Sandra Seacat

American acting teacher and actress

Sandra Diane Seacat (October 2, 1936January 17, 2023) was an acclaimed and influential acting teacher and coach, her reputation resting on a combination of high-profile success stories (such as Jessica Lange, Mickey Rourke, Marlo Thomas, Meg Ryan and Laura Dern), her perceived connection to longtime Actors Studio director Lee Strasberg, and, most recently, her pioneering efforts in acting pedagogy, blending elements of the Method, eastern meditation and Jungian dream analysis.



Chronological, by original publication date.

  • I have the utmost respect for her because, even as an established actress, she still comes to class. She still works on developing herself as an artist.
  • The real thing she wanted was to play women with real depth, and a challenge, and something that she could resonate with – women that had intelligence and strength, and maturity and passion. [...] She's very close to her family – her parents, and her sisters, and her brother; very, very bonded. At some point she became aware that this is where her roots are. [...] She was always a wonderful mother. And it didn't make any difference how difficult the scene was, after the meal, Jessica spent that lunchtime with Shura, and was totally into Shura. [...] Anyone would be attracted to Sam, I would think. He's a very intelligent person and a very sweet person, first; and then he's so talented; and, on top of that, he looks great. He has a look like a pioneer, and that's very exciting. Maybe not for everybody, but it certainly would be for Jessica.
  • Laura is a free spirit. She's also a great student and a dedicated artist – and there aren't very many people I call artists. But the entire cast of this film, they're all true artists, dedicated to their own inner truth, and they have the courage to share that. You don't find that very often.
  • I think what he went through as a child was very heavy. He never got over his mother leaving his father, and following her mother to Florida, to an area that was very different, and losing his father. When he was seven years old, this was a very sensitive boy, who was wide-eyed and trusting, and not knowing how to protect himself at all.
  • He wanted private sessions. And he would come for privates, and he would give me a handful of cash; and I found out several years later that sometimes he wouldn't eat for two or three days in order to pay me.
    • As heard in "The Dark Side of Fame: Mickey Rourke"
  • I think what Kazan is saying is that the Method isn't a thing. It's an action, a process, a skillful or effective way of achieving a specific artistic task. It's not a pair of shoes. It's discovering how to walk. I did an affective memory at the Actors Studio years ago, after which Lee Strasberg said, "Now that's an affective memory. Darling, tell them how you did it." When I explained my process, Strasberg replied, "That's not how you do an affective memory! But that's what the Method is all about. It's a way of work!" You find your own way of carrying out your own and your character's internal truth—within your body, mind, and soul.
  • I believe that the artist is a wounded healer, that they are healing wounds of their own, and when they do that truthfully, they heal the audience.
  • Laura was born an authentic artist, and, coming together, my job was to help her bring all of it forward and out. [...] The artist is a shaman; a wounded healer. We have wounds that we want to bring forth through the material. It's joyful, it's painful, but not painful in a bad way. And when you do that, you also heal people in the audience.
  • My main focus while teaching is that the actor learns to fully express their own uniqueness and truth as a human being, and break through the patterns and blockages that prevent them from living fully and truthfully that part of themself that is the character, onstage or in front of the camera. We train and rehearse with very specific exercises that reveal the actor to himself and to the audience and also give the actor the courage to express who he is and to trust in himself and his instrument.

Quotes about Seacat


Alphabetical, by author/speaker.

  • [Y]ou strip yourself of ego, and the whole experience unearths all your analytical feelings and self-discovery. [...] It's better than any therapy.
    • Lynda Carter, on working with Seacat in preparation for her new TV series, in "Carter tackles the wonders of history," USA Today (August 15, 1994)

  • Finally I found a technique and a few teachers that allowed me to find my footing and I began to work more honestly and deeply as an artist. David Schermerhorn and Sandra Seacat initiated me to myself in a way and I discovered a whole new way of working that I still draw upon today as a director. I always felt something was missing, and I learned to access myself more fully and that really helped me move onto becoming a director which I love and feel fully engaged in. [...] David and Sandra taught me to use everything. Allow all things to be part of the scene and live and also to allow and embrace emotional opposites to happen. In fact, encourage them. Sometimes subtext lives here and that is treasure.

  • She impacted and inspired my life in ways that only God could have orchestrated. Her love for people, her love for life, her love acting let me know. As she would always tell me, "You can heal people through your work as an actor, you can inspire people through your work as an actor." And that truly made me see the higher purpose in the art that I do.

