How to Create a Character!

Written by Leading Casting Director, Donna Morong!

One of my acting teachers, Bill Esper, used to ask the question when you see a production of “Hamlet” is it Hamlet who sees his father’s ghost or the actor playing Hamlet? I have thought so much about this over the years. For him, it was undeniably the actor who saw the ghost. However, there is something that happens when you create a part that is truly alchemy between the actor (and I am referring to women and men) the writer and the director. As an actor your research and preparation are fueled by the script first and then fine-tuned by the director. When you first read the script, where do you connect with the story and the character? You must identify, in a personal way, what your character wants in the story, and how each scene brings her closer or further from her goal. What is the arc or the trajectory of her emotional changes over the course of the story? You must analyze the script and find what other characters say about you and what you say about yourself. You also need to understand place and time as Stella Adler put it. Where are you in history? What is your social standing, education, who are your parents? All this must be looked at so it can be transformed into behavior. How does your character carry themselves? If they have an impediment, how has it affected their point of view about the world and themselves. What is important to them? How do you want to be seen by others? What don’t you want them to see?

The alchemy happens when you immerse yourself in the research. Read about where you are from, the era, listen to the music, look at the art. Allow it to affect your daydreams. How do you see yourself getting up, spending time alone, with friends, family, at work? Then try on the walk, the shoes, get comfortable in the physicality of your character. For some actors it is finding the speech patterns.

Play, play, play!

As kids we weren’t shy about becoming a princess or a pirate, yet as adults we allow our left brains to dominate our actions. You are Hamlet. You have a unique interpretation that melds the words, your understanding of the world you will be inhabiting, with the alchemy of sub-conscious thought, where true creativity lies.

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