Playing a Character Not Like You
It's not real, it's just acting. How can you pretend to be someone else? Your character might not suit your personality at all. What do you do?
Exactly, it's just acting, so your character doesn't have to fit your personality. Actually, if they did, acting would be kind of boring. Remember when you were playing make believe as a kid. You didn't care if you didn't really have much in common with the super hero or the princess. You didn't even think about it, because you were playing.
I think you need three things to play a character:
- Imagination: The character is not like you, so you have to imagine what their life must be like, how they feel, where they have been, what they have experienced... How do you spark your imagination? By observing others and doing research. As an actor, you should be curious about human behavior. Observe people around you on a daily basis. Their behavior, their maneurism, etc... Reasearch your characters. The environment they live in or grew up in, the type of work they do, their social-cultural background etc. If you don't find all these things interesting and they don't spark your imagination, it's much harder to play a character. Ben Kingsley, the British actor, puts it well, "When I choose a role it's either because I recognise the man, or that I'm very curious to know him." Wanting to know more about your character will spark your imagination.
- Empathy: I think the next step after you research your character and start to imagine what it would be like to be them is to want to understand them. Why do they behave that way? You don't have to agree with your character to emphasize with them. You just have to start seeing their point of view and how they got where they are. That's one really great aspect of being an actor, because it helps open up your mind and heart to others as you play a broader and broader repertory of roles.
- Play: Just like when we make believe as kids, we have to suspend disbelief when we play a character, which means we have to be willing to play, take chances and have fun trying out new things.
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