  • Through studying and through being raised on movie sets, I was surrounded by a lot of people who believed that the more tortured the person, the greater the artist. I always had a hard time understanding that, but thought, "I guess that's the way it is." Luckily, through life and the gift of the acting teacher who's changed my life in so many ways since 1984--her name is Sandra Seacat--I learned there's another opinion, which is: the better the person, the better the artist. The more true you are to who you are and the more honest you are as an individual, the more honest you can be as an actor, and I'm really liking that.
    • Laura Dern in "Profile: Defining Moments" by Jamie Painter Young, in Back Stage West (November 22-28, 2001)

  • Well, amazingly, a few friends had worked with her. I did Smooth Talk and Treat Williams said, "You would really love my acting teacher," and brought up Sandra, who was in New York at the time. And then I became dear friends with Rosanna Arquette and she said, "You know, you have to know Sandra Seacat. You really need to know her." And she was very passionate and helped me get into her class, because she would sometimes come to L.A. and do workshops. And then I did Blue Velvet, and she was coaching Isabella. So it was literally, like, three in a row. And so, I was like, "Oh, my God, I have to." So then I begged her. And then I started studying with her in class and, pretty quickly, would also work with her privately on a film, character development and whatever it was.

  • Well, she was trained at the Actor's Studio, so people would label it Method acting and, as were my parents, I'm a child of and a student of that. And all my teachers have sort of been in similar schools, Peggy Feury and The Studio and Lee [Strasberg] — I had the privilege of auditing his classes and sitting beside him a bit, and that was amazing. So it's all of that. But what Sandra brings to it — or gave me, since I can only speak for myself, and I'm sure she works very differently with different people — is a deeper interest in the, you know, as Gregory Peck called it — and I had never heard it until he deemed it as such — "the healing arts." You know, he was like, "Wow, you chose the healing arts." It's just so beautiful, to consider it as an opportunity to heal oneself and others through questioning the complications of being human, whatever that means, not in some, you know, preachy way, but in a genuine way. And so that's what she is deeply interested in.
    • Laura Dern in "Oscars: Rediscovering Laura Dern, the Actors' Actor (Q&A)"

  • I like working with Sandra and with directors who embrace flaw and mistake as wonderful opportunities to learn how you want to do it on the next take. It's just a beautiful way to work, and it's incredible that my teacher guides me in the same way. It's the opposite of Whiplash. Sandra's the opposite of Whiplash.

  • Sandra lived by seeing magic and possibility in everything. She met the discovery of character and story with equal protectiveness, irreverence, humility and grace. She taught us the practice of investigating healing through acting. But more than that, she invited us to know ourselves as artists and humans in ways I could’ve never begun to explore without her. She’s been my teacher since age 17, and I had the honor of acting alongside her several times. She is my whole heart.

  • In 1987, when I was 19, I was studying musical theater at Boston’s Emerson College. My sister, Tricia Leigh, told me about a summer acting retreat in Italy. Mom paid, so off we went. For six weeks, we lived in a villa and worked with acting coach Sandra Seacat. Her method included a deep, intense excavation of self that was designed to free yourself emotionally. It also allowed you to apply the technique when creating a character. We worked from morning to night, and I felt on the precipice of my life. One of Sandra’s exercises included a ritual to help us understand who we were. For me, I had to find my own identity, separate from my parents. Then I was expected to share my discoveries with the class as a performance.

  • It is impossible to express who Sandra Seacat is and was and will forever be. She is a true legend in the sense that she lived the most virtuous life one can imagine. A life devoted to profound service and healing through art. She was a revolutionary, a culture-changing teacher of acting and storytelling. She is a beacon for all of us of what a life of deep meaning and beauty can look like. And she was irreverent and forever playing like a joyful, unbridled child. I feel grateful beyond words to be able to call her my teacher, my acting partner in Under the Banner of Heaven, my mentor and my friend.”

  • Sandra totally changed my acting. Instinctively, I was always in love with psychology and my dream life had always been very important to me. Ever since I was 15 years old I had been writing down my dreams. What's really exciting to me about Sandra's work is that it changes your life, almost on a psychic level. Now I'll get parts and in working on them, she'll say, 'Well, let's see how you're developing, as a human being.' Because the parts you're doing, it's no accident. Those parts affect your life and they kind of illustrate the map that your life is following.

  • I had a wonderful acting teacher, Sandra Seacat, and one of the things she taught was she'd put a book on a chair and all you did was ask questions about that book: is it a good book or a lousy book? Who made the binding? Why don't I want to read it? Why would I want to read it? How long has it been sitting there? It's a very simple exercise but I do that all the time, constantly question myself and my surroundings, not in a negative way but in a positive way that leads toward my character.

  • She really changed things around for me. She got me at the moment where it was all beginning to come alive, and it was a great catalyst for me.

