Just exactly how does one go about being oneself when portraying another person?
Well first, you need to know who you are. Knowing who you are means knowing and accepting all the parts of yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Coincidentally, getting to know yourself is something you can do every day simply by experiencing life and paying attention to your own thoughts, moods, and reactions. The trick here is to observe your own actions while attempting not to influence them in any way. Those gut feelings, knee jerk reactions, and uncontrolled thoughts are what tell us exactly who we are inside.
We all have likes and dislikes, these too are things that tell us about ourselves.
Think about all the ways you may categorize or describe your friends and others around you. For better or worse, we as humans have a natural tendency (whether good or bad) to place people in boxes, or stereotypes if you will. Stereotypes can have very negative connotations and lead to things like bigotry and racism, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some truth to them. Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. I don’t want to get into a big spiel about this though because it’s not relevant here. What is relevant is that by paying attention to yourself, you can begin to stereotype yourself and therefore better learn about who you are.
One more thing – pay attention to all those little quizzes you see everywhere, on Facebook, in magazines, in books. While most of them are just for fun and not really based on any scientific principles, they can still tell you things about yourself. Arguably one of the best personality tests available for getting to know yourself better is the Myers-Briggs. And there are many others. Take them, pay attention to them.
Ask your friends who they think you are.
Sit down and write a letter to someone, pretend you are describing one of your friends to them, but make the description about yourself instead – see what you can glean from this experience.
Now when you go to create your next character ask yourself what the two of you have in common. Ask yourself how you would react under their circumstances. Find as many similarities between you and the character as you can and begin your work there. The more you can relate to them, the more you will begin to meld with them, and the more authentic your performance will be.
Next Week: The Importance of Improv in Auditioning