Getting into Character

You’ve created a character for your project. Now it’s time to perform. This can be a straightforward process. Sometimes, our characters feel distant and foreign. How can we get back in the shoes of our characters and be able to take on the role easily? These are some ways you can help this process. Then, some thoughts on how different situations might impact your ability to get into the character role.

#1 The Warm-Up

We are both the actor and the musician in an orchestra. This dual nature means that we must double down on preparation to ensure that our instruments are tuned and ready to go and that our minds are in the right place to perform. The best time to start this process is the day before the performance. We need to prioritize our runway into the role, no matter if you’re on set at 4.30 am and walking into the theatre at 6. pm.

#2 Character Paraphernalia

Even the most minimal productions will have some props and costume pieces that will help you create the exterior world of your character. Every one of these objects can be helpful in our journey to becoming our characters. Every object that surrounds us has a history and a personal connection. To understand and know these objects, spend time building characters.

#3 Ritual

A ritual is a key part of getting into character. Although they are similar, I will separate ritual and warming up in this list. We have already discussed the goals of a warm-up. On the other hand, a ritual has specific goals that only you can define. Your ritual is the path you use to immerse yourself in your character. Your ritual is not like your warm-up. It will not release tension or energize you, but it will guide you back to the ideal imaginative landscape for your character.

#4 Checking in

It can be lonely and difficult to get into character. It can be easy to feel like no one else can play the role or understand the character as well as we do and that we are the only ones doing this. This is not true. Storytelling is a process that requires many voices. We will often be surrounded by many people who can help us get into character. Maybe some actors play the characters you have a relationship with. Are there any rituals or practices you could come up with together to help you get the relationship going before you perform? Sometimes, a simple gesture of physical contacts – such as a handshake or hug, depending on your relationship – can be enough to start the process of character immersion.

#5 The Ignition Of Objective Or Need

No matter what vocabulary you use to describe your character’s driving force (the need/objective/ want/ desire, etc.), it is worth tapping into that force before you start performing. It is worth taking the time to reflect on what drives your character and where it comes from. Also, consider what you stand to lose or gain by following that goal. This force will fuel your character and allow you to immerse yourself in them.

Are You ‘Getting into Character?

Let’s look at “getting into character” to understand the potential benefits and risks.

There are many benefits to “getting into” your character. We feel more connected to the role and can reduce feelings of doubt and ‘watching ourselves act’ while we act. It is important to be able to see the character’s eyes and be present while we’re acting.

Getting into character for TV & Film

Although most of the same processes can be used to get into your character on screen and in theatre, there are some differences between them.

When telling stories on the screen, we must remain in character for long periods (or very irregularly, which can be a challenge) and repeatedly play scenes and moments out of order. These variables can cause chaos in our ability to get into character and our process. We need to adapt our processes accordingly.

How to get into character for theatre

For theatre, there is a technical instrumental requirement. We need to warm up. It doesn’t matter how great we perform, and if nobody can hear what we are saying, then there is a problem. Remember that audience is the priority.

How to get into character on a short notice

Sometimes we are forced into performance mode at short notice for any reason. Perhaps the traffic was bad as we were driving to the theatre. Perhaps the shooting schedule changed unexpectedly, and our big scene was moved from tomorrow’s shoot into this morning’s. Uh oh! It is a very common occurrence that actors must overcome.

Conclusion

You are the only one who can define and make your character. This is your process. You should prioritize it and be proud of it. Many elements in the storytelling process will distract you from the story, such as the sound operator who needs to adjust your microphone or another actor who wants to rehearse the fight scene “just one more”. Plan for these distractions. Get up earlier or arrive earlier to accomplish what you need. This is your responsibility, so get professional.

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