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The Honorable Path To Discovering, Creating and Realizing The Character's Truth

It's usually the untrained or ego-driven actor that struggles with this concept and so much is lost when actors impose themselves, their belief system, their energy on top of the character, suffocating the character beneath their will.

An actor's job is to lift the character from the pages of the script as the writer intended and become the vessel for the character to exist and the conduit through which the character relates to the world.

It is NOT an actor's job to discard the writer's intentions and impose themselves on top of the character.

It is an irresponsible actor that makes their values, beliefs and instincts more important than those of the character.

Most conflicts between actors and Directors occur when an actor forces their needs in front of the characters while the Director is working hard to stay faithful to the intentions of the writer. In this scenario, the Director is looking for something specific from the actor and the actor typically says to the Director, "Yeah, but I wouldn't do it like that." or "That just doesn't feel real or right to me." What this reveals is a disconnect and misaligned expectations between Actor and Director. One is being faithful to the writer (the Director), while the other (the Actor) is being, well, selfish and self-serving.

Let me back up and say this: Yes, the actor must bring themself to the role. Yes, the actor must embrace their life experiences to help relate to the circumstances. Yes, the actor should create their version of the character. Yes, the actor must trust their instincts. All of this is valid, important and essential...BUT NEVER AT THE EXPENSE OF THE CHARACTER'S ESSENCE AS INTENDED BY THE WRITER.

The actor must understand that they and their needs are NEVER more important than the character. An actor should NEVER do something at the expense of the character.

When an actor says things like, "Yeah, but I wouldn't do it like that." or "That just doesn't feel real or right to me." what this reveals is that the actor has not done their homework. They are taking the easy path to an end result that serves their needs more than the script's. A Director frankly should not care that YOU, THE ACTOR wouldn't do it like that. YOU are not the character. The character is their own individual with their own life experiences, their own wants, needs, dreams, fears, and goals.

I know I'm taking a VERY strong position here and I know this will anger some actors and that's ok. I'm glad that it does trigger something visceral in some of you. I want to challenge your approach. I want to challenge the way you look at your job as an actor. If the writer did not do the brilliant work to carefully craft the story and develop these character in such a way that made people stop and pay attention, you would not have this role to play. The writer deserves SO much respect for creating this gift for you to explore.

BUT...with all that said, YES, the actor should have conversations with the Director and the Writer (if you have access to them) to gain clarity, to challenge the ideas, to seek the truth, NOT to make the actor more important than the character, but rather to meld the two in such a way, that the actor, acting as a vessel, a conduit, can discover themselves within the character and find the character within themselves and share that respectfully created individual with the world.

If you're interested in learning more about the foundation of Script Analysis to help you dig into the script for clues on how to honor and respect the character, check out 2 of my other blogs.




Here another article about this topic that I thought would add value and additional understanding.

The Actor and the Written Word

By Basil Hoffman | December 12, 2008

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