How To Get Into Character When There Is No Time?

How To Get Into Character

Quite often there times when casting director asks “could do something else for us?” To make things even worse they provide you a script to perform.

This are the times when actor has only few minutes to prepare for their performance.

How do you make your performance believable? How to study a character for acting? Also how do you provide something that casting director is looking for?

I have has faced similar situations multiple times. Fortunately while I have was studying acting my coach had equipped me with proper knowledge to handle such situations. Also I created my own routine or checklist to prepare for a part in minutes. Here I am going to share same knowledge with you.

For character analysis for actors I have created a Worksheet which has 100 questions to build character for a role. If you use this worksheet it could be the bible of your character. Get it here.

How to Get Into Character For Acting?

In my experience, character is defined by his or her physiology, psychology, and sociology. If you are able to get this three things right about the character your half of the job is done.

Using this method your goal is to not to just understand this three things but bring them in action in front of the camera.

Before we dive into details let me just tell you, do not rely on this quick method if you have few days or a day to prepare for the character.

Especially if you have got the part, spend great amount of time preparing the character. Also do getting into character exercises that are mentioned here.

This method is just for audition purposes!

So now lets just start with the process.

Physiology

Each person has their own physiology so have find the physiology of the character.

Generally script gives lot of ideas about the physical appearance and manner of the character. Even casting director provide you the basic idea about the physical appearance of the character.

When you are at audition you don’t have to worry about clothes and makeup.

Since you have been requested to perform something instantly, even the casting director want consider your appearance or makeup.  He or she will solely judge you based on your performance only.  So don’t worry about it.

So focus on creating a physicality. There are several ways to create physicality instantly. But my personal favourite is the “finding the center”.

This technique is developed by famous coach Eric Morris. I came across this technique while attending an acting workshop.

You can read more about his technique in his book No Acting. 

When I used it for the first time I was surprised how instantly I was able to create physicality.

So, how do you use this technique?

To begin, you must find any corner of your home where you can walk around without any obstruction.

I personally recommend you to wear something comfortable like a track pant and t-shirt.

Why?

Well, you want to ensure that you should be able to feel your body from head to toe. In tight clothing, it is often not possible.

So once you have the place and right clothing let’s find the centre of the character.

In order to find the centre, you must understand a little about body language. The body language conveys tells a lot about the person.

You can check the post on importance of body language in acting to understand it properly.

To give you an example, a person with overconfidence or ego will always have his or her nose up. That means the person has the centre at nose.

If you consider the opposite emotion that is if person is low on confidence, his forehead always points downwards. That means the persona has center at forehead.

If you practice this two centres you will notice that the body that acts as the centre is always an inch ahead of rest of your body.

This is the most important part of this technique.

Whatever body part you choose as the center it has to be always a inch ahead of your body. In other words, it should lead rest of your body.

Try practicing the technique with different centres and you will find that you can create different body language.

Just by changing the center you will be able to create a completely different physicality.

I believe this is the quickest way to get into character for acting with no time to prepare. 

You must also checkout our article on how to develop a character acting.

Psychology

Once you have done the physicality, it is time to build psychology of the character.

Many actors ask how to connect with a character in acting? how to get deep into character?

Psychology is the answer!

I personally, feel psychology of characters takes time. The reason being you do not want to just understand the psychology of the character but live it.

And going from understand to living it takes weeks of time. That is why you heard good actors take months to prepare for the role.

And greats like Daniel Day Lewis take almost a year to live the psychology of the character.

But how to go about it when you have just 5 minutes to time to prepare for your acting audition?

To begin with, read the audition script thoroughly. You will get lot of information about the character.

If you are not able to understand the character from the script, ask few casting director to brief you.

While trying to understand the character what you should be looking for in the script or brief from casting director?

If are clear about these three things, you have enough ammunition to create a temporary psychology of the character.

I came across these method acting techniques in a book  The Power Of The Actor By Ivana Chubbuck (Check out the book on Amazon).

1. Moment Before

The moment before, gives you idea about from where the character is coming from.

If I explain it in short, you have to find out what happened with character few moments ago. Did he had a fight? Was he happy? Was he working? Was he sleeping?

Whatever might have happened it sets the psychology of the character for the scene.

For instance he had a fight with his girlfriend, and in the present scene he is talking with his mother but he might not in jovial or happy mode. Character will be upset.

Even if the scene is not about his girlfriend, you will have to add a little emotion of the previous scene.

The issue with auditions is that most of the time, the scene is standalone scene created just for the purpose of audition. 

In such case get the idea from the casting director. 

And if he or she says “surprise us”, well surprise them!

In other words, invent something that you think would make the scene great.

2. Scene Objective

If you have taken any method acting class, you might have heard about it. Scene objective is nothing about what your character is trying to achieve in the scene.

