His first bad review in the entertainment business was one Jeffrey Lieber still hasn’t forgotten, three decades later.
This was the late '80s, long before the Evanston native would become a household name in Hollywood for helping launch the ABC hit ‘Lost’ and serving as showrunner for CBS’ ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ and USA’s ‘Necessary Roughness.’
“Tom Mitchell, who was one of my acting teachers during the time I was part of the undergraduate conservatory program at Krannert,” says Lieber (BFA '91, theatre). “I was a pretty intense, serious student. Overly intense, I think.
“I wanted desperately to be ‘done,’ to be anointed the next Lawrence Olivier. So, it was my freshman year, I was 19 and I played the part of the lawyer, Barnette Lloyd, in (fellow former Illini) Beth Henley’s ‘Crimes of the Heart.’
“He was a nervous character and I decided that the way to express that nervousness was to play with my tie. I grabbed it and gestured with it and used it a little like a security blanket. It got lots of laughs.
“After the performance, I sat with Tom and he clearly saw past all the laughter and told me it was not my best work. I was shocked — everyone seemed to love it — but he cut to the chase: It was basically a (BS) choice. It came from nothing real or primal, but just my desire to draw attention to myself.
“I looked at him with my overly intense eyes and insisted he tell me what I could’ve done to get better — more research ... more rehearsal ... different attack on things — and he just smiled and said, ‘You have to live a little; you have to grow up.’
“Shorter, he was the first person to look me in the eye and tell me that there was a process that didn’t have a shortcut. I had to do my time like everyone else.
“I’m 50 now. I’m still doing my time.”