  • She was out of the Actors Studio, but then she really diverged from Method acting. She did a lot with Siddha yoga. You know, she was a follower of Guru Baba Muktananda. I never became a follower of his, but Sandra brought a lot of that stuff into her early work with me, relaxation and meditation.
    • Jessica Lange in "Sex and Subtext"

  • When Bob and Jack cast me in Postman. They wanted–Bobby suggested it, and of course I resisted, and it took me a long time to kind of give in to working with her. But then once I did it was wonderful. 'Cause I am the kind of person that needs a teacher once in a while.
    • Jessica Lange, on how and when she came to study with Seacat, in "Sex and Subtext"

  • One afternoon, after staring at the name Sandra Seacat for ten minutes, I picked up the phone. My voice was so timid, she must have thought I was half dead. I stuttered and stammered when I introduced myself and told her Peter Falk had recommended I call. She calmly said, "Why don't you come over and we'll meet?" "Okay," I said, as I flipped through my empty appointment book for a day in the far-off future. That way I could eventually cancel. "When would be good for you?" I asked. "Right now," she said. "Come right now." For some unknown reason, it felt like I was being drawn to the light of a flame. As I entered Sandra's apartment, I spotted something that would soon transform my life. It was a large photograph propped on a chair. I said a quick hello to Sandra but couldn't keep my eyes off the picture. "Who is that?" I asked. "That's my spiritual teacher, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda."

  • She was my first teacher and acting coach. I worked with her from the time I was 13 to the time I was 22. She has deep intuition and there is no teacher that can touch her. If you wonder how to do the work in a way that doesn't harm you, but actually evolves your being? Sandra Seacat. She is a mystic with technical prowess and you feel safe with her from the start. She does not publicize, she does not reveal who she works with, you can't find her easily and she is not cheap. But if you find her and work with her, you will come closer to your potential than you ever have in your life. I choose my words carefully and the above is not hyperbole, it is actual and true.
  • There is no higher level acting coach out there. She involves the heart, the intelligence, and the Spirit. She has deep intuition; she is a creator and a summoner. She has great power. I worked with her from the time I was 13 to the time I was 22. Sandra Seacat presents a way to do the work in a way that doesn't harm you, but actually evolves your being.... She is a mystic with technical prowess and you feel safe with her from the start. She does not publicize, she does not reveal who she works with, you can't find her easily and she is not cheap. But if you find her and work with will come closer to your potential than you ever have in your life.

  • Sandra believes that every part you play is really part of you, a way for you to work out something in your past, something in your present. Since then, whenever I've chosen to do something, I've thought, "well, this has nothing to do with me." Then, sure enough, once I get into it and really start doing the work, and really start uncovering, I see that it's absolutely about something that's going on in my life. It isn't something obvious. It's usually pretty hidden. But there's always some sort of parallel to what's going on in my own life. And so, perhaps you can use it to bring closure, as a healing, a reconnection. I believe in that. I believe in that.

  • Ward's inexperience was noticeable, especially to her. She had taken acting lessons before, but she believed she needed help —fast—and wound up getting it from a talented acting coach named Sandra Seacat. Seacat saved her, and in the end, Ward saved herself. You can almost see her develop as an actress in "Thorn Birds." The segments are shot pretty much in sequence, and at the start, she's cold, withdrawn, awkward. By the finish, her Maggie is much stronger, more worldly, compassionate. The changes were in character, but they were taking place in Ward too. Thanks, in large part, to Seacat.✱
    • Marilynn Preston (TV critic): "Tempo: Ward Gets Chance to Win Wings in Thorn Birds," The Chicago Tribune (March 29, 1983)
      Apropos The Thorn Birds, Ward and Seacat, see Fred Rothenberg and Rachel Ward, below.

  • Two of my teachers, John Lehne and Sandra Seacat, who both studied with Lee Strasberg, emphasized a wonderful relaxation technique in their classes. While we were doing a scene, they had us consciously think, "Are my shoulders up?" or "Is my anus tight?" or "Am I holding tension in my hip?" Just the question would allow my shoulders to go down, my arms to relax, or my hip to release. John was Jill Clayburgh's teacher, and Sandra taught Jessica Lange, Mickey Rourke, and Treat Williams. Watch these actors' movies and see how relaxed they are.

  • Somehow, having to spend so much time with each word, because the words were sung instead of spoken, made me freeze as an actress. I went to my acting teacher at the time, the brilliant Sandra Seacat. She somehow intuited to tell me simply to imagine I was at the ocean. Sensorily, of course. I worked at seeing the ocean, smelling the ocean, until I was breathing with the ocean, and I practically was the ocean. I could hardly believe the sounds that came out of my mouth. They were rich, full, and very loud. It hardly sounded like my voice. But it was.