One thing I have learned in short acting experience, is keep the objective as simple as possible and direct it towards the other character in the scene.

For instance, your character is on a date in the scene. Your scene objective could be to charm the girl.

And if your character is in a conversation with person whom he or she hates, your scene objective could be to be harsh to the other character or get out of the conversation as soon as possible.

Best way to find the scene objective is to answer this simple question:

“What do you want from other character in the scene?”

3. What Are You Doing?

This seems to be simple question but it is most important out of three because it will make your character alive.

Just observe yourself when you are around people or in a situation. You are always doing in some activity.

You might say doing something is physicality but when you observe in real life situation your activity dictates your psychology in the moment.

There is lot of thinking going on when you are involved in an activity.

In addition to physical doing, there is other type of doing which is internal. This is applicable in a situation where character is not physically active.

Like travelling in a bus or a train.

Like waiting for your order at restaurant.

Like trying to sleep in your bed.

This are instances where you are internally active.

For audition purpose I advise you to not go for internal activity.

Firstly, it requires lot of practice and it also needs camera to be much closer to your face. Generally it needs close up and in auditions usually mid close is used.

So, how do you decide the physical activity during audition?

The first you should do is to see if there is any prop that you can use.  If you are doing audition on a live set, it is great.

But here I will consider a situation where you do not have and you are standing alone in front of a grey screen.

I would not suggest mime for physical objects but what you can do is create imaginary people around you to whom you can gesture.

And if the scene involves only two people, you can mimic using very simple objects like coffee mug, tv remote.

Let me share with you two tricks that I use:

I carried few things in my pocket like handkerchief, pen, pieces of papers like receipts, mouth freshener, and chewing gum.   These are some things that you can just take out of your pocket and use it in the middle of the scene. It just fits into any scene but not if the scene is from periodic drama where this things didn’t exist.

The other trick I used whenever scene was set in the house of the character is mirror. You can do the scene while you are looking at the mirror and getting ready to go out.

If you follow these three things you will be able to create temporary psychology for the audition.

Sociology

Sociology means how your character behaves with other characters. Finding the sociology of the character will give what kind of relationship shares with the other character.

Good thing about auditions is there are either one or two characters to interact with. So it won’t take time to know what kind of relation your character has.

Most script will give lot of information about the relation between the two characters and even casting director might provide you some useful inputs.

Let me be clear, when I say relationship I mean what kind of emotional involved when your character interacts with the other.

For instance, if the given relationship is of a father and son, there can be lot of emotions like hate, love, anger, etc.

When you are looking to get into character for acting in short time, look for the simplest emotions. I would suggest just pick one out these two:

  • Love
  • Hate

Don’t get into too much complexity. Just ask if your character loves the other character or hates him or her.

Once you have that just play that emotion when doing the scene. It is more than enough for the audition.

How to Get into Character Moments Before Director Yells “Action”?

Now you have physicality, psychology and sociology of the character.

How to boil it down and actually get into character for acting?

You follow this step by step procedure to get into character for acting moments before you face the camera:

Step 1: Adopt The Physicality

For me, I always begin with physicality. Minutes before audition, I start to walk and move in the character’s physicality.

Great thing about get into character’s physicality is that, it instantly gives the feel of the character.

Since, you know what body centre to use for the character, just actively start applying it. Move around for couple of minutes and you are good to go.

Step 2: Where You Coming From?

Once you are in the physicality try to think to about where you are coming from.

There several method acting techniques that help you give the feeling of where you are coming from.

Since we don’t have time, I will provide you technique that instantly throws you into the moment before.

Since, you know where the character is coming from, start asking questions about the situation or conversation you had moment before.

Ask this question in the head. Also tell yourself the answers to these questions as the character.

Here is train of question and answer about a situation where the character heard from his girlfriend that she wants to break up with him.

“Is she really want to break up with me?”

“Yes she was serious.”

“What happens if she leaves me?”

“I cannot let her go. I love her.”

“what should I do stop her?”

 “Convince her that you still love her.”

With each questions and answer, you will dive deep in the skin of the character.

Step 3: What Do You Want in the Scene?

The above step are designed to bring your character to an emotional point from where the scene can originate and flow naturally.

Once the scene begins, don’t think about the step 1 and step 2, just focus on step 2 that is what do you want from the other character. 

Now bring your focus to the character in the scene. Try to focus on what do you want from the other character.

We have already discussed the scene objective in details. Just apply that.

All you have to do is following the script try to achieve the objective.

Only thing that can go wrong is if the object is not according to the script. So make sure you choose the most suitable objective for the scene.

Every line of dialogue that you speak should be with intention to achieve that objective.

Final Thought

If you have some experience of acting, you will realise that each and every method acting technique is designed to bring up to the edge from where you can free dive into the scene without any baggage. I advise you to practices this process daily so that it doesn’t take time when you are at auditions.