Being a Text Detective (Peeling the Onion)

Thoughts on preparing a role:

It’s all in the text. More or less. With a good script, you have a leg up when it comes to developing your character. And it’s all about the script/screenplay!

Much of the wisdom I am going to espouse here comes from my training and experience. I would like to thank the following teachers – John JacobsenTom Todoroff, and Nike Imoru – for giving me the tools I use to succeed, which I now can pass along to you. I have had other teachers, of course, but these three above have taught me the most, and two of them have been taught by true masters (Stella Adler and Uta Hagen).

  1. Read the entire script.
  2. Reread it.
  3. Read it backwards (thank you, Mr. Ball).
  4. Read your scenes.
  5. Reread them.
  6. Read the script again.

Hire a coach or talk to someone you trust about the story and your role, whenever possible. I find a lot of new ideas after talking with my wife about my part. If you don’t have this luxury, keep studying and be prepared to make strong choices!

Okay, here is your JOB or RESPONSIBILITY as an ACTOR: Grab the SCRIPT/SCREENPLAY and Use the Three I.’s to guide your detective work. The three I.’s are: IDENTIFY. INFER. INVENT.

  • IDENTIFY the givens (AKA the Given Circumstances). Let’s start with facts, since they are objective and are usually easy to spot: WHAT is your name, gender, age, status (married? established? impoverished? addicted?), etc. What is the setting (time period, location, season, etc.) AKA WHERE are you? Another fact could be WHO else in in the room.
  • INFER (or conclude) things about your character from the givens. “What do I need” to do or get can be found here. As well as, “how might my character feel.”
  • INVENT other characteristics about your character and her behavior based on the givens and your inferences.

Most classical actor training has us working from the inside out. Meaning, in order for us to create powerful and believable performances, especially on-screen (where reality is of the essence), we must address how the character is feeling and let that inform how we are doing (taking action).

Now, this does not mean we cannot use rehearsal and experimentation to discover our character’s truth by adopting a different gait, manner of speech, accent, etc., but in my opinion, especially when working on film, determining how your character feels should come first (and, yes, there are always exceptions).

Speaking of character, it is still YOU up there working, so put yourself behind the character and see the world through his eyes (thank you, Declan Donnellan).

Without digressing too much into an overview of acting techniques, I will say this: Familiarize yourself with the following heavyweights:

Thanks for reading. I look forward to your input.

One thought on “Being a Text Detective (Peeling the Onion)

  1. Pingback: On Auditions: 02/15/12 « davidshogan

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