Life can be particularly challenging, which makes it easy to adopt a “victim” mindset. I see this everyday as I coach actors. I battle this tendency toward self-pity with a simple but powerful dictum: Make everything make you better. If you can use every difficulty as an inspiration to self-betterment, you change your mindset from victim to champion.

Refuse to be a victim or to bemoan your plight (easy as it may be after yet another rejection, another brusque dismissal, or another promotion you’ve been looked over). Make everything make you better. I’ve done it, I’ve taught it, I’ve seen it in action. It works.


Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Craig Archibald.

Craig Archibald’s unique experience as both an actor and a coach gives him an unparalleled perspective on the current entertainment industry landscape. Archibald’s depth of knowledge and experience in show business make his approach to the art of coaching come from a professional standpoint as well as an instructional one. The success of Craig’s approach is exemplified by the success of his clients, a roster that includes Golden Globe nominee Constance Wu, Academy Award winner Graham Moore, and two-time Academy Award Nominee Dan Futterman.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I am a Canadian who started acting at eleven and turned pro at fifteen. I graduated with a degree in theatre from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada in 1984 then studied for two years privately in London. I moved to New York City in 1987 and graduated from the Neighborhood Playhouse under the tutelage of the master teacher Sanford Meisner in 1989. I then spent twenty years working in NYC as an actor, writer, producer and acting coach. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2007, I shifted my focus to coaching full-time and created The Archibald Studio where I work with all levels of actors, writers and directors.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

In the Academy Award-winning film Capote, I was cast in the role of Christopher Isherwood. He’s one of my favorite novelists, so it was a particular pleasure to portray him. I did my homework, flying to California and spending time with his life partner Don Bachardy at their home in Santa Monica Canyon. I reread Isherwood’s novels. I read his diaries. When I was back in Manhattan, I walked the streets bundled in a cozy wool sweater, smoking cigarettes and speaking in a gentle transatlantic accent.

By the time I landed in the prairie chill of Winnipeg, Manitoba that November, I felt completely prepared for my scenes as one of several New York characters from Truman’s literati clique.

My first scene was scheduled for late Saturday evening. The scene takes place moments after Capote has finished a reading from his nonfiction masterpiece In Cold Blood to a packed theater in Manhattan. He’s in his dressing room with a New York crowd laughing and celebrating.

The scene called for us to be interrupted by a tall man wearing a ridiculous hairpiece, who was to give Truman a flowery compliment. After his exit, I had a fun, comedic line about the hairpiece, which would end the scene.

I was called from my trailer, taken to the set, and seated in the center of a sofa between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bob Balaban — high company to be sure. I was nervous and excited but prepared and ready to work.

As the crew finished tweaking the lights and positioning extras, I noticed a tall, bald man standing in the doorway. The crew was taking longer than expected, so I went over and inquired if he was playing the man with the bad hairpiece.

Indeed, he was. I asked the whereabouts of the hairpiece. He didn’t know and said that makeup and hair didn’t have one. How could this be? This was a UA/MGM/Sony Classics film! How could the hair and makeup department not have read the script and seen the funny line about the hairpiece?

Gingerly, I informed the director, Bennett Miller, about the missing hairpiece. He called for hair and makeup. They showed up empty-handed. Bennett then called for props and costumes, and a desperate hunt for some kind of comedy element was underway.

Here we were, on a cold Saturday evening in Winnipeg. Our chances of finding an open hair salon were zero, and not even the worst tie or bedazzled vest or outrageous boutonniere could be found, let alone turned into a comic moment.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was not happy, and an unhappy PSH was not a train you wanted to be in front of. I sat on the couch with Bob Balaban and watched Phil and Bennett discussing the matter with visible consternation. Reading my mind, Balaban said quietly, “Looks like we’re going home early.” Over my dead body! I summoned every ounce of courage and professionalism I had and walked toward Phil and Bennett. I was thinking, “Craig Archibald, if you’re ever going to prove you belong here, it’s now. Come on, think of something!”

