How can you connect to a role who seems totally different from you on the page? One powerful way in is through their wants, needs and dreams.
If this particular character has desires that seem insane or silly to you, ask yourself what their want boils down to. If they want to launch a spaceship and steal the moon, ask yourself why? Study the script for clues. Is it really about the moon? Odds are it has more to do with wanting love and respect from someone, needing power to gain a sense of self, to find a safe place…What is it really about?
And then ask yourself what you understand about that.
Find something specific to you that you feel in your gut—something that stirs you up–if it makes you feel a fire of desire (ooh, that rhymes and I like it) that’s something you can use in your rehearsal.
What you use to connect to a role is part of what makes acting so exciting and so varied from actor to actor. It’s why we never get tired of the next great Hamlet. Keep exploring until you find something that hooks you in.
CLASS CLIP TRANSCRIPTION
Sarah: Right before you do your scene, in that moment you’re connecting to the circumstances and the deep need of the role you’re working on. This came up in my class this morning. I have an objective, and I don’t know…I know what it is but I don’t feel anything when I think about it. Right, I know in my mind what my character’s want is, but it’s not showing up in my work. It’s not showing up.
Sarah: So, how do I get it to show up? And if it’s not showing up, it means you haven’t figured out your own way to hook into that want yet. What do I understand about what this person wants? What do I know about this? What do I deeply deeply understand about this need? And it may not be the exact same thing that they understand, that this character understands, but there’s a kernel of truth in there that is a jumping off point.
Sarah: So there may be something about, even when you’re playing a comedic role, you can easily…I think it’s not necessarily helpful at some point, as you start to work on a comedy like this role, to think of him as a buffoon. Because for you, his need is life and death. I need to be understood, I need to be recognized, I need to be acknowledged. I need to be seen as somebody who knows something. I need to be important. I just want to show up on their doors with a duffle bag full of cash and blow their doors off. God, I want that so bad. What do I understand about that? What do I, the actor, the human, know about wanting to be taken seriously, about wanting to prove myself, and that’s where you begin.
And so every role you work on is gonna be different, because you’re gonna need to understand something different about every role you play, and sometimes there’ll be some similarities, but the circumstances, the rules of the world, the relationships those characters have, their own obstacles and inhibitions, everything shapes how this is gonna play out.