When it comes to performing there are literally hundreds of bad acting habits lurking around at auditions, on stage and on film sets. These bad acting habits come in all shapes and sizes – some have logic and others don’t, but they usually rear their ugly head when an actor doesn’t know what they’re doing or is taking a stab in the dark at making a connection with the character.
I have listed a few of the bad acting habits below to avoid below in the hope that you will be able to recognise them and banish them forever, should they ever try and distract you from being the outstanding actor you are capable of being.
Let’s dig in…
Bad acting habits to avoid
Sighing loudly - whether it be between words, at the end of lines or it just randomly happens, stop it at all costs. Have you ever seen anyone in everyday life sighing unnaturally whilst speaking? Nope! It's the most common bad habit I come across.It's a trap actors fall into when they're trying their best to stir a feeling within themselves. Remember, all your scenes don't need to be emotionally loaded - emotions are a by-product of events.
Statue acting - this happens sooo often. Statue acting is when an actor stands still (like a statue) in the scene and only says the lines. Your job as an actor is to find the character's truthful BEHAVIOUR. Actors fall into this bad habit when they haven't made a choice or are confused about what to do wihin the scene. My advice is always to make a choice, even if it isn't right, make a choice! The way to do it is by understanding what the character needs in the scene, which then informs the behaviour/action. This will stop you standing around like a statue.
Demonstrating - showing the audience you are upset, cold, hot, angry etc. This is not truthful. Nobody ever goes around in day to day life trying to cry or pretending to wipe sweat from their forehead to show they are hot. Actors do this when they don't know how they should be behaving. Think about it, when you cry do you want the world to know or do you try to hide it?
Using lines as an excuse - "When I know the lines I'll be able to perform the scene better" - this is an excuse to cover up many things, mainly inhibitions, the fear of trying something or not knowing what to do because you haven't read the scene/script enough. As Lee Strasberg (The Method guru) once said, learning lines is about memory and acting has nothing to do with memory. My advice is to play and experiment with the scene. You can only do this by reading it and making justified choices. Find a suitable way of training your memory to learn lines effectively because that's not the job of your acting coach.
Not reading the script enough - AKA lazy acting. I have come across actors who go through the script, but only to learn their lines. You need to know the FULL story, not just the story of the scene your character appears in or only the story of your character. To get the full picture you must read the FULL script (more than once). Here are some things to think about when reading the FULL script: Why does your character choose those specific words? What do they really mean? What is really going on? What has lead them to where they are now? In the early stages of character development you're like a detective; you have to piece the full picture together to be able to connect to the character, then you have to figure out what the motive behind the character's behaviour is so you can make clear choices in each scene you appear in.
Forcing emotions/trying too hard - this is usually done to impress, and there is logic in that, but acting should feel effortless. When you try too hard or try to force something, it looks fake, feels clunky and just doesn't make the thing you're trying to make happen appear. Think of it like a date; try too hard your date gets freaked out and backs off. Giving a child a sweet is another example; we all know children love sweets but try forcing one down their throat and they're going to back off too. The same happens with emotions.
Puppet acting - if you rely on your director to tell you where to stand and what to do you are simply not acting you are being a puppet. Actors are creators not puppets. A talented actor will create the behaviour of the character and not rely on someone to tell them who the person is they're playing or what they're doing. To avoid this scour the script with a fine tooth comb so you bring something to the table during your rehearsals.
Rehearsing how to say a line - I come across this so often. This is pre-planning, acting is not about that it's about behaving spontaneously in each moment. You must do the prep work then forget it when you go into the scene. The prep work should hopefully allow you to find moments of truthful inspiration so you don't have to think about how to deliver a line, which is mechanical.
If you have ever fallen prey to one of these bad habits, now is the time to become aware and make the choice to avoid them. A habit is something you have learnt and therefore it can be un-learnt too, it just takes commitment and dedication to learning new, more effective habits.
I’d love to connect with you and hear whether you’ve fallen prey to any of these bad acting habits. Let me know in the comments box below.
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