Phil stopped his aggressive grumble and turned to glare at me. I shrugged and said in character as Christopher Isherwood, “Manhattan is not the place you want to be known as the village idiot.”

Bennett said, “That’s good!”

Phil said, “Keep going.”

“Was that rather hairless gentleman your new paramour?”

They both smiled.

“Or perhaps your father?”

“Let’s shoot,” said Bennett.

Five minutes later, we were rolling film. We did nine or ten improvised takes of the scene. Phil and I struggled a bit at first, but after a few takes we found our way. After half an hour of intense work, we got a roar of laughter from Bennett and the gang watching the playback in the video village. We’d

nailed the scene.

That night, soaking in the tub in my hotel room, I felt I’d achieved something important. Not only had I proven myself on a world-class film set, I had turned a negative moment into a positive one. Victim of bad planning turns to Champion of making it work. Overcoming the odds is a major theme in my life.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I’ve had the pleasure of guiding many actors through the difficult early years of an acting career. Many of these clients have gone on to great success. Our list of working clients is impressive and makes us stand out.

When I first met Constance Wu, she was working as a waitress in a steakhouse here in Los Angeles. We spent the next year working on her technique, discipline and business acumen. Shortly after that, she booked the lead role on the ABC television hit series Fresh Off the Boat.

She would go on to book the lead role in the hit film Crazy Rich Asians, which successfully stayed at #1 in the worldwide box office for three weeks in a row in 2018. On top of that, Constance was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Lead Actress in a Musical or Comedy. Her career continues strong to this day. I think that’s a pretty great story.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My parents. Cameron and Florence Archibald.

My dad came from a farming family deep in the wheat fields of Saskatchewan, Canada. He worked his way up from gasoline truck driver to advisor for the Federal Business Development Bank of Canada.

My mom is a Registered Nurse and worked in hospitals and old age homes her entire career. She knows a lot about medicine, administration and the vulnerable side of healthcare and aging.

When I began my own company, The Archibald Studio, my parents came in with a lot of help. None of it financial! Instead, they impressed upon me the business basics, from balancing budgets to market analysis and strategy, and how to execute a realistic operating plan.

They held me accountable. Never one to encourage the easy way, my folks held me to task and made sure, through the first years in particular, that I was paying attention to the basics. I truly believe that these building blocks are the foundation on which my success has been built.

In recent years, they’ve been far less involved as I believe I’ve surpassed even their grandest dreams of my possible success. After dropping my parents off at the airport on their last Christmas trip to Los Angeles, my parents turned at the concourse entrance and turned back for a last look. Mom smiled and waved. My father surprised me with a military salute.

That was a gesture I’d never seen him do, ever. I think I know what it meant. And that means the world to me.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I believe that resilience is the ability to make everything make you better.

Resilient people have similar mindsets. They are grounded and appreciate honesty and facts. They aren’t afraid to go against the status quo and take a chance. They assess situations rationally and act with logic and reason. They are disciplined. They are focused. They are curious. They aren’t afraid to learn a new lesson. They know how to bounce back quickly. They know how to be emotionally vulnerable and allow their truth but don’t let their emotions overwhelm them. Rather, they use their emotions to make them better.

Resilient people hear the word “no” differently. Instead of taking it as a blow to their ego, they realign that negative energy into a positive propellent that spurs them forward, on again, until the “no” becomes “yes.”

Resilient people are grounded in their personal integrity. They do their best to be their best even if their best isn’t the best. Until it is.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Courage is essential. It is the ability to take a chance even when the results cannot be guaranteed. It is not about being incautious but rather to be bold when life’s challenges could make one timid or meek. It is the bravery to take action.

Resilience is the bravery to continue to repeat that courageous action until the desired result is achieved.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Rafael Nadal.

