Tips: 5 Most Effective Techniques Actors Use to Breathe Life into Their Characters | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Tips: 5 Most Effective Techniques Actors Use to Breathe Life into Their Characters

The life of an actor is one that many people have always aspired to have growing up. The fame, fortune, and power that come with it seem like a total package deal that one shouldn’t miss out on. But in reality, being in the limelight is more than just the glitz and the glam or having a pretty face or memorizing your lines. Actors actually spend years, if not their entire career, continuously developing, honing, and learning about their craft and style. Let’s take a look at the proven methods and techniques that most actors use to breathe life into each and every character they portray and how it plays a crucial role in enriching the world of the story.

Understanding the Method to the Madness

Stanislavski Method

Popularized by Russian theater artist, Konstantin Stanislavski, this method is an important acting approach that is usually instilled and ingrained into every actor at an early stage of their career. What makes his method exceptional is its focus on human emotions or the emotional arc of the characters. This allows the actors to step into the mind of a character and understand how they personally think, talk, feel, and react to circumstances, which ultimately brings authenticity and dynamicity to the performance. Actors such as Lord Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Ellen Burstyn and Marilyn Monroe are all advocates of this technique.

The Method

Method acting is one of the most utilized and adopted techniques that most A-list actors usually win an award for. The approach was developed by Lee Strasberg and it entails diving deep into a character’s persona, motivations, and emotions for a long period of time. Actors are trained to dig deep into their personal and emotional experiences in the past and then use them to portray their characters as realistic and sincere as possible. Because method actors internalize and personify their characters profoundly and to extreme lengths, this technique has caused some to experience psychological issues that make it difficult for them to differentiate fact from fiction. This is common when portraying villains or a sinister such as the Joker. In fact, some of the actors who portrayed him have all been affected psychologically by the character’s twisted persona. Award-winning method actors include Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Christian Bale, Dustin Hoffman, and Heath Ledger to name a few.

Meisner Technique

Sanford Meisner pioneered a technique that encourages actors to use improvisation and spontaneity when performing. He believes that being able to read the room and reacting instinctively to your fellow actors’ performances is more natural and allows one to think on their feet and let their imagination run freely. “It relies on sanding down the psychological mountain-making of an actor’s work and instead focusing on the simplicity of instincts. Through repetition, his students naturally, meditatively removed all of the psychological connotations from an action or line, revealing the character’s most humble form.” Actors that adopt this technique include Diane Keaton, Grace Kelly, Robert Duvall, and Tom Cruise.

Practical Aesthetics Technique

Developed by the brilliant David Mamet and William H. Macy, this technique is a combination of Aristotle, Meisner, and Stanislavsky’s storytelling and acting techniques. It entails following a four-step process that helps an actor analyze the screenplay and the character that the writer has created to effectively break down a scene and bring it to life.

This process requires the actor to ponder on the following factors:

  • “What is the character literally doing?”
  • “What does the character want the other character to do in the scene?”
  • “What is the actor doing onstage to achieve this goal?”
  • “The “as if,” which personalizes it. Or: What is this to me?”

This technique does not deal with using imagination nor putting an actor’s personal interpretation of the character. “The writer has already given you everything you need to act the role by suggestions made in the script. The illusion of character is created when the writer’s words mixes [sic] with the performer’s actions and is born in the audience’s mind. The Practical Aesthetics trained actor, does not look for emotional connection to the text or character, instead, they find the commonality in action.” Famous actors who use this technique are William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman, Rose Byrne, and Jessica Alba.

Chekhov Technique

Michael Chekhov is an actor that was trained by Stanislavski. His technique involves the use of psycho-physical actions or Psychological Gestures in conveying and intensifying emotions. Postures, facial expressions, hand gestures, gait and stance are all physical movements that powerfully speak for themselves or enhance the impact of the dialogue. Prominent actors who practice this technique include Ingrid Bergman, Clint Eastwood, Gregory Peck, Anthony Hopkins, and Jack Nicholson.

Building Blocks of Character Work

Multi-dimensional and complex characters are qualities that make us willingly choose to lose sleep over our favorite films and TV series. Characters are at the heart of every story and they serve as an important instrument that allows us to understand ourselves better and the world that we live in. To be able to create a character that will leave a legacy, actors need to understand the human condition and know how to appropriately develop their identities that are representative of our society.

Actors need to get to know their characters as if they are real people and to use their imagination to know what it’s like to live in their shoes and go through their struggles. Doing research is key to understanding their wants, needs, point of view, and motivation as well as creating an authentic, relatable, and timeless character. Some actors also go the extra mile by learning their character’s accent or undergoing drastic weight transformations to accurately look the part.

There’s more to the craft of acting than what meets the eye

There’s more to the craft of acting than what meets the eye. Actors go through rigorous training and deal with a lot of pressure to create characters that serve as our companions as we journey through life. Today’s entertainment landscape has paved the way for us to get to know more characters that are culturally diverse and inclusive. The hope is to give more opportunities to actors who belong to marginalized or underrepresented communities to portray roles that are not stereotypical or secondary.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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