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Just For Fun / Actor Tips

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It is known to us that actors come here and read things. Mostly, the stuff here is about what writers do. However ... there is always at least one "however" ... We, the viewing public, have a few words of advice for actors. Here goes:

  • Don't look at the camera. ADR will occur, always. Look at the person you are speaking to. Let them do the ADR.
  • "Smaller" is better. No need to bounce it off the cheap seats. All that stage-oriented training is just wrong when the theater has surround sound or if your audience is just one person watching at home.
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  • Let's face it. The audience sees itself in you. Don't look like you're made of plastic. They enjoy looking at charming people, regardless of how much they fit the ridiculous beauty standards of our time.
  • A small part is about making the big part work.
  • A big part is about making the small parts work.
  • Yeah, yeah, "no big parts, only small actors" ... it is a "part", not the whole.
  • Sometimes you get onto the set and realise that you've made a mistake. The script is corny, the sets are cheap and you're the only actor there you've ever heard of. Suck it up, give it your best shot and try and have fun. Order a Large Ham if necessary. The audience will love you for it. For tips, see Jeremy Irons in Dungeons & Dragons, Raul Julia in Street Fighter, and pretty much everything BRIAN BLESSED has ever done.
  • If you don't want everyone to know how often you screw up, swear as much as possible when you do. This will keep it off blooper reels. Or make you look really naughty, which might be a way to up your street-cred.
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  • If your show/movie releases bloopers reels, remember that people will see them, and will want to be entertained. When you mess up, mess up big, be funny if you can, be nice to your costars when they screw up (although snarking at them is all good if you can snark well), and above all, laugh at yourself. No one likes a humorless arrogant drudge who takes himself too seriously, no matter how good an actor you may be. Additionally, this will not only make your bloopers good, but will probably make Act 7 Scene 6 Take 12 a lot easier on yourself and everyone you're working with.
  • Try not to get typecast into a particular role, but don't take it so far that you're afraid to audition for a given part. Take the typecasted role, count those shiny coins, and consider doing off-Broadway for your artistic needs.
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  • The camera doesn't actually add ten pounds. The lighting and camera angles , on the other hand, can do anything from 'take off ten pounds' to 'add twenty'. Don't worry about it. Keep yourself in shape and at a healthy weight.
  • Don't affect an accent that you can't handle. It's a ticket straight to Narmville.
  • Get to know your character. Know how they react to information, how they face danger, what they think of their friends, and so on. If the movie is an adaptation, do as much research on the original as you can. Yes, even if it's a comic book. Hell, especially if it's a comic book. The fans of the work will notice. Don't be afraid to argue about what your character would or would not say. Improvise if necessary; it's a lost art.
    • Try not to be dumber than the hero character you are known for playing. "Would Captain Y do what I am about to do?"
      • A strong example of the above a story told by Nichelle Nichols in her autobiography, Beyond Uhura. One day on set, a director gave her a direction that she refused to follow; she maintained that 'Uhura wouldn't do that'. The argument escalated, and eventually, the director stormed off in anger and spoke directly with Gene Roddenberry. Gene called an understandably-worried Nichelle to his office, sat her down and told her very sternly that the director had called her 'uncooperative, that he would not tolerate an uncooperative actress on his set, and that the director had demanded that she be fired because of the incident. He then informed her that she was to return to work and follow any reasonable request the director made. A moment later, Roddenberry got a sly sparkle in his eyes and said with a grin, 'But I told him that Uhura wouldn't do that'.
  • Nudity and sex scenes are double-edged swords. On one hand, a well-done scene in a critically-acclaimed film can boost one's career exponentially, and may put you on the fast track to mainstream and artistic respectability. Many Hollywood stars have gone on to very strong careers due to their willingness to do nude scenes — Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, and Kate Winslet are cases in point. On the other hand, such scenes can just as easily derail a young actress's (and it's usually an actress's) career. For example, if you are an actress who is most famous for her sexiness rather than her talent, and you want more than just 15 Minutes of Fame, don't blow your wad early and do nudity near the start of your career. Once your male fans have seen you naked, what do they have left for the imagination? In particular, do not let your first nude scene be in a slasher movie or a frat-boy comedy, as this can get you typecast as "the bimbo" in a heartbeat. Compare the careers of sex symbols Jessica Alba and Shannon Elizabeth — the former has never done nudity and got steady mainstream work for the better part of the last decade, while the latter's career burned out and went Direct-to-Video just a few years after she got naked in her debut, American Pie. Go back to some teen movies with the occasional nudity of your youth and look up the actresses on the IMDb. Chances are, their career eventually petered out.
  • Talk show appearances are all about promoting your film. Just go with it.
  • Babies aren't a fad.
  • Try to look disheveled. If you're playing a scene where your character just ran thirty kilometers and fought a giant spider...muss your hair up. Look at Viggo Mortensen — he's mastered the art of staying drop-dead-sexy while looking like an absolute mess.
    • On that note: YOU DON'T ALWAYS NEED TO BE SEXY. This is an especially big problem for female actors, but males are susceptible too. Your character is bound to go through some emotional and physical states that make their features look goofy or ugly. Just relax, and act for crying out loud. We'll love you for it! Actors who try to constantly keep up their sex appeal (or "cool" factor) wind up with the charm and screen presence of a good-looking lampshade (not the fun kind).
