How to Act Realistically 

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  • How to Act Realistically 

    10 things you can do to not look like you’re acting 

    (By Tonya Tannenbaum)

    (Photo: Ron Lach | Pexels)

    Acting is easy. Acting realistically is also easy. The only hard part is the preparation it takes to get your character where he or she needs to be to act realistically.

    There are many things you can do. I’ve decided to breakdown some of the steps I take when I receive a new script. Follow along and incorporate some of these into your own process.

    1. Fully read the script 

    Read the full script. That includes all the scenes where your character does not appear. Don’t make the mistake of only reading your character’s lines. It is vital that you read the entire script.

    Don’t make the mistake of only reading your character’s lines. Read the entire script.

    Why do you need to read the entire script? Because you need to understand how your character fits into the overall story.

  • 2. Write a bio for your character 

    It’s been said that Academy Award Winner, Denzel Washington, writes a 100-plus-page bio for all his characters. While you may not need to write one quite that long, it’s still helpful to write a good, detailed bio for your character.

    Since the script isn’t long enough to give complete details of each character’s life, it’s up to each actor to fill in the details of their character’s backstory.

    With a great bio, you can make stronger choices and create a more three-dimensional character.

    3. Write down what other characters say about you 

    Another great reason to read the entire script is, you need to know what the other characters say about you. The other characters in the script offer clues and insights into your character.

    The other characters in the script can tell you a lot about your character.

    Do people like your character? Do they think he’s a jerk? Do they think he’s funny or smart? Are they afraid of him?

    The other characters in the script can tell you a lot about your character.

    4. Begin to build your character 

    (Photo: Cottonbro | Pexels)

    Spend some time with your character. Begin to get an idea of who they are. Use some basic adjectives to describe your character.

    Is your character smart? Is your character aloof? Is your character non-confrontational? Is your character confident and self-assured?

    Based on your adjectives, how does your character move? How does she walk? How does she talk? How does she think? What are her dreams and aspirations? How does she deal with challenges?

    5. Examine the 5 W’s 

    Who is your character? What does your character want in each scene? Where is your character? When does the story or scene take place? Why is your character doing what they’re doing?

    Who? What? When? Where? Why?

    Examine your character’s given circumstances, using the 5 W’s.

    6. Define your character’s objectives 

    What does your character want? What will he do to get what he wants? How will he confront people who get in the way of what he wants?

    Once you know your character’s objectives, you can make choices and take actions to achieve those objectives.

    7. Make strong choices 

    Speaking of choices…make strong character choices. Strong choices are what makes characters interesting to watch. They help bring the story to life.

    Strong choices are what makes characters interesting to watch.

    For instance, watching a young man who has a burning desire to get into an Ivy League school and will do anything to get in because he believes it will determine his whole future, is much more interesting than watching a guy who only has a casual interest in achieving that objective.

    8. Learn your lines thoroughly 

    If you’re constantly thinking about your next line, it’s almost impossible to be fully in character. It’s hard to feel anything or react to anything. That’s why it’s vital to learn your lines thoroughly. And thoroughly means THOROUGHLY.

    Unless you’re doing a comedy that relies on improvisation, you should recite your lines over and over and over again. Go over them until you’re sick of saying them.

    The payoff comes when you’re on set and your lines are flowing through you like a faucet.

    9. Always listen to your scene partners 

    (Photo: Cottonbro | Pexels)

    Another great reason to thoroughly learn your lines is so that you can truly listen to your scene partners, instead of just listening for your cue line.

    Acting is reacting! You don’t just act when your character is speaking. You also act when your character is listening, while the other characters are speaking.

    10. Don’t act! 

    Last, but not least, always remember that acting is not supposed to look like acting. That means, let your words and actions happen naturally.

    Don’t push or force anything. Don’t try to place undue emphasis on particular words or sentences. Don’t try to stand out with over-the-top gestures.

    Don’t over-act! You don’t have to. Your strong character choices are enough. Your research and backstory are enough. Your listening and reacting are enough.

    All you need to do is live in the moment!

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    Sanford Meisner: “Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”


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