Acting is a beloved art form that has been around for thousands of years. It is the process of portraying a character in the form of a play or movie. However, portraying a character accurately and making it believable is harder than it sounds. It takes many people a lifetime to perfect the craft. Many, like Bryan Cranston, famous for his portrayal of Walter White in "Breaking Bad," started from the bottom. As I was reading his memoir "A Life in Parts," I found that the memoir was littered with dozens of tips on how to perfect your acting. With summer theater performances and workshops in full swing, now may be the perfect time to share some of them with you. Perhaps you can also use this advice and perfect your craft.
There are two main parts of the acting process auditioning and character building.
Auditioning is the most recognizable part of the acting process. Auditions are how you show the director that you are the perfect pick for the particular role you would like to play. Often, when an actor goes to audition and they prepare or read the script they plan out every move and every emotion they are going to be feeling. Have you done this? I know I have, and of course, Bryan Cranston has as well.
If an acclaimed actor has planned every move before and ended up being successful, how can you nail that next audition? Well, Cranston says in his memoir "A Life in Parts" that “My goal when I prepare isn’t to plot out each action and reaction but to think: What are the possible emotional levels my character could experience?”
As a reader, you’re probably asking yourself, “Wouldn’t it be better if I had everything planned out ahead of time rather than just have an idea of what my character would feel?” Well, with acting you are always trying to connect with your audience on an emotional level so that they can grow and relate to the character. If you have everything planned out, there is no growth. Instead, you have created a character that is on auto pilot, and that is never appealing. In fact, Cranston says, “It’s about letting go.” Let go of your planning and allow yourself to open up. Instead of planning every move, try experiencing the story as the character would, in real time. Really let those emotions grab you, because when you do, that is when you are going to offer something relatable and authentic.
The most fundamental part of the acting process is character building. Character building is determining what is at the core of your character. What makes him/her tick? What are his/her habits? What makes them, them? If this sounds a lot like researching, than you’re right. Cranston says, “As an actor you need to be sensitive, to be open, to be able to observe people and study human behavior.”
So, building a character can be as easy as people watching and learning a new skill. However, don’t limit yourself. Experiencing things that your character has experienced will give you building blocks that are essential to creating a character that is relatable and real. So, read books, travel to new places, learn new skills, and study as many people as you can.
Finally, there are two things that Cranston said that really struck me that I want you to consider as you contemplate your next audition. One, “Confidence is king.” Second, “Be open to change.”