      • Julia Roberts is good about doing this — check out Runaway Bride or Conspiracy Theory for examples.
      • We're looking at you, Angelina Jolie — hell, just play a character once in a while that looks/talks or even acts like a normal person.
  • Your character crying is not the main point of a sad scene; making your audience cry is. If your character's just been emotionally crushed, speaking the lines called for in a very quiet and simple tone will usually result in enough tears in the theatre without you adding to the flood.
  • Acting is being yourself under imaginary circumstances, but that's no excuse for laziness. If you're not a good bullshitter, you certainly can't play a good bullshitter, and if you are a good bullshitter, anyone could still clock you if you haven't done your homework! Honesty makes a better performance than faking sincerity, and being yourself under imaginary circumstances requires that you fully appreciate the circumstances your character has lived through.
    • On that note, discuss things with not just the director of the movie, but the writer as well. He'll have valuable information on the character you are trying to play.
  • When possible (and if the director is cool with it), make the character your own. This works particularly well if you were badly cast, recognize that fact, and are willing to accept it. If you're a woman cast in a traditionally male role, play with it (particularly in musicals — girls often have a much larger range than guys, meaning you can play with solos a LOT more). If you're a huge, hulking, 6'7" guy cast as "Tiny McShort", your work is practically done for you — ham it up! Just go out there, have fun, and pretend you aren't one screwup away from a cardboard box on the street.
    • But "making the character your own" does not mean "play the character differently no matter what". Playing a role differently than commonly portrayed just for the sake of being unique is not a good thing because you focus more on past actors' performances rather than on the character itself. On the other hand don't just portray them how they have always been because that's how it's always been. Don't be afraid to experiment and try to figure out what is really necessary. The key is to find a balance between what is necessary for the character and your own acting style regardless of what others have or have not done. If you think the character should be sarcastic, play them sarcastic not because he was always played as sarcastic, not because he was never played as sarcastic, but because you think he should be played as sarcastic. Above all, talk to the director. Work it out.
  • If you're shooting the last episode of your series & you're pissed about it or don't like the script or whatever, still don't act like you don't give a damn! You are actors. See the main cast of Star Trek: Enterprise during their final episode.
  • Don't get pissed if someone has some critiques about your performance — listen to what they have to say! Yes, you know what you were trying to create. It's the people who were watching who know what you did create. What really came across may be very different than what you intended. Listen to them.
  • Sometimes, as mentioned above, a performer can perform best when they perform a character totally different from themselves. So if you're playing the villain when you wanted to play the hero or whatever — just have fun with it! It might be better than you expect.
  • If you're playing a cute character... Don't. Squeak. (see Oerba de Vanille.) And playing a Yamato Nadeshiko does not require an annoying breathy voice.
  • Just because you get the lead does not mean that you can do whatever you want and be a total ass about it. You are not irreplaceable. Treat your fellow cast, crew, directors, and character with respect and work hard. If two people can play a role just as well as the other, they will choose the nicer one. Even if you're the best actor in the world, if they hate working with you, chances are slim that you'll be hired often.
  • Just because you're an extra does not mean that nobody's looking at you. Therefore try not to do anything that you would regret like picking your nose or something. Either be serious about walking that dog through the shot over and over or do something awesome/hilarious so that you'll be forever remembered as a really cool extra. Especially do this when the movie isn't all that great. ("And you extras, wave your arms and make faces. What is this, a morgue?")
  • Doing any of the following will ensure that the public will get really sick of you and will only see you onscreen, not the character you are supposed to be playing. It will also ensure that no one ever takes you seriously. So knock it off:
    • Calling the paparazzi every time you leave the house.
    • Making a spectacle of yourself being dragged drunk out of clubs, jumping on talk show hosts' couches, or having Twitter fights with your estranged parents.
    • Commodifying your personal life. We don't need to know every detail of your relationship with your SO, and at least let the doctors clean off your new baby before you let People's photographers start snapping away. If you've got a cutesy Portmanteau Couple Name, it's game over, man. Game over.
    • Leaking a sex tape. C'mon, folks, no one believes your laptop was stolen anymore.
      • On that note, while the security of various network databases is a matter of debate now, "my cellphone/Twitter account/Facebook page was hacked" won't hold up as an excuse forever when nudie photos of yourself show up on TMZ, either. Especially if the release of said photos happens to coincide with a project you're promoting at the time.
    • Blaming anyone and everyone but yourself when you screw up. Similarly, "apologizing" by saying you're sorry everyone was offended by what what you did or said.
  • When you're on a talk show or radio interview and the host asks you to describe the movie you just did, don't tell us all the parts that didn't make it into the movie. Tell us what's in the movie.
  • Extraing. It is a valuable part of acting and can be a decent path into larger roles if you are good enough. But extras are not supposed to draw focus, they are meant to be human set. If you try and make an impression the only impression you will make is that you are unprofessional. This is true to a lesser extent with all acting, just because you are in shot does not mean you have to be the centre of attention. The best actors can often be identified by the way they can elevate other actor's scenes to great ones.
  • When you're Selling the Show, please pull out those acting chops. Yes, it's annoying and repetitive doing interviews, but there's nothing worse than watching someