Genius! Master Thespian:
— SNL "Master Thespian" Sketch
When acting isn't just a skill, it's practically a super power. For whatever reason, a character's acting can be just as effective against one's enemies as the powers of a Flying Brick
It can be for the heroes, a Sidekick
or even the villain, but with this trope, acting is something to be reckoned with.
Note that espionage often requires some acting skill, or just being able to bluff and con people, but those are not this trope. This is about acting as for the stage, film, etc. being a power itself - or at least, someone who is attempting a bluff or a con being explicitly referred to as an actor.
Despite how good the character's acting is said to be, it's still as likely as not to involve Stylistic Suck
Compare Charles Atlas Superpower
, Master of Disguise
, Consummate Liar
Contrast Bad Bad Acting
Not to be confused with Master Actor
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Anime & Manga
- Airi from Those Who Hunt Elves: her experience makes her an expert at reading and manipulating people.
- The very concept of piloting the Humongous Mecha in Sakura Wars is that performing in a theater troupe helps prepare one for this.
- There's really more to it than that. The acting is not only regarded as good training for the troupe, it actually helps defend the capital, by giving the people hope and spirit, and having something mystical of its own. It's noted by one of the characters that theatre in Japan started as a religious ritual to placate the spirits (and same is true of theatre in Europe, incidentally).
- Also in one of the anime episodes, Sumire uses her knowledge of acting to placate the vengeful spirit of an actress at a movie studio. It's actually quite a Tear Jerker to see the ghost finally happy again.
- Great Britain in Cyborg 009, it's the reason he was chosen to be transformed into a cyborg.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Touma defeated the Reality Warper Aureolus Izzard by convincing him that his powers had no effect anymore, since he believed it, it came true.
- In A Certain Scientific Railgun, Shinobu Nunotaba uses some excellent psychological warfare to convince the thugs who were threatening her that she had a Touch of Death ability. She barely even had to move and the thugs were soon terrified out of their minds Mook Horror Show-style.
- Usopp from One Piece almost managed to trick a whole room full of marines he was a surprise inspector during the filler G8 Arc.
- That is, until Robin showed up in the surprise inspector's uniform and didn't back him up when he said he lied about being the inspector. It was all good since it saved him.
- Mike (Satomi Keiko) in Umi no Misaki, when she gets really into a role, can make herself sound - and, in dim light, even somehow look - like who she's playing. Including, at one point, seeming to wear the other girl's eyeglasses, which there's no possible way she could have.
- Played with in The Read Through in which the Harry Potter characters are essentially actors playing themselves in various pieces of fan fiction, but are nothing like the characters they portray. For one, Dobby is actually over six feet tall and has a deep voice, but he can ACT short.
The door opened again allowing Draco Malfoy and Dobby Elf into the Read Through room.
"Greetings Fellow Thespians!" Dobby called in a deep cultured baritone that would make James Earl Jones green with envy. "I do hope everyone is ready for today's foray into the theater of the mind."
Molly and Ginny joined them all sitting around the table. Behind Dobby and Draco came several interns carrying copies of the day's script and started placing them at each place around the table, along with pens and highlighters.
One of the interns stopped in front of Dobby. "Mr. Elf, sir, I've been a fan of the series since the beginning, you've always been my favorite character."
"Well thank you…" Dobby eyed the intern's nametag, "Stephen, I am but a humble player among this great ensemble cast, playing my part as best I can."
"Oh, you're the best sir… but I was wondering, you don't look anything like your character."
"Ah, I see, you expected an emaciated two foot tall golem with huge eyes did you?"
"Yes sir Mr. Elf, I never would have recognized you. How do you do it?"
"How else Stephen?" Dobby struck a dramatic pose "By ACTING!"
Stephen the Intern blinked, standing before him was the Dobby from the books and movies, two foot tall, huge eyes, clad in a threadbare pillowcase, he blinked again and Mr. Elf was back, six foot four clad in a Thousand Pound Saville Road suit, the picture of the Shakespearian actor. "That's amazing Mr. Elf, I had no idea someone could 'act' short."
"Only after years of training young Stephen. Fetch me a cup of tea and half a bagel with cream cheese would you? Good Lad."
The intern scampered off and Dobby took his seat at the table. Draco looked up from the script in front of him. "You insufferable ham."
