Character Development Tips
IT MAY SOUND CLICHE BUT ACTING WITHOUT CHARACTER ISN'T REALLY ACTING AT ALL! USE OUR RESOURCES AND TOOLS BELOW TO GET YOUR PERFORMANCE UP TO A STANDARD OF THE PROFESSIONALS IN THE INDUSTRY!
A CHARACTER IS A MASK!
When creating a character, always remember that you are putting on a mask to tell a story. It's very easy to slip into being yourself when performing because it's "how you'd react".
Try distancing yourself physically and vocally so that you are able to create more of a fully-rounded character.
Top Tip: When you take a step away from how you would react, it allows you to see what creative decisions work for your character and also what your character needs in order to stand out.
If, for example, your character is from the 1920's, try researching what life was like during that time period. Take any information that your script gives you and build your knowledge through research.
Top Tip: If there are any words within a script that you don't understand (particularly with classical texts) look it up! The definition of a word could completely change the way you perform or react.
A great website for classical breakdowns is:
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE VOICE!
The voice is the most powerful tool in an actors arsenal. Utilising voice can bring depth and be the icing on the cake for a well-rounded performance. Focusing on the voice for your character before adding actions can sometimes give you a better idea of how you may approach a line.
Top Tip: When rehearsing your character, think about whether there are any similar performances within the industry. If so, listen to their performance with your eyes closed and see what you discover.
This technique also applies to accents! If your character requires a particular accent, listen to make makes it unique, the tone of the voice, and what stands out.
Use what you have found out and experiment. Don't be shy of messing up on the first try!
METHOD DOESN'T HAVE TO BE YOUR METHOD!
Some of the best actors in the industry practice method acting, and before we continue, yes, it can work!
There are, however, huge misconceptions surrounding what method acting really is. One being that in order to practice it properly you have to become that character for every waking minute of the day.
Although this approach has proven successful for many actors, we have found that a great introduction to practice this safely is to listen to a piece of music or do something as simple a chewing gum when rehearsing or researching.
Just because a ritual isn't extreme, doesn't mean that it isn't effective. Sometimes, practicing the same routine before becoming a character can provide help with getting into the headspace of performing.
DON'T IGNORE THE DYNAMICS!
Whilst it's great to have a bellowing King Henry march unto the breach, sometimes a little dynamic change can produce a better feel and atmosphere within a performance.
Having a character that is always crying, shouting, or even smiling can become boring for an audience member. Try actioning your script with layers and emotional changes for your character, this could be done though pacing of speech, change of emotions, or even gestures and reactions when others are speaking to you. These are all things we can do to add more layers to our characters, maintain the audiences interest, and forever keep our performances fresh and interesting.
Top Tip: Experiment with your character alongside a piece of music, let the music guide the pace, volume, and mood of your character to see if this changes anything.
We all will hit a plateau at some point when performing or rehearsing a character. It' sometimes difficult to know what works and what doesn't work when you've practiced a scene countless times.
An easy way to help us identify these things is by recording ourselves. Having a visual reference will allow you to self-analyse and provide yourself with feedback.
This is also a great tool to use when writing your logbooks.
CHARACTERS ARE TO DRIVE STORY, NOT STEAL THEM!
When creating a character, be mindful that you are part of a bigger story and the creative decisions you make may alter the outcome for everybody.
When rehearsing your character, you may find that what might feel great to perform doesn't work within the context of the script. It's important to remember that you are an accessory to the storytelling.
If unsure of how to tackle this, go back to the drawing board and rework what you have done. This does not mean scrap everything, but be sure to focus on how the delivery of certain lines can progress the story as well as help your fellow performers.
Top Tip: When in doubt, focus on what other characters are saying. Too often as actors we focus on that we are doing as individuals. Focus on others reactions and motives and yours should become clear.
STRUGGLING WITH A CHARACTER?
When we begin a characters creation, it's easy to overcomplicate the process, but more often than not, our actions and motives for the play are clear within the script.
Some characters traits and characteristics may appear dull and uninteresting to read, but it's your job to bring that character to life.
Remember, the writer put that character in place for a reason so do not dismiss it just because it doesn't seem 'gritty' at the first glance.
Some of the most enjoyable scenes to watch are those that take place in a supermarket or cinema. Just because it isn't tragic or sad does not mean than it can't be gripping for the audience.