What Are the Qualities of a Good Actor?
What makes one actor better than another actor?
(By Javier Guerra)
(Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada)
What makes one actor better than another actor? What are some of the qualities that allows one actor to capture your heart, soul and imagination, while another actor leaves you rolling your eyes at their lackluster performance?
I asked myself this, and my first thought was that some actors have “it” and some don’t. But that answer left me feeling unsatisfied. Yes, basic talent factors into it. But surely there must be certain qualities and characteristics that distinguish a great performance from an awful one.
I did some research and began listing the qualities that, leaving aside natural talent, makes one actor perform better than another.
(Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out)
The first is conviction. The actor must truly believe in the given circumstances confronting his character. If you’re playing a recovering alcoholic, for example, you must truly believe that you’re a recovering alcoholic. It’s not enough to simply “act drunk”.
As Lee Strasberg once said:
“The actor must somehow believe. He must somehow be able to convince himself of the rightness of what he is doing in order to do things fully.”
The best actors are confident, as in, they lack self-consciousness. They’re not embarrassed to scream, yell, cry, be vulnerable, show emotion or to look ridiculous. They don’t care what others think, while they are performing. They just want to live the life of their character as truthfully as they can.
(Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump)
The best actors are charismatic. Charisma makes an actor interesting to watch. Charismatic actors breathe life into the character and make them come alive. You can say the same words as Daniel Day-Lewis, but if you don’t pump passion and charisma into the words, it’s just not the same.
The best actors are believable. They work hard to convince you that they are the character they are portraying. They develop the accents, mannerisms, hair, wardrobe, movements and actions of their characters. They research their roles and spend time with people similar to their characters. All to convince you that they are who they say they are.
(Christian Bale, as Dick Cheney, in Vice)
Lastly, the best actors never over-act. That is, they never “over play” the character by being overly dramatic, overly emotional or overly outrageous. They never give the role more than is needed to convince you that they are the character they’re portraying.
As Anthony Hopkins once put it:
“The art of acting is not to act. Once you show them more, what you show them, in fact, is bad acting.”
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