Kieran Culkin’s Journey to Finding His True Calling as an Actor

From Early Uncertainty to Emmy-Winning Success: Culkin Reflects on His Career Path

Kieran Culkin, now an Emmy-winning actor, didn’t always envision a career in acting. It wasn’t until halfway through the first season of “Succession” that he realized this was his true calling.

In a candid discussion with Jesse Eisenberg at the Tribeca Festival, the two actors reminisced about their long-standing careers, their new film “A Real Pain,” and more. Culkin revealed that he never consciously chose to be an actor; instead, it was a path thrust upon him from a young age. His manager, Emily Gerson Saines, reminded him of this during a pivotal phone call when he was about 20 years old.

“I remember Emily saying something about my career, and it hit me—I have a career? I had been acting since I was six without ever choosing it for myself,” Culkin shared. This realization led him to take a break from acting, as he tried to figure out what he truly wanted to do.

Culkin recounted a moment of clarity while working on the 2017 film “Infinity Baby,” where he felt comfortable with acting as a profession. However, it was only during “Succession” that he truly committed to the craft. “Halfway through the first season, I told my wife, ‘I think I know what I want to do for a living. I want to be an actor.'”

The actor also discussed how “Succession” transformed his approach to acting. Initially, he had a methodical way of preparing, being off-book and knowing the storyline intimately. This changed when the show’s unpredictable nature forced him to adapt on the fly.

“The unpredictability of ‘Succession’ forced me to abandon my old ways,” Culkin explained. “I found a weird freedom in not knowing everything and just trusting the process.”

This shift in mindset proved fruitful, as Culkin won his first Emmy for his portrayal of Roman Roy. He learned to embrace uncertainty and trust in the moment, which enhanced his performance.

Eisenberg and Culkin’s latest project, “A Real Pain,” showcases their dynamic collaboration. In the film, written and directed by Eisenberg, they play mismatched cousins on a poignant journey through Poland. Eisenberg praised Culkin’s unique acting style, noting that he often delivers performances that surpass the director’s original vision.

“Kieran has this unique ability to interpret scenes in ways I hadn’t anticipated, but always better,” Eisenberg said.

“A Real Pain” is set to hit theaters on October 18.

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