Last week I was coaching an actor, -let’s call him Boogie- who was totally resistant to the material he was offered to work on. Ideologically, everything in him was screaming “NO, I do not wanna play that guy, I do not want to give myself to a character that perpetuates everything I stand against”.
And yet, the offer was for a lead role in a show and the casting office wanted to specifically see Boogie for this part. So he was confused & torn between the opportunity of being considered for a lead role in a series and the resistance created by his judgment of the character.
So what do you do when you can’t say no, but the artist in you doesn’t wanna say yes? Have you ever been in this position? Desperately wanting to work, but when the opportunity knocks, your instrument shuts down because not only is it not what you dreamed of, but it is against everything you stand for…
The truth is this happens more often than not. Which is why A-listers often hunt the juicy roles down by becoming producers, directors or writers. They want the good stuff, they have something to say.
But you are not a producer, writer or director… So now what?!
You put your ideology on pause for a second and you surrender to the fact that though we are all very different, we are actually all human beings.
What I mean is that if you bring down your guard and focus on understanding your character rather than judging him for what you think he is, YOU WILL inevitably be able to relate. If one person feels a certain way, it means we all - at some point- feel that way.
So you have to ask yourself: “ what could possibly lead me to become like my character?”. “What circumstances would push me to make the choices my character is making?”.
So back to Boogie’s situation: the character was a well respected US army official. And Boogie could not for a second believe that another war show would do any good for any one, and added to that his instrument just blocked at the idea of creating a US army official.
So after listening to his concern, I asked him to suspend his ideology for a little bit and we started opening up his imagination… Where did his character come from? How had he survived his difficult upbringing? What was the one strength he had developed from being so challenged?…
Before you know it, joining the army made sense for Boogie- and his character. It was actually the only smart thing to do. Boogie felt genuine empathy for him, he could relate to his circumstances and there was no more room for criticism. The character wasn't a “US army official” anymore, he had just become a human being that Boogie wanted to defend.
Notice I did not ask Boogie to find a logical explanation or justification for his character to have joined the army. I asked him to open his heart and he connected with the character’s struggle as a child and built up from there.
When you manage to get out of the way and leave enough space inside of your instrument for your character to take over, that’s when you are doing your job. And that right there, is when the magic happens. For the actor and the audience. Life breathes through. The actor and the character become one single person who is being, not acting.
Talk about the pure joy of acting and story telling…Let me know what you think and if you have had any similar experiences in the comments below!
Have an exhilarating week guys!!!