Without a character, there’s no actor. No matter how beautifully the writers have crafted a character in a script, it takes the actor to bring that character to life. While on the surface, acting a character appears to be pretending to be someone or something that you’re not; to truly embody a character, the actor must reveal as much honesty and truthfulness as possible. And the only way to do that, is to imbue the character with yourself.
As the great Meryl Streep says “Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.”
Acting is a craft, and the vessel of that craft is yourself. No matter what character you’re playing, the only way to authentically play that character is to understand who that character is in the story, how that character is similar and different to you and how you would feel and act if you were living the circumstances and truths of that character.
This especially applies to acting on camera. When auditioning for a role in a professional film, television series or commercial, bringing yourself to your character is the only surefire way to stand out from other actors in an authentic, unique and exciting way - as long as you are using the story as your north star, bringing yourself to your auditions is the key to building a professional on camera acting career.
The first step towards developing any acting character is reading absolutely everything you can about the project the character is in. For film, television and commercial acting auditions, this means reading the project breakdown, the sides, and any press about the project.
Even researching other projects by the filmmakers will help you as the actor determine who your character is. Any character is only one piece of the puzzle that is a script. The more you know about the puzzle as a whole, the more likely you are to deliver a character that fits in that puzzle.
Thinking critically about what you read in the audition breakdown, the sides and the script is the key to taking who you naturally are and merging it with the purpose the character serves in the story.
What is the genre of story?
What is the story about?
Who are all the characters?
What are the relationships between the characters?
What is the environment the characters are in?
Who's story is it?
What impact does your character have on the story?
What is true about your character?
How is your character different from you?
Now’s time for the fun part - let your imagination run wild. The next step in creating a character for acting is imagining the world of the script, the reality of the characters and the journey of the scene.
You know the piece, you know the story, now spend time thinking about what it would be like if you were the character. If all the things that are true for the character were true for you, how would you feel? How would you act?
Whether you’re preparing to be a barista on an episodic television comedy or you’re getting ready to play Hamlet on stage; use your imagination and find your connection to the character you want to act.
Imagine what it would be like to be them, living out that story, through the relationships you have with other characters, under the circumstances of the script.
“The first step to a better audition is to give up character and use yourself.” - Michael Shurtleff
If you don’t put yourself in your character, you undoubtedly find yourself on the path to creating an archetype instead of a real, interesting character. Your success in creating characters for acting lies in your ability to reveal authenticity, and the only way to be authentic is to use yourself.
Spend time digging into what you know about yourself;
Where do you come from?
What are your relationships?
What are your goals and dreams?
What are your biggest fears?
How do you cope with stress?
How do you have fun?
How do you behave in relationship to the different people in your life?
What events and occurrences have shaped who you are now?
The more deeply you know yourself, the more deeply you’ll be able to connect with the characters you are portraying and the more freedom you’ll find in bringing any character to life.
Understanding how you are a unique and interesting character just as you naturally are, is the secret that propels your success as a professional film, television and commercial actor in today's world.
Build every character you play on top of who you are, and watch your acting career reach new heights.
This work is at the core of what we teach at the Laura Mac Method online acting school. Starting with creating your “Acting Avatar” (the version of you that fits perfectly in your local entertainment market) in the Foundations program and then developed and perfected in the Academy acting classes; we know from experience that this work works and if you’re an actor who’s new or looking for a better approach, check out our program today.
From his early work through his late work, Konstantin Stanislavski, the father of modern acting, maintained that the actor must not just say the words of a script and make pictures with their bodies, but experience the life of the character. Your job as the actor is to live the story of the script. Using yourself as the vehicle of the character.
Being you as if you had different experiences, relationships, values, beliefs, privileges, but being you all the same.
Unlock the authentic, real you and find the root to every character you play as an actor.