about character work
So if someone were to ask me: “What is your acting practice, Amber? Like, how do you do character work?” I’d usually go: “Jeez Louise, who knows?” But that’s not very useful and I’ve been told I need to write a decent blog. Anyway, bear with me whilst I break down my process in a couple of steps.
For real now, I often forget about how I do character work and how I did it previously. I feel like I start from scratch every time, even though I don’t. I start with small exercises to warm me up again. I read the script several times, I write down every idea that comes up, I try to link different elements of the story and symbolic meaning behind some of the lines, do some general research, etc. I take my notebook wherever I go and write down every brain fart, however futile it may be. It could be a small diamond in the rough.
I try to be off book as soon as I can and in such a way that the lines are in my head without any emotions that might come naturally when reading it. Just a dry memorising of text, so that I don’t get blocked in my preconceived ideas about the character.
The rehearsal process:
After doing some research and having memorised the text, I can actually start playing with it, start exploring. The key is to be flexible. There are elements in your part that you might not have noticed and the director and your colleagues will offer other visions that you need to align with and be receptive to. Trusting that in your process you’ll find and lose your character, and that that’s okay, is also an important and educational part of every creative process.
By now you’ve done so much research and had rehearsal time where you tried out a lot of stuff so if you’re anything like me, it feels like your head is exploding. I always get in my head for a while. In those moments I have to remind myself to trust that all the prep I've done will linger and express itself because it's in me. A person is influenced by many things but they will react instinctively, not really being aware in the moment what drives them, until they look back on it. Same goes for your character.
My main tip is: let go, stop focusing on yourself, start listening. When it's not about you and you put your focus on your scene partner and the scene itself, It frees you up as an actor.
We have a saying in (Flemish) Dutch that literally translates as: “Don’t pretend like you’ve invented hot water.” I’m not saying anything you don’t already know. You don’t reinvent the wheel every time you act. It may feel like it’s your first show every time you start, but it’s not. You’ve got this. You just have to take the first step and the second will follow naturally. That being said, I’ve motivated myself and will love you and leave you, ‘cause I’m about to dive deep into my character!