Should The Actor 'Become' The Character And How Would One Do That?


2 Answers

Bil Nutt Profile
Bil Nutt answered
This is a really good question. I've been acting in community theater for about 17 years, and this is a question that has been the subject of some spirited debates.

Talk to three actors, and you're likely to get three (or more!) answers. I tend to agree with epictetus that "becoming" a character is practically impossible. I've seen actors tie themselves in knots (and, incidentally, mess up their personal lives) because they felt they had to "become" a character.

If you're an actor, you should take your cues first and foremost from the SCRIPT. If the playwright has done her/his job, then you should find just about everything you need to make the character convincing.

If said playwright has NOT done his/her job, you have to do a little more work. Here's where you need a DIRECTOR who will work with you on conveying the character.

There are loads of techniques that actors use, including tapping their own memories and emotions. I'm more a believer that an actor should try to fill in the details of a character's past. (Example: I'm currently playing Capt. Markinson in A FEW GOOD MEN, and the other actors playing Marines and I have been talking about our character's live apart from the script, such as whether any of us are married. I find this to be an enjoyable exercise, partly because I'm a frustrated writer myself and partly because it gives some insight into how to interpret some lines.)

Bottom line: I think an actor should use as many techniques as possible to make the character believable and convincing. But "becoming" the character? It's an exercise in solipsism.

Hope this helps!
Mark Westbrook Profile
Mark Westbrook answered
The simple answer is that this is the question that has been taxing actors and acting coaches and acting theorists for such a long time.

I would say that becoming the character is impossible, unless you are planning on undergoing some sort of actual transformation. Plus, unless the character is factual in basis, how does one become the sum of words on a page?

Becoming the character is an impossibility in my mind. What you can do instead, is to work out what they (the character in the script) want and how they go about getting it. This will give you something to do whilst all the other characters are cursing themselves for not being 'in character' or 'in role'.

Many training systems give you tasks (chores?) to do and these are supposed to bind you to the character. Much of this is nonsense, you cannot be someone else, you can only be yourself pretending to be someone else. If you could be an abstract thing like a character, you could be an abstract thing like the idea of the 'fulfillment'.
thanked the writer.
Bil Nutt
Bil Nutt commented
I had to smile at your comment to me in another message. I was going to ask if YOU were following ME around on this site! Guess we just have similar interests (though not identical tastes. I only add something when I think you've missed something. )

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