Dr. Travis Bradberry, emotional intelligence expert and author, identified 8 Habits of Incredibly Interesting People.
In our pursuit to be interesting, engaging actors, let’s find application from Dr. Bradberry’s advice in the context of our work on and off stage.
They are passionate.
I’m going to start with the assumption that you, the actor, are passionate about your craft. If you do it with any regularity, you must be. You’re likely not in it for the money. But if a passion is lit within your character, too, your performance will be a sight to behold. What does your character want? What does your character dream about? Pursue with passion. The audience has come to see someone care. When you care, you pursue. When you pursue, you either win or lose. If you win, you inspire. If you lose, you grow. It’s a win/win for the audience, and it all starts with your and your character’s passion.
They try new things.
Try new types of plays. Comedies, dramas, Shakespeare, contemporary, abstract… What makes you a little uncomfortable? Jump in! Your brain will not be able to sit back and relax in a new situation—it’s that alertness that will be a valuable tool every rehearsal.
Try new choices in rehearsals. You have weeks or months of rehearsal. Why should your choices be the same as they were last week? Trying new things leads to new discoveries. Don’t lose your passion for discovery.
They don’t hide their quirks.
Instead of trying to cover up what makes you unique (physically, vocally, etc.), infuse your performance (or audition) with your quirk. Find roles and scripts that play to your strengths.
They avoid the bandwagon.
Some iconic characters have been played by hundreds and thousands of actors. It’s hard to avoid simply playing the role as it is expected. Then, of course, your performance is… expected. Does Glass Menagerie’s Laura have to be a quiet, mousey, weak young woman? Does Hamlet have to be depressed and angsty? Maybe you don’t have an iconic role. Maybe you are a nurse, a cop, or a paper boy. You don’t have to play the stereotype. Dig deeper, ask why, and make it your own.
They check their egos at the door.
Whether you have many lines, or a few. Whether you’ve been doing this for forty years or forty days, there is no room for our egos. A self-preserving ego gets in the way of implementing every single point in this article.
They’re always learning.
I hope you find the discussions here at Stagebite to be encouraging and informative, and there are many other valuable resources in place to help you hone your craft.
However, these techniques and theories are attempting to engage your knowledge and experience to create a compelling character on stage; they can do nothing to expand that knowledge base in the first place. I often remind myself that as an actor, I am a student of human behavior and expression. The more we know about people—how they think, how they work, how they express themselves—the more believable our character can be. Watching more theatre and movies is a good start. Read books about subjects that interest you—fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Spend an afternoon at the art museum and let yourself become inspired or confused. Read the little plaques to discover tidbits about the artist that most people never read. Everything you learn gets added to a mental index from which you can draw as you explore your character in rehearsal. The more diverse your index, the more diverse your character.
They share what they discover.
Harold Guskin, author of How to Stop Acting, was cast in the role of a New York City tailor. It was a small role, alongside a few other tailors. In preparing for his role, Harold found an old tailor who would give him acrash course in tailoring.
He took his newfound skills [however unrefined they still were] to rehearsals, and quickly garnered the attention of the other tailors in his scene. He eagerly showed them the stitches and techniques he had learned from the tradesman, and soon a small army of tailors were stitching and sewing with renewed passion for their roles.
Your research doesn’t have to be confidential information. If your scene mates, and the play as a whole, can benefit from what you’ve learned, share the wealth!
They don’t worry about what others think of them.
An actor who is self-conscious about what the audience, scene partners, and director thinks is an actor whose performance will be limited. These worries form a filter that inhibits our ability to make bold choices and react in the moment. It’s time for truth statements:
- My scene partners are not judging me. They are equally invested in this scene, and want me to succeed.
- The audience is not judging me. They are here to enjoy themselves, and they want me to succeed.
- The director is not judging me. He trusts me to make effective choices for my character, and he wants me to succeed.
With those truths floating around in our head, we can trust ourselves to make interesting choices on stage.
If you are truly making these traits true about yourself, I believe you won’t actually be aware of it. A truly interesting person is too busy finding other people and things fascinating to think it of himself.
What actor do you find interesting? Why do you find him or her so interesting? Share in the comments below!