Getting Into Your Character's Skin

Here is where I’ll show you how to create an added layer of character development – by drawing on your shared qualities – to really get in your character’s skin.  

Keep in mind, The Magnetic Actor Method is not an acting course or auditioning course.  So, this does not replace good old-fashioned script analysis. You still need to do that (and I recommend doing it before you apply these concepts.) This work is designed to supplement (and deepen!) the work you’re already doing.  

Meryl Streep explains the concept behind this lesson well:  

Acting is not about being somebody different. It’s about finding the similarity in what’s apparently different, then finding myself in there.

The best and only way to do this is to know yourself fully so you can recognize bits and pieces of yourself when you see it!  

A lot of actors try to find how they are most like their character in terms of profession.  If I have to play a doctor, I’ll think about the mannerisms of doctors I’ve gone to, or who I’ve seen on TV, or I’ll think back to times when I’ve had to be no-nonsense and “professional”. 

This isn’t necessarily wrong, but I don’t think it gives the whole picture.

I believe that the nuance lives deeper in the character’s psyche – in this case, our doctor.  Does she hate her job? Is she so burned out that she gets sloppy? Is she compassionate and feeling or more brusque with no bedside manner? 

Or maybe you have to be a professor. And you happen to be a teacher in real life so you think, perfect we’re aligned!  

Maybe, maybe not.

Being or even just “playing” a teacher isn’t enough. You would never want to go in and play the profession because that’s not what’s driving the scene.  

It’s probably a bit obvious, but the alignment happens with why your character is doing what she’s doing or saying what she’s saying.  

Let’s look at our doctor again.  The way she says something might change depending on her location (her office, the nurse’s station, in a hospital room with a patient), but we’re looking for her intentions and nuance behind her words. The "why" she says what she says.  

Here's one way to think about it.  What's driving her emotion or thought? Then what was the thought behind that? And behind that? 

That’s what you’re after.  

I had an audition recently where I had to be a mom.  I could have just brushed it off and memorized my lines thinking, I’ve got this: “She’s a mom, I’m a mom. Nailed it."

But after careful scrutiny of the script, I had a different picture of her; This mom had a sharp and unstable edge to her. The scene was the mom sending her son off to college but she really didn’t want him to leave her alone. There was a co-dependency and darkness to her and everything she said.  

So my job as an actor got harder. I had to choose her primary strengths and then mash them up with a backstory and her view of the world.  

This is one of the most fun lessons I teach but also can be the trickiest because it’s so nuanced. I’ll go into this a lot deeper in the the Confident Actor Project which I’ll tell you about in a couple of days, and of course, we blow the doors off it in the Masterclass. 

But... baby steps!