The Actor's Gang
Just outside of LA in the Californian desert, presenter Rajesh Mirchandani joins 'Shawshank Redemption' star Tim Robbins as he leads acting classes with the segrgated inmates from Norco prison. Rajesh witnesses the transformation of inmates, from tough gangsters into respectable men and gains a unique insight into some of America's toughest social challenges.
Rajesh recorded inside the prison with Tim Robbins over a two month period, gaining unique access not only to Tim but also to the inmates. Tim visibly enjoys cult status among the inmates and quickly gains their trust. He is no stranger to prisons, having played an innocent man convicted of murder in "The Shawshank Redemption" and was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for "Dead Man Walking" - a film about a death row inmate. He formed The Actor's Gang, an acting troupe, which runs prison theatre workshop for inmates having spent time in some of LA's toughest prisons whilst researching both films. With re-offending a more likely scenario once they are out of prison, Robbins believes that more should be done whilst they are inside to help them change their ways.
Robbins' Hollywood master class ranges from Shakespeare to Commedia dell' arte, a style that originated in 16th-Century Italy and involves actors in masks playing basic character types. Robbins explains that inmates learn to portray four different emotions: happiness, sadness, fear and anger. One of the inmates who Rajesh follows over the course is Mike who is serving a lengthy prison sentence. Mike says, "In the yard, gangs stick to their patch but these classes have helped to make guys see that we don't need to be violent.".