Aaaand scene. Can anyone guess which animal I was? If you said, arctic fox, you're absolutely right. You no doubt sensed the layers of the character, you could feel the creature trying to free itself from the hunter's trap of self-control. For this particular scene I was playing 35 percent human and 65 percent arctic fox which was the main reason it was so easy to tell which animal I had chosen. As you act, find your own and experiment with the ratio. I have one final warning from personal experience: Should you choose to channel a large predator in a production, no one will tell you afterward how interesting or unique they thought it was when you mauled the female lead, even if she did forget her lines and was generally kind of a bitch.
Find a Moment From Your Own Life!
Audiences are fickle, they either want to believe the lines you are reciting, or they want you to be devastatingly attractive as you recite them. Rarely do they want both. If you are cursed with a body designed for stationary pursuits or your face was caught in some kind of mechanical accident, then right off the bat an audience won't trust you. You will have to win them over with your ability to emote. Now, sometimes you will be forced into scenes you can't possibly relate to because the situation is so far removed from your everyday life. How are you supposed to embody the anguish of servitude when you personally keep your servants so happy and well fed? The secret is pinpointing the emotion you are supposed to feel in the scenario and substituting a moment from your life that elicits the same emotion. So, if the scene calls for you to cry after a breakup, you can think back to that wolf you trained one summer in the Yukon and then left behind when you had to go back to boarding school. As far as an audience is concerned, the sadnesses are interchangeable. The following is a perfect example of emotional substitution.
Did you see it? Once you are looking for the substitution it is easier to spot. In fact, sometimes you can tell what drove the actor's emotion despite knowing nothing about his/her life. In this scene, I had to switch between two emotions: I had to be angry enough to kill and then transition effortlessly into dead. The scenario was foreign to me because I have never been dead and I have never wanted to kill someone else on purpose. Before we shot this scene, I found an accessible moment in my own life from which to draw my anger. As a child, my family was visiting Greece and my au pair thought I was too young to take a ferry by myself to the see the remnants of Troy, even though my parents later said that would have been fine and that they didn't care one way or another. Needless to say, I was furious. So if you saw "robbed of a cultural experience" written across my face then you were right!
In conclusion, acting is a craft that carries with it tremendous power and surprisingly little responsibility. With these tricks up your sleeve, there is little need to hone your skill, after all, you have been training your whole life for this. In the words of the immortal bard, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Hopefully this guide will help you on your meteoric rise to success, or, at the very least ensure that you get in on some of those theater department massage trains.
You know the ones.