- In DC Nation, Hugo Anders was armed only with this and a Desert Eagle if something bad happened. At one point, he was armed with nothing more than a Tamaranian disguise and his acting skills and infiltrated a secure prison to reach Starfire and smuggle her a UV light.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star, an extremely unemployed but exceedingly competent actor who happens to be Identical Stranger to a prominent politician must fill in for said politician in order to stave off a diplomatic incident between humans and Martians.
- This happens to the protagonist of Moving Pictures: being a movie star somehow allows him to defy physics so that he can save the girl. Because, due to magic, he was using Hollywood (sorry, Holy Wood) Physics and Magic instead of the normal kinds.
- Tomjon from Wyrd Sisters, due to his godmothers' gifts, can remember every role he's ever played, is able to perfectly slip into any role he's given (meaning his acting will always be completely sincere) and is extremely good with people. One of his friends describes him as being able to use the Discworld's equivalent of the St. Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V to start a revolution in an Ankh-Mopork alehouse and have the people inside storm the palace and install him as king.
- Baroness Nicola Ceausescu in Paul Park's Roumania series is a former renowned stage actress who uses her talents to seduce and charm people, and also to impersonate others when she wants to travel in disguise. She is skillful enough to disguise herself as nearly anyone, regardless of differences in gender, age, and social class. In the climax of the third book, she impresses the elite of her country with an opera she has written about her tragic life in order to get people to sympathize with her. Even her enemies who despise her as a corrupt, power hungry vamp and wannabe-empress are impressed with how superbly she puts on an act to impress people in various situations.
- In the Wraith Squadron books of the X-Wing Series, Garik "Face" Loran fills this role in the Wraith Squadron commando unit. When it comes to infiltration, he tells the other members of the team how to not draw attention and seem inconspicuous, while he gets everyone to pay attention only to him and feeding them his made up stories. Having a galaxy-wide famous actor on a covert operations team never becomes a problem, as he's just so good that nobody ever recognizes him, if he doesn't want them to.
- It helps that he was famous for his child acting, and went into hiding before he became an adult. It also helps that he has the advantage of a great deal of advanced makeup.
Live Action TV
- The Doctor Who Shakespeare episode, where theatrical performance both summons and banishes the Monster of the Week.
- "Master Thespian" from Saturday Night Live aspires to this. His teacher, Chin-Hua, was able to look like Carl Weathers for a production of Othello (despite being an 80 year old Chinese man) through "acting!"
- One of (if not the) awesomest moments of Cordelia's in Angel was when she bluffed Angelus into thinking that a jug of bottled water was actually holy water.
- Also when she pretends to be a police detective to infiltrate, alongside Wesley, a demon fight club
- Invoked/played with in The Mighty Boosh episode, "The Chokes".
- Used by Sophie in Leverage, despite her being a terrible actress when not running a con.
- In an episode of Jonathan Creek, Carla reminds Jonathan that all the suspects are trained actors who will naturally be able to put up a convincing show of grief for the murder victim. Sure enough, they're the culprits, though it was slightly subverted considering one of them was having trouble keeping calm after the murder.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, a Bard's effectiveness at bamboozling opponents or making his allies tougher is in direct proportion to his powers of performance.
- There was also a prestige class introduced which was essentially a stage magician who could produce actual magical effects by convincing his audience that he could do a given feat and presumably through the power of their belief.
- So crucial a trope in Hamlet that it becomes a plot point. Realizing that "the play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king," Prince Hamlet has a theatrical troupe visiting the Danish court stage The Murder Of Gonzago, whose plot mirrors almost exactly the plot of Hamlet. Upon hearing the line "None wed the second but who killed the first," Queen Gertrude becomes uneasy (and remarks "The lady doth protest too much, methinks," rather than the commonly perceived "Methinks thou doth protest too much"). Then, when Lucianus pours poison into the ears of the sleeping King Gonzago, King Claudius is so stricken with guilt that he abruptly gets up and leaves. This is proof enough for Hamlet that Claudius is responsible for the murder of his father.
- In The Order of the Stick, Elan's Dashing Swordsman class gives him remarkable fighting prowess for long as he can keep up a quipping swashbuckler act.
- SCP Foundation has SCP-701, The Hanged King's Tragedy, a play that has a chance of resulting in everyone acting and watching the play killing each other.
- Benedict Cumberbatch once used this to act his way out of a kidnapping in South Africa- he persuaded his attackers that he had a medical condition that could cause him to die if he was stuffed into the boot of their car. They let him go.