funniest things I’d ever heard and an absolutely brilliant way to handle this. Instead of talking trash about Sheen or treating us to a fit of hysterical tears or anger, he simply made a joke. And the joke was not at Sheen’s expense. Now that’s the way it should be done. Professional. Gracious. Adult.

Honestly, at that moment, I thought Cryer could easily walk on water and cure all the ills of mankind. He’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Then not content to rest on his laurels, Cryer continued to respond with well wishes for Sheen. He moved forward. He cooperated to keep the show going. He was a man about the whole thing.

When they reconstituted “Two and a Half Men” and I caught the first episode, my respect for Cryer as an actor went up yet another notch (if that’s possible). He literally carried the weight of the show. There was an undercurrent of awkwardness as the other actors and actresses tried to pull it together and regenerate the smooth feel of an ensemble that is running well. But you could see the jagged edges where things didn’t quite mesh.

Of all of them, he seemed the most relaxed and the most determined. It was like watching one of those local theater shows where they’ve managed to get one major actor to be in the play. That actor knows his lines and knows how to act and he’s literally dragging the performances out of the others to make them shine, as well. I got the definite feel that Cryer was the glue holding the show together, the one who knew what had to be done and was doing it. The others, frankly, still looked a little shell-shocked. I expect that will change over time and the cast will mesh, but in that show, he really stood out.

Anyway, I just wanted to say, “Bravo, Cryer! Well done.”

It’s nice to find someone who still knows what it means to be a professional, and someone I can use as a model for my characters like Pru. I’ve got another book for Prudence Barnard and Knighton Gaunt brewing, so now, whenever I get stuck, I’ll just think, “How would Cryer respond to that?”

With humor and dignity. That’s how.


Jodi Ralston said...

I never really thought about it or paid too much attention to the whole deal, although I am an occasional Two and Half Men watcher. But you make an excellent point in a well written post: responding with humor and dignity is a great take away to use in life.


Amy said...

Thanks so much for commenting. I completely agree. Even if you never watch the show, Cryer's handling of the situation was remarkable. I wish a few of our politicians were so gracious in the face of scandal.

Lilly Gayle said...

Great blog. I love Two and 1/2 men but I've always thought Sheen was a little crazy. The exact opposite of his brother Emilio Estavez. I also admired Cryer's handling of the situation. The show isn't the same without Sheen. But it's not bad. Frankly, I think "Jake" and "Berta" make the show.

Amy said...

Hi Lilly!
Yes, Jake and Berta are great! But I just really admired how Jon behaved. It's so unusual to see good behavior these days that I had to mention it. :)

Amy said...

Someone was kind enough to send me the link to Cryer's "I am a Troll" confession on Conan. Here is the link so you can see what a true professional really is:,,20472877,00.html

Anonymous said...

This was a wonderful example to read! Loved this. Drat it, I'm going to be hanging out reading your blog all day now!

Amy said...

Thanks, Liz!
And I have no objections to you hanging out all day on the blog. LOL