To create a believable character, you need to find a fragment of their personality, past and attitude in you. Your whole acting approach becomes more honest when you connect with the person you’re playing.
It’s an important stage in the acting process, otherwise your dialogue doesn’t come from the heart, tears look forced and laughs aren’t genuine. Performing a character that is different to you is hard, so you need to use techniques to create a realistic character.
When you see two people in love, you can see it in their eyes, there’s passion in the air and there’s just something that you can’t quite put your finger on that makes you believe in their connection.
When they say they’re in love, you believe it, and you want the audience to believe in you and completely forget that you’re playing a character, and believe that you are actually that person.
Use The Script To Spark Imagination
It’s hard to switch off your emotions and put yourself in another body, because you have to break down the walls and become someone who basically isn’t real. It’d be a whole lot easier if you had to play your best friend, because you know everything about them.
Read through the script as many times as necessary until you can get a grip of what is going on. Understanding the plot is the first thing, then comes the setting and time – and not just time as in what day and year it’s set, but the point in someone’s life it’s happening.
Pay close attention to the dialogue too. Why does your character say something angrily when you can’t comprehend their reaction? Highlight the parts of the text that you can’t quite get your head around, because it will be these moments in the scene that make you break out of character. Study every line: Why does my character say this? Why do they do that?
To make your character relatable, you have to understand them, and to do that you have to study their behaviour, thoughts and feelings. We all react to things because of a reason. If someone smashed your favourite cup, you might cry, but if it happened to someone else, they might easily forgive. We all have different personalities: not every one person is the same.
Once you’ve got to know the script better and you don’t have any misunderstanding of it, you can start to play with how you interpret the text. There are a million ways to say one thing, and each way you say it will have a different effect. Your tone, volume, posture, body language, actions, pauses… everything will have an effect that determines how the audience interpret that line.
Play with how you say your lines. Are you just saying them because they’re in the script, or do you really feel connected to the scene and emotionally invested in it? Really get into the scene. Use your imagination – how would you feel if this was happening to you? Bring the script to life, believe it’s real and feel like it’s happening to you. If you have to be sad, think sad thoughts.
You won’t act everything perfectly on your first try, but as you rehearse more and really fixate with the script, it’ll eventually become a part of you. Take time to practice through it every day and highlight your own weaknesses. Saying something slower, or adding in more of a pause can make all the difference to making it believable.
Connect With Your Character
The chances you having the same life as your character are very slim, so you won’t always be able to use your own past experiences to aid your acting. If you have to cry because your loved one has left you and you’ve never felt that loneliness and desperation in real life, it’s tough to find that emotion deep within yourself.
So what do you do?
We’ve all been sad, lonely, broken-hearted, happy, miserable… you name it, we even feel these emotions on a daily basis – sometimes without realising it. Keep a diary and every day write your emotions in it. How did you feel when you woke up? How did you react to that bad news?
You have to get to know yourself in order to become someone else. If you’re connected and aware of your own feelings, it’s a lot easier to connect with your character’s.
If you felt sad, write in your diary why you felt sad. Learn to live in the moment and embrace every experience – the good and the bad.
Okay, so let’s say there’s a scene that you’re struggling to act, where your mother throws you out. You have to be angry and confused. The script says you throw things and raise your voice. But you’re having difficulties with that because you’ve never been in that situation yourself.
In this circumstance, you have to imagine that it’s real. If you don’t believe the scene is really happening, then the audience won’t have faith in it either. Don’t be embarrassed if you throw something too hard, your voice cracks or your face turns red with anger. Let go of your fear of people judging you and give it your all.
Nine times out of ten, amateur actors are so concerned about being judged on their acting that they don’t give everything they have into their performance, and if you half-halfheartedly act, nothing you say will be believable. Really put yourself in the situation. If you have to get mad, then get mad. Think of something that makes your blood boil – even if it’s not similar to the scene – because that will help you to get in the moment. Find inspiration in every scene.
It’s a misconception that actors read a script once and feel connected to their character; It takes work and patience. Study your script until you know it inside out. You can’t believe in something you don’t understand. Get it in your head that it’s real and not just a made up play. The people created on paper are real and it takes a lot of digging to make them three-dimensional, so it’s your job to find elements in them that you can relate to.
Forget about what people will think of you and learn to let go – in acting and in real life.