Demystifying the Aha Moment

As most of you know, I’ve spent a lot of time blogging about the guts of my business, how I’m feeeeeeling about it all, and how crazy-cool it is when an acting client tells me about all of their “aha moments”.

You know who else talks a lot about her feelings?  Oprah.  And you wanna know who happens to be a pretty freaking incredible actor? Yup, right again.  Oprah...with two Oscar noms to prove it.  No surprises there. She is the queen of getting things done and she’s pretty extraordinary to boot.

So extraordinary, in fact, that she’s the reason “aha moment” is in the dictionary in the first place! She used it so much that the Merriam-Webster people decided that it was worthy of becoming an immortalized part of the English language.  #lifegoals

For what it’s worth, other recent additions to the dictionary are “jiggy”, “shizzle” the verb “MacGyver”, and the 2017 word of the year, "youthquake".   

But back to aha moments.  Today I’m hoping to give you one by showing you how to infuse yourself into any character you have to play.

If you’re brand new to my blog, you might be thinking, “Thank GOD I missed all the stuff on her feelings”. Or perhaps you’re thinking,  “For the love of hot chocolate, what does she mean by infusing yourself into the character?”

If you’re thinking the latter, then you need to download this FREE Magnetic Actor Method Action Guide. It’ll give you a great overview of what the Magnetic Actor Method is all about so you can catch up to the rest of us.  

Bottom line, in order to really apply what I’m teaching, you’re going to have to know and articulate exactly what makes you Magnetic – what your natural and unique strengths are.  

Oh, and P.S., what I’m showing you is supplemental to the script analysis you’re already doing; What I teach adds a little je nai se quoi to your character development – by drawing on the qualities you and your character share – so you can really get in their skin.  

Here we go.

Meet Sophie. She’s an actress who works part-time at a cafe and part-time as a nanny. And, yay!  She just got an audition notice for the role of a high powered lawyer who is in the midst of a huge trial. The scene is the lawyer berating the paralegal for bringing her the wrong sandwich.  

The pre-Magnetic Sophie would have thought, “Cool. I can do angry. I’m just going to remember how mad I got when my boss at the cafe wouldn’t change the schedule so I could go to my dream job audition.”

Sound okay to you?  The character’s mad, Sophie’s mad. Same thing, right?  

Nope, it’s not.  Because Sophie needs to find out the character’s WHY. Why does the lawyer lash out?  The scene is not just about the lawyer being mad. That would be one-dimensional and really boring to watch.

Sophie’s second idea is to use the time she got really mad at a roommate for stealing her stuff.  This “mad” is different, she thinks, because it’s more of a violation.  Yes, but Sophie still isn’t accurately aligned with the qualities that are causing her character to lash out.   

Those qualities and the character's WHY are what we’re after because this is where the nuance lives.

A few years ago, if I was auditioning for the lawyer, I might decide to use the part of myself that can most relate to being a lawyer.  So, I’d choose my ex-corporate self and draw from the 18 years I spent in the bond trading world for a Wall Street bank.  

Wrong choice.

That choice would put me in the right zone in terms of a high-pressure job perhaps, but that has nothing to do with my motivations or reactions in this scene.

What is it then?

Let’s dig deeper into who this lawyer is.  

Let’s brainstorm about what her characteristics and qualities might be:  Grit? Determination? Responsibility? Focus? Discipline? She’s clearly intelligent, strategic, by the book, guarded, maybe a perfectionist. Or narcissist?  She’s probably not a person who “plays well with others”.

The crux of the scene is her blowing up at the paralegal. Why does she get so angry?  Is it really about the sandwich?  If not, then what is it about?  

Another way to try to figure this out is to examine the other character in the scene.  

What is the Paralegal doing that is pissing the lawyer off?  

It’s likely that his “transgression” – forgetting the lawyer’s order – flies in the face of one of the lawyer’s core qualities and she doesn’t have the self-awareness to know that not everyone moves through the world as she does.  When she was just starting out, she would NEVER have forgotten her boss’s order.  Maybe that’s what’s setting her off.

If so, then that's the feeling with which you need to align yourself.

So, if we had to pick one quality for the lawyer, what quality might lend itself to her feelings of outrage and righteousness? Don’t forget you need to align yourself with this quality too. So, tilt it in your favor if you can.

Earlier, we threw out the possibility of  “Responsibility” and since “Responsibility” is also one of Sophie’s strengths, let’s use that!

Here’s how “Responsibility” might look for our lawyer:  

Her Responsibility is what allows her to get her job done in a timely fashion. It’s what allows her to get promoted year after year and to keep her clients happy. If she says she’s going to do something, she does it.  People rely on her, and it’s her Responsibility to live up to their expectations and to win trials. This is why they hire her in the first place. Her reputation is on the line and people depend on her. She doesn’t like to make mistakes and has little patience for those who don’t take commitments as seriously as she does.

Here’s how “Responsibility” looks for Sophie:

Sophie’s Responsibility means that she puts both of her jobs first. Her manager and her nanny family rely on her to be on time and to do good work. This means Sophie doesn’t rock the boat or call in sick, even if it means having to miss an audition.  Her Responsibility is why she got promoted to head cashier and head trainer at the cafe. It’s also why she just got a raise for her nanny job and why that family recommends her as a babysitter to anyone who asks. She is dependable and trustworthy and she keeps her word. And similar to the lawyer, she gets annoyed and frustrated when other people don’t follow through on their commitments, change plans last minute or don’t show up for work. She doesn’t understand how people can be flaky and not feel accountable for messing up someone else’s schedule. She doesn’t like to make mistakes, she respects those in charge, and she would take ordering a specific sandwich for her boss very seriously.

Alignment achieved.

So, when the paralegal messes up the lawyer’s lunch order, the lawyer blows up because she expects that everyone has the same relationship with Responsibility as she does.  If she has a verbal response to his mistake, I imagine it might sound something like this:

“I can’t believe this! I hired you to perform legal research and analysis for me, and you can’t even get my lunch order right?  What will happen when I need to put you in front of a judge? I am busy and I don’t have time for this. Do your damn job or go find a different profession”

By going through this process, Sophie suddenly understands where the lawyer is coming from and she “gets” her on a deeper level. This will give Sophie's performance an added layer of complexity that no one else will have in quite the same way.  

And what a coincidence that talking about one’s feeeeeelings and what’s going on with yourself is also pretty critical to getting into your character’s skin!  

It’s almost like I planned it.      

Aha.  

So, my friend, it’s time for you to do the work.

Stop binge-watching (official word) GOTs, sit back with a coconutty (official word) La Croix in your athleisure (official word), and dig into that Action Guide!  

You’re gonna want to do this for two reasons:  1. YOLO (official word) and  2. WWOD.  That’s, What Would Oprah Do.

Okay, I made that last one up, but it feels like it should be a word (are you listening, Merriam- Webster?)  and regardless, it’s a great true north for me.