Yesterday, I came across a quote by Indie Wire writer David Ehrlich in his review of this year’s leading Oscar nominees. He said:
“Great acting isn’t about becoming someone else so much as it’s about becoming who you really are.”
The sentiment hit me hard, because I’ve been analyzing my character work in film and theatre, trying to find what most challenges me as well as put into words why I feel so entranced by becoming another character.
I’ve written about theatre’s role in my anxiety management, how taking on a role forces me to set aside my fears and worries and more or less literally be in someone else’s shoes for a moment.
But what if instead of closing a door on my present self, acting opens up that door? What if acting lets me see who I am beneath my anxiety, lets me tap into my deep emotions, helps me gain further perspective?
The most challenging theatrical role I’ve had to date was playing Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway in “A Few Good Men.” My friend John played the enemy, Colonel Jessup, for which he delivered a stand-up performance. About a year ago, John and I were reminiscing about the show and what makes a good actor. We both agreed that strong actors don’t just act, they react.
John and I also talked about how both of us are incredibly empathetic people–to the point that my empathy can be debilitating–and that this innate trait allows us to take to the stage and transform for a few hours into real or fictional characters. We can act out their life experiences because we are actually feeling them.
Fusing this idea of empathy with Ehrlich’s quote, maybe I love acting so much because, like writing, it’s a way for me to create and express, no holds barred. It’s a way for me to feel and learn about others…and about myself. It’s a way for me to be me.
What do you think makes a good actor? Share your thoughts in the comments below.