No matter where you are in your career, there is always room for improvement. In acting, it’s all about the characters and being able to put your own characteristics away for that character. How do you go about doing that successfully every time?
Know Your Acting Material
First, know your material. Always read a script from beginning to end, and do it more than once throughout the production. You’ll find that your understanding of the whole story, and your character’s role in that story, improve a little bit each time. Now take that global picture and start adding specifics to it – gestures, facial expressions, and the colour of your socks! The devil is in the details, and even if your audience never sees that you’re carrying a special token or wearing “tighty whiteys” as suited to this persona, YOU know it’s there, and that little touch helps transform your demeanour and enables you to BECOME character.
Use Your Voice!
Next, read the script out loud. As before do this beginning to end. Listening is a completely different function than reading – and listening to your script again transforms the global image. It’s a fun exercise to do this again, inserting actions you think fit the lines. Become both an actor and a narrator. You may discover some really wonderful spins to put on your body language this way.
Now tape record the script. If time is a factor, focus only on your lines. Play this to a friend or partner and both of you close your eyes. The advantage of being able to see your face or anything else has been removed – you must just “hear” the character in the recording. I strongly suggest saving these in progression. You’ll be surprised at how much the character emerges from using this blind technique more than once. Never forget that acting is multi-sensual. Your voice, your eyes, your gestures, your body language – they’re not owned by you in a scene. They’re your characters. Build that intimacy with your role from day one.
A Side-Note About Pauses
Some other good advice – earn your pauses. Commas in a script are for the benefit of the reader, not for an actor. Something, somewhere needs to be earning that moment without words otherwise the dramatic effect gets lost and it turns into awkward silence. Richard Burton is a good example of an actor who has absolutely mastered the art of the pause.
Beyond this don’t forget the simple rules of acting like enunciation, keeping the energy up, educating yourself on the business, and staying strong. With enunciation, try reading a sentence where you leave off the last letter of various words. It becomes incomprehensible. If you’re not careful with closing words, your audience will not understand you (and your director will be livid). Now, this is one of those touchy, character-specific issues. Some characters require poor enunciation, but even that has to be done correctly!
Energy wise, don’t party all night and expect to give a decent rehearsal or show afterward. You simply can’t maintain the energy level required. That’s a disservice to your character, and it’s unprofessional. Acting is a business. You’re going to take a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, and you won’t always be on the “A List” (if ever). Talent is only one part of the picture. Your energy, ability to recognise opportunities (and USE them), and the ability to deliver on the bottom line all count. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.