Becoming Your Character

Posted by SmartActors | 2 Comments

How an actor takes on a character can vary greatly from person to person. Some prefer to follow the Stanislavski system while others lean more toward the Meisner technique. There are also plenty of actors out there that pick and choose and make a blend of two or three different techniques. No matter what you choose, becoming your character takes time and starts way before the first rehearsal. In a recent interview with actor Daniel Day-Lewis, many of his acting techniques were revealed. His new movie "Lincoln" opens on Nov. 9 and his preparation for the role began the summer before when he found out he was cast as Abraham Lincoln. With such a historical character to play, Day-Lewis spent much of his time sifting through piles of history books and tapes trying to find out who Lincoln was. He began to perform everyday tasks in character in order to see how Lincoln would do such things. He even used modern technology to tap into the character by text messaging other actors in the cast as Lincoln. This type of technique isn't always the right choice for every actor. Day-Lewis is known for extensively researching his roles and remaining in character throughout the entire filming process. He even stays with it during breaks and meals. With any character though, research is a good idea. If your character has a job you've never heard of, look it up and find out what they do. If they are supposed to follow a religion that you can't even pronounce, study up on it and see what it's like. The point is, you can't know how to play someone if you don't know who they are and that's where a good amount of research helps. Another way actors find their character is by writing biographies. They try to develop a past for their character to add layers to the role. Many actors find that when they approach a scene with a well-developed character background, choices open up to them that they never would have seen before. On the other hand, some acting coaches feel that such specific information could hinder the acting. Sometimes an actor will turn away from a choice because of their imagined background when such a choice could have possibly been the most brilliant option. Method acting can be a very helpful or a very hurtful technique for actors. Some believe that using one's own life experience to develop a character will only make the actor less creative and stifle their choices. If method acting is taken on too early, the actor may not be able to push forward in a scene because they become too emotional. Most actors find that this technique is helpful to develop their character as it makes them more relatable. It's always easier to understand someone's actions and situation if you can recall a similar event or time in your own life. Actors can usually find great character inspiration from observing everyday life and people. Taking some time to people-watch is a good way to see how normal people react to normal things in life. This also helps when you're playing a character that's a bit different from you physically. Watching to see how an older person walks or how a younger person sits can help you find the physicality of your character. Acting coaches and instructors will always have various views about the right technique to become your character. The only way to figure out which one works best for you is to try a variety of techniques until you find something that feels right.
  1. William Monk says:

    Good list of techniques 🙂

  2. William, thanks for the feedback! Please let us know if you ever have any specific areas you want us to focus on. Much success! We’re here for you!

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