Character? Something You ‘Do’ Or Something You ‘Become’?

Insider Articles Training

For an actor, the word 'character' is a loaded one: is it something you 'become' or does it have more to do with what an actor does under the given imaginary circumstances - and HOW they do what they do?

If you are playing Miss Julie in Strindberg's play of that title, you have to make an interpretative choice - maybe as follows:

The internal component of that character is that she hates men and wishes to destroy them.

But... the external component is that she dresses and behaves in a way to allure and attract men.

It's an act of interpretation which creates the illusion of character.

Of course, if you feel that you have to 'get into character' or 'become a character' (both literally impossible in my view) then this article will make no sense to you!

Ways Of Approaching Character As An Actor

  • 1 - Identify with the character’s emotional life - by discovering what everything means to the character, and identifying those meanings within yourself.
  • 2 - Identify the character’s ACTIONS and truthfully execute them, under the given circumstances. Refer to the character’s SUPER-OBJECTIVE (what is the one thing they WANT) and your human understanding of the ESSENCE (via daydreams) of the character, in order to help you choose the right actions.
  • 3 - Identify the character’s point of view about life - e.g. ‘theft is a justifiable way of life’. Find a way of understanding this – what does the character THINK they are aiming to achieve with this way of life.

1, 2 and 3 above, are the main bridges into character work.

Additional Tools At Your Disposal

In addition, you could consider the value of the Inner Emotional Line - the thread which runs through each 'bead' (action) on your 'necklace' (the whole play or scene). Remember; an 'angry man' is a character - so is a 'depressed woman' etc.

Taking into account impediments - which alter physical behaviour are also helpful – pain, alcohol, and the effects of heat and cold - will all serve to alter your own everyday behaviour.

Then there's subliminal information, given to an audience via stage setting, props and costume. On television, a character is often identified for an audience by the appearance of a recurring item of costume - take Tom Hardy's hat in 'Taboo' - such things solidify the impression or illusion of a character in the mind's eye.

And that's all character is in my opinion... an 'illusion', created in the mind of the audience, through behaviour specifically chosen by the actor.

That chosen behaviour is as a result of imaginative interpretation, solidified with the help of external ornaments and costume.

How do you use 'character' in your acting work? Do you agree with the above?

Either way, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.