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Acting: How to Act and Become a Character

Updated on February 22, 2013

Introduction to Acting

Acting in itself is an art-form and an incredibly difficult one to master. It isn't like learning the piano, where there are manuals on specific notes and scales to play. True, honest, believable acting comes from several sources, and I'll detail those below.

Direction

How can you successfully become a character without proper direction? In a play, or movie, or in any acting setting, the director is the one that has the vision of who the character is, how the character is supposed to behave -- gestures, facial expressions, and the rest -- and will guide you toward success. On the flip side, a poor director, or inexperienced director can often be a hindrance in the creative process. You may feel that the director is stepping on your toes, and oftentimes that is because they have insight that is useful to you and that you should humbly pay attention to.

And then there are those directors who demand of you to do things that A: Make no sense, and B: Completely ruin the flow of the play or movie. The point is, the director-actor relationship is crucial to success. If both aren't in sync, then not only will tensions arise on-set, but the production itself will suffer greatly.

Dedication

Dedication to researching the role that you are being called to play, whether it's a scoundrel, a politician, a surprised extra on a movie set, you need to have the dedication to make yourself the best that you can be. That means, rehearsing your lines like your life depended on it. Emotion is the lifeblood of acting. Your facial expressions, your movements, they're all scrutinized by directors and by fans alike.

When you aren't in-sync with your director, and not dedicated to your role, the viewer can tell. And it takes them out of the experience.

So how does one become dedicated to their role?


Live it, breathe it, become it. Even if it's just as a role of an extra, be the best Asian passerby you can be. Don't stand out, don't look ridiculous, and don't do anything a normal human wouldn't. It all adds to the art of creation that are film, theatre, and drama.

Say your role is to play as a scoundrel who is a despicable creature and you are confronting other characters. Channel points in your life when you were a scoundrel or despicable, or have done despicable things, and remember your mindset then. Remember why you did what you did, and use that as fuel to say the lines that your character is set to say. Be fierce, be cunning, be rough, and never forget who you are.

Acting is about forgetting who you ARE, and becoming someone ELSE.


Some call it lying, some call it haberdashery, but acting is an artform nonetheless. And one that is full of nuances and continually evolving. The more you dedicate yourself to becoming your character, the easier it will be to go with the flow of the changes that inevitably must come on a daily basis.

Specific Tools and TIps

When learning how to gesture effectively during a play, remember that it has to seem natural. An angry man pointing at his accuser doesn't offhandedly gesture in his direction. But at the same time, a full-body lunging point at the accuser looks awkward and over-blown. There's balance that must be found.

EMPHASIS!


How you say something, and which words are emphasized and vocal tonality are CRUCIAL to delivering a line believably and being a convincing character.


Here are six lines with emphasis on different words.

You, you betrayed me! How can I ever trust you again? The world is cruel, and you've made it even more so.

You, you betrayed me! How can I ever trust you again? The world is cruel, and you've made it even more so.

You....you betrayed me! How can I ever trust you again? The world is cruel, and you've made it even more so.

You, you betrayed me. How can I ever trust you again? The world is cruel, and you've made it even more so!


You, you betrayed me! (pure anger) How.....can I ever trust you again? The world is cruel...and you've made it even more so!

You....you betrayed me. How...can I ever trust you again? The world is cruel! and....you've made it even more so....


Every inflection, every intonation of your voice can change the emotional output of you speech. That's the beauty of language, and specifically human language.


When rehearsing lines, I've learned to do the gesturing with my left hand, so as to activate my right brain, where most of your creativity is centered. It helps with memorization, and with doing things with your perhaps non-dominant hand.

Final Comments

Becoming a character or persona, is a strenuous and taxing process that requires much dedication and much rehearsal. It is not for the faint of heart, or the lazy. To become someone else, convincingly, takes weeks, and sometimes years of practice, and schooling to achieve. It will not happen overnight, but if you are an aspiring actor, don't give up! Even though you may be ridiculed by some directors (who are ridiculous themselves), keep at it and sure enough, you'll be an actor in no time. You'll be a character. You'll be an emotional concept that moves a crowd to tears, to anger, to laughter, and to action even. That's the power of acting.

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