Whenever we hear of Method actors immersing into their characters, it’s always the crazy stuff the media latch onto – actor A “went Method” and lost 440 pounds in a day to “become” the role, or actor B divorced his wife so he could experience the grief of a break up, leaving his spouse and newborn child bewildered. He was reported saying “that’s what Method Actors have to do for their art”.
Ok so I’m mocking the theories of The Method that are bandied around. The Method was never designed to put your mental or physical health in danger, or ruin relationships, yet this is what makes for great sensationalist reading. Let me make it clear, the hype you hear is not the one trick method actors use. Method acting is a much more complex art form.
The Mystery of The Method
Method actors bring an intensity and truth to their roles, which is mesmorising on both screen and theatre. There is something about a method actors work that makes you unable to take your eyes off them. It’s as though they have captured the character’s soul, with their body as the vessel. It’s as though they are living, not acting. So what are they doing?
One trick method actors use
Firstly before I let you know, I should mention that method acting or any acting of a good standard is based upon three things: relaxation, concentration and imagination. It is when these three attributes flow freely and simultaneously that you are drawn into the character.
Method actors become good friends with their characters.
Sounds far too simple to be true doesn’t it? Let’s explore further.
Relationship with the character
Method actors understand the mindset of the character which in turn helps them to understand the motives for the character’s BEHAVIOUR.
Take someone you’re extremely close to, it is more than likely that you know their ticking points, values, beliefs, what motivates them and why they behave the way they do. This is exactly what a method actor is able to understand with each character they play.
Method actors can only truly get to grips with the character’s mindset through empathy.
To empathise you must firstly understand the needs of the human condition and understand yourself. You must have a fascination for people. Over and over again at the studios, we come back to the same question “WHO AM I?”. Without knowing yourself you will struggle to ever understand or empathise with any character.
If you are to capture your audiences imagination and deliver the truth of the role to them, you must also understand the mindset of the character, which comes from the clues that have been left by the scriptwriter.
Once this has been completed a method actor will then find the authentic moment to moment behaviour within the imaginary given circumstances of the script.
Act like a method actor
If you want to take your acting to the next level and start mesmorising your audience by using the one trick method actors use, you must get to know your character inside out, warts and all.
Ask yourself these three questions the next time you begin work on a role:
- Why is the character even in the script?
- What is their purpose in each scene?
- How are they behaving and what is driving this behaviour?
This is the springboard for all the work you will do for each character. Put it to use to improve your acting so you can create memorable characters like the method actors at the top of their game.
Did that help? Let me know in the comments box below, or share with your acting friends, it could be just the thing they need!
Here’s to your success!
Don’t give up, just keep learning.
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Louise O’Leary is a professional actress, method acting coach and Artistic Director of StandBy Method Acting Studio. Her mission is to help as many actors as she can achieve their acting dreams and become the best actor they can be. Join the hundreds of actors around the world who have downloaded her eBook “Respect your craft, discover my top 45 method acting secrets to launch your career“. Download here and be on your way to acting success today!
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