  • After her mother died in 1982, Isabella decided to explore acting seriously. "By then the way of being respectful by not doing it no longer seemed the only way. I'd done film as a sort of amateur, but now I had to be responsible; I couldn't use film as a school. I wanted to see for myself if I liked acting, and if I had any ability. I was pregnant and terribly fat, but I started going to acting classes." She found a coach, Sandra Seacat, she much admired, and started working with her. "All of a sudden it seemed to be fun and passionate and interesting."

  • Ward's first reading before producers David Wolper and Stan Margulies was disastrous. So she hired drama coach Sondra Seacat,sic who also helped turn Jessica Lange from King Kong's consort into the soulful actress of Frances and Tootsie. According to Margulies, Ward's second reading "was so breathtaking that she got the part right there."✱
    • Fred Rothenberg (Associated Press): "'Thorn Birds' Casting Gamble," The Lewiston Journal (March 29, 1983), p. B6
      With regards to this and the quote from Marilynn Preston, above, see Rachel Ward's comments, below.

  • A former Actors Studio student ("I sat there for a year, waiting for the teacup to develop in my hand"), he relied on the training of a drama coach, Sandra Seacat, and "that's when everything started to click."
    • Mickey Rourke, as paraphrased and quoted in "Rising Star Has an Identity Problem" by Al Cohn, in People (June 29, 1984), p. 9

  • He found New York drama coach Sandra Seacat, whom he credited with "channeling all it was that was messing me up into something creative and challenging."
    • Mickey Rourke, paraphrased and quoted, in "Mickey Rourke, Straight On‎: A Painful Past is Valuable Prologue to an Acting Career Aimed at Making 'Uncompromising Movies With Good Characters'" by Clarke Taylor, in The Los Angeles Times (July 24, 1984), p. F8

  • In Sondra's [sic] class, we had dream assignments where, before you went to sleep, you'd write out an assignment to yourself and dream dreams that had connections to the work you were doing. I've done that with this play.

  • As a friend who abandons Judy Davis when she falls on hard times and then justifies it as honesty, she caught the smooth, unconflicted heartlessness of an entire class.
    • Gavin Smith (on Seacat's performance in The New Age): "Moments Out of Time; New Faces; Overlooked," Film Comment (Jan 1995)

  • The cast is a staggering one – Elaine herself, likewise Jeannie, as well as Peter Falk, Melanie Griffith, Marlo Thomas, Olympia Dukakis and Louise Lasser. The director was an interesting choice: Sandra Seacat, acting coach and guru to many stars.

  • They are mostly excellent; a few are better than that; one young man named Romeo Mizzaro and one young lady named Sandra Kaufman ✱ must certainly be destined to bring many future stages alive with searching subtleties (his) and appetizing warmth (Miss Kaufman's).
    • Jerry Tallmer: "Theatre: The Waltz of the Dogs," The Village Voice (August 2, 1962), p. 13
      In all her professional credits prior to 1969, as well as her scene work at the Actors Studio
      during that period, Seacat was known by her then married name

  • I only wish Lee could have lived to see me portray a schizophrenic in Nobody's Child. I never could have gotten near playing that kind of part without Lee's exercises, and the subsequent work I did and continue to do with his primary disciple, the brilliant Sandra Seacat.”
    • Marlo Thomas, from her autobiography Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny (2010), p. 210

  • She's extraordinary. She made me work in a totally different way than I'd ever worked before. For the first time, I really worked on technique... It was definitely not an easy five months. It was a lot of tying things together and understanding and confusion and frustration and anger. I asked a lot of questions about acting and about me and stuff, and Sandra just had these answers, and they were just like, of course, oh my God, of course!
    • Rachel Ward, as quoted in "Tempo: Ward Gets Chance to Win Wings in Thorn Birds" by Marilynn Preston, in 'The Chicago Tribune (March 29, 1983)

  • Becoming Meggie Cleary was Rachel Ward's most arduous undertaking. She botched her first reading, distracted by the prospect of another film offer, and the producers let her agent know there wouldn't be a second reading. Suddenly, it mattered. "Say anything, say I was ill, see if they'll have me back," she instructed her agent. Ward then signed on with drama coach Sondra Seacat,sic whose clients include Jessica Lange and Mickey Rourke of "Diner." ("Maybe I should keep quiet about it," Ward giggles. "Maybe I'm not going to do Sondra's reputation any good.") But after five intensive days of study she did a screen test and got the part. [...] Before Seacat's tutelage, Ward thinks, her acting was largely "jumping in, crossing my fingers and hoping it would go all right." Now, though, she has a technique that is "very Method" and "working from the inside out" and "learning about my instrument." She's sure that her professional evolution is there on the screen for all to see, which both gratifies and mortifies."I hate everything in the first show; I hope people don't judge my performance by it."✱
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