Be yourself! You hear that so many times as an actor. But doesn’t that seem confusing? How can you “be the character” and be yourself at the same time?
Don’t be daunted. Let me explain what that really means.
Great acting comes from using your own humanity. It does not come from “trying to be a fascinating character”. Characters are not real. They are the bones that the writer sketches out on her blueprint called a screenplay or a play. The script you have is only a blueprint. It is meant to be inhabited by people, actors portraying the roles. Once that happens it comes to life.
For it to come to life it must go through a living being, an actor. The actor must become a conduit for the character. The character flows through the actor, not the other way around. How you do that is you follow Meryl’s advice. You find in you the aspects of the character you are playing and you tap fully into those.
We’ve all witnessed the glorious chameleonized work of Meryl Streep. She can play anything. Her roles are so different, she becomes another person it seems. But even she admits all she does is find in her the aspects that are the same as the role she’s playing and then immerses herself in those and the result is an astonishing transformation.
This is an advanced skill. If you want to be able to achieve work at that level, start with yourself. Start with what is closest to yourself. Play the character from you. In my AIAC Beginning Level Classes I do not let my actors do any “character” roles. They must first learn to act from themselves. Once they can do that they can chameleonized into any character they choose, and it is still grounded in their humanity.
Let’s listen to Meryl, let’s find ourselves first in our roles and work from there!