By Allen Levin
“What else? What more? Is that all? Flat. Anyone could do that. Just that same sad face the whole movie.” This was said about Casey Affleck for his performance in “Manchester By The Sea.”
“Look at that range! She can play anything. She constantly finds new moments. Who can match her versatility? Great arch. Powerful performance.” This was said about Meryl Streep, somewhere, every day.
Look for variety in your performance. If you are repeating a line, during each repeat change it’s color (the basic colors are Anger, Humor, Sadness, Sexuality — see “Colors”) so that it can reveal something new about your character. The more you feel the more you reveal. Time and opportunities are wasted if you deliver it the same way. Also, if you have a list, give us a variety of perspectives on the list. For example, “I’ve lived in Indiana (shaking head “no” and delivering with a slight eye roll), Florida (said laughing and disbelieving), and finally Hawaii (said with a hand over heart, and a smile). Each of these colors that were placed over the state name gave us an idea of how you felt about each location.
Ultimately in order to stay challenged as an actor you should enjoy a variety of different roles. Play different people in different circumstances. This will help you keep your work fresh and likely would be more creatively satisfying than having Steven Seagal’s same-film-every-time career. OOH. Look. Steven’s playing a bad ass. How unique. Steven, and yes, I’m speaking directly to you now, have you ever considered anything else? Tell you what: You can have a free month of acting classes at Lifebook. Let’s see if you can expand outward! I’d enjoy the challenge as a coach. I’m in. You? Let’s see if we can make this rock bleed. Let’s get some damn variety and earn the right to be called an artist! Wait. On second thought and a reminder from any google search, you are a known asshole to women. I’m not the right coach for you. I take back the offer. (I’d rather save my effort for good people). I guess your career really is dead. That’s not a loss for anyone.
Guys, let’s get in some variety! Let’s challenge ourselves. If you find a character that makes you some money, fantastic, but do not get stuck. I, for one, am glad Marissa Tomei brought us more than just “My Cousin Vinny.” Yes, that was a delightful character, but let’s move on.
As you work in your scenes, find different roles to play. Sometimes play the winner, sometimes the loser. Play someone desperate for forgiveness and then play someone who should forgive. Play a character who is in love and play a character who could never love anyone, particularly not herself. Play it all gang. Look for that variety.
Is it important to have a specific way in? Do you need to know your casting? Absolutely! Can you still play a variety of situations? You must. Give yourselves many different experiences as an actor. Always play the part with honesty. Always look for the truth. Play what’s possible. Enjoy every angle you can find. Study people. Play many. Expand your talent outward.
Aside: Your reels should showcase your variety as well. Otherwise, why not just send one part?
Onward and UP.