“An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words.” – Sanford Meisner
I love the quote above from Meisner. I do not teach Meisner, but I admire the wisdom of his philosophy. I am a firm believer that the words are secondary to the actor. When I say this I’m often confronted by people who argue that the actor’s job is to serve the story that the writer has given us. The writer’s words should suggest our character and our behavior, and our work should start from there. I disagree. In fact, I think that approach to the craft of acting is the reason why so many actors succumb to mediocrity. I guarantee that if you make wrong emotional and character choices, the story you are acting in will still end the same way – every time. The words will never change. The words are the story. The words are the character. Once you accept that, you never have to think of it again.
Let me use an extreme example to prove my point. If you are cast as a serial killer with minimal dialogue, how would you approach it? Most would try to connect with the brooding intensity that most of the famous on camera psychopaths have had. The story line may even suggest a traumatic childhood to justify this approach. If this is a feature film there will most likely be the perfect music as a backdrop to heighten the creepiness. But, what if you made a “wrong” choice. Ideally you weren’t even conscious that you were making it. For example, lets say you are experiencing great joy in the moments where your character actually had to speak. Maybe you were even beaming like a fresh Lotto winner. This might seem odd. It would be wrong wouldn’t it? Absolutely not. If you played that joy truthfully throughout the scene, I believe it would have the potential to be even more disturbing to witness than the stereotype already mentioned. A smart director will guide you down the path of your choosing, not his or hers.
The key to charismatic, honest acting is to tell the truth. Tell the truth as you listen and as you speak. The words should convey your emotions and behavior as well as the writers story. Just by being there and saying the lines you serve the writer. So, serve yourself and learn to express yourself honestly.
This workshop focuses on doing just that. Stop thinking about it. An actor that can live within his imagination and use his instinct can play any role. Any Role. Once you decide you can’t do a role, then you are right. The moment you work from trust, instinct and imagination the thought “I cant” will never even occur to you.
I should say even the best actors find certain roles intimidating. We are all afflicted with self doubt from time to time. Nothing will serve you more than to go after the roles that frighten you.