A personal hero of mine, Rafa has proven himself to be the greatest tennis player of all time. Resilience is the secret to his success. When he beat Roger Federer at the Wimbledon Championship in 2008, he showed particular undaunted resilience. The match lasted four hours and forty-eight minutes and is the greatest tennis match I’ve ever witnessed. When interviewed by John McEnroe for NBC Sports after the match and asked how he kept coming back from considerable disappointments, the Spaniard said, “I tried to be there with my best positive attitude and to be very concentrate … and belief in the victory all the time. (sic)”

If you’ve followed the sport of men’s tennis for the last 20 years, you’ve witnessed Rafa repeat this pattern time and time again. When losing and under duress against monumental odds, he doggedly battles back to beat his opposition. He has, at this writing, won 21 major tournaments, the most of any man in the modern open era.

He has described his mindset as the ability to let go of the last point, focus on this moment, maintain a positive attitude, and always do his best.

That to me is the perfect recipe for “resilience.”

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

An English professor I had the misfortune of studying under in college was particularly tough on my writing ability. She told me I would “never succeed at writing anything.” She barely passed me, giving me a 56/100 or what was then called a “D.” I was an “A” student, and her grade dropped my graduation accreditation from “summa cum laude” to “magna cum laude.” Her lack of professionalism was inappropriate and mean. I still can’t understand it. Perhaps she was miserably unhappy or going through a life difficulty, but whatever was bothering her, she certainly took it out on me.

I took her judgement to heart and was afraid to put pen to paper for years. Finally, I listened to my heart and began to write plays. From 1995 to 1998, I wrote one play per year. The final play, “Private Life,” was produced in both New York and Los Angeles, garnering beautiful reviews from The New York Times, The New York Post, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. The success of that play led to my employment writing 6 different screenplays in the film industry.

In April of this year, my first book “The Actor’s Mindset” was published by Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

I like to think that maybe that professor was wrong.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

In 2006, my eighteen-year relationship came to an end. Due to misplaced trust and some bad legal advice, I lost everything. I literally moved to California with 7 boxes, a large credit card debt, and nothing in the bank.

It took a lot of personal work to come back from that, emotionally, financially, and spiritually, but come back I did. One day at a time. One phone call, one meeting, one victory at a time.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I believe my resilience is deeply ingrained in my DNA from my farming forefathers and foremothers. These ancestors spent the dead of Canadian winters in mud houses when they first immigrated. Imagine the freezing -40-degree winds and nothing to shelter your family but a mud wall. Think about that for a minute. Now imagine experiencing months of it.

So, I believe I come to it naturally. Then, when I was 11 years old, it became clear to me that I was gay. Now, we are talking about 1974, when homosexuality was still considered a psychological illness and imprisonable offense. Add to that my church, where I spent a considerable amount of time, preaching that I was a heathen, and you got one mixed up little guy.

Alone and shouldering this burden quietly on my own tested my resilience in a way I now find hard to believe. For the following four years, I kept my secret shame and maintained a strict self-confidence that I was neither crazy nor a heathen. Finally, I found friends and mentors who helped me cope with my truth through my teenage years.

Surviving as a gay teenager in those homophobic years without a doubt contributed to my resiliency.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Make — Get inspired to change your life.
  2. Everything — See everything that happens in your life for what it truly is and allow it to be.
  3. Make — Have the courage and inspiration to take action.
  4. You — From your integrity, for your life.
  5. Better — Turn the energy of all negatives into positives.

Life can be particularly challenging, which makes it easy to adopt a “victim” mindset. I see this everyday as I coach actors. I battle this tendency toward self-pity with a simple but powerful dictum: Make everything make you better. If you can use every difficulty as an inspiration to self-betterment, you change your mindset from victim to champion.

Refuse to be a victim or to bemoan your plight (easy as it may be after yet another rejection, another brusque dismissal, or another promotion you’ve been looked over). Make everything make you better. I’ve done it, I’ve taught it, I’ve seen it in action. It works.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

“The Real Super Lottery.” Make people worldwide, chosen by lottery, live for a week in someone else’s life conditions.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Rafael Nadal. See above.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow me at our website www.thearchibaldstudio.com or on Instagram (@archibaldstudio) or Twitter (@archibaldstudio).

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Author(s)

  • Savio P. Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 Best-selling Author, Syndicated Columnist, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head ?, heart ?, and gut ? — in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.