Character Development

Acting Tips to Find the Character’s Energy

by Joey

(Las Vegas)



Hi acting school stop,

I’m Joey, 33 years old male and I’ve been studying for awhile mostly at home now though thru books because of finances (Stanislavski, Checkov & film acting), and I was really wondering if you could help me out and maybe some advice with this two part question that I am also so fascinated by and really want to know and learn if it’s possible to learn.

It never really occurred to me until now that with a lot of famous actors when they are in interviews or on late night talk shows like for example, Johnny Depp, they are so mellow all the time in real life and like natural and then you watch them on screen like his movie “Pirates of the Carribean” and… He is using a separate acting energy. I see that with a lot of the famous actors like De Niro, Dustin Hoffman,etc. Even in dramas. Then you see them in interviews as themselves and their so mellow and quiet, like they turn on a switch inside just for the film it’s like a piece to the puzzle of acting. What is that? Is it a natural gift only? I was noticing after that occurrence that when I’m practicing acting I feel I’m acting, but now noticed I’m the same energy level going into a character and think that is a piece I’m missing. And fascinated at that transition those actors can do.

A few weeks ago in an audition the director actually gave me a small tip. I was amazed, as you know, they usually never say much after the read, but this time after I finished the script and ready to walk out the door the director said, “Try to learn and find the character’s energy”. And I thought maybe that is like I talked about above. That light switch that those actors can turn on. That is why I came to your possible answers and maybe some advice. Is it similar to the crying method technique in a way?

Thank you so much for any advice and answer to that question you can give. Sorry for the long writing as I want to try to maybe start developing and know whatever this is if possible it’s so interesting to me as well.




Dear Joey,

First of all, congratulations on working so hard on your acting on your own. It’s very hard to study acting just with books and to have the self-discipline to work on your craft on your own everyday. When you get a little more money, try to get in a class, even a 2-3 hour a week class. If you got so much out of one tip at an audition, imagine how much you could get from working with an acting coach and other actors weekly.

That being said, I understand that some time, finances can be tight, especially in this economy, so I’ll try to answer your question best I can. Here are two things to think about:

1) Actors are regular people doing a job, so it’s normal they have a different energy when they are in character and when they are just themselves talking about a role during an interview. If you think about it, we all have a different energy when we’re working. Sales people have to tap into a high positive energy to be successful at their jobs. Same for teachers who have to motivate a classroom full of students everyday. Doctors and surgeons also act very specifically when they are on the job so they can come across with a reassuring persona that puts their patients at ease. Think about how you wear different hats for different situations / relationships throughout your day and try to analyze that. Maybe it will give you some insight on how to tap into a character’s energy. Once you find a character’s motivation, you’ll start getting closer to that “light switch” you talk about.

2) How do you turn on the light switch? There are many techniques out there to approach characterization work, but since you mentioned Chekhov and Johnny Depp, you should definitely look into the “Psychological Gesture”. This is an acting tool that helps actors quickly get into character. This method is used by several working actors, including Johnny Depp, and consists of a physical gesture the actor develops that kind of encapsulates if you will the energy of the character (his motivations, feelings, etc.) You can find out more about the Psychological Gesture in Michael Chekhov’s book To the Actor.

This is just one technique, of course. If you have a problem with energy, you may want to also look into movement classes and lesser known acting techniques like Suzuki Acting.

Hope you find this information helpful. If you can, consider supporting our site with a small donation or buying our book suggestion through the above link (a small commission will go to supporting this website). And make sure to leave comments in the future to let us know how your acting career is going. We love to hear about actors’ success stories!

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