Last week I was sitting with Ned, one of my students, and talking process. Every well-practiced actor has a process that is uniquely their own. They instinctively know the best way for them to work on a role, be it an under-five or a major one. They also know how to do their best within the hustle-bustle and brouhaha of a film set. The trick is to find it.
Ned just paid for my class online one day without even talking to me. According to him, he signed up because he wanted a physical approach to acting. He said I was the only coach he could find that did that.
So when we were talking last week, Ned explained that he had done it all: script analysis, years of Meisner (his comment was that there was little for him in the technique beyond repetition), and lots of other classes. And had never found the validation he needed to explore his particular preparation process.
I then asked him a simple question. “How do you to make a role come alive?” “I work on what’s physically real for me,” was his answer. In the monologue that he was doing, we had discussed that the character described his job with an almost orgasmic delight.
“Show me,” I said. And he began to feel the bumpy wall of my Spanish house and comment on its coldness. And then to do the same with the oak bookcase, all the while speaking out images that popped into his head. I immediately thought, “shades of Method sense memory” and was able to successfully guide him in his process. As a result, his monologue was awesome! He asked for the video a few days later.
I studied with every famous and reputable coach I could find when I was acting; the ones that resonated with me I continued with for years. I would suggest you do the same. I learned what did and what didn’t work for me. Only by working through techniques can you find what does. You can’t read it in a book; you have to get up and do it! The good news is that, like Ned, whatever you do will help you in your quest for your own process. My search for mine has helped me guide my students to discover their own.
There are two take-aways from Ned’s story. First, honor your process, whatever it is, and have the gumption to embrace it. Don’t allow coaches and other Showbizzers to shake the confidence you have in it. Secondly, you need support to continue developing it; you can’t do it alone. Find a coach who can honor your process, criticize you with both care and precision, and guide you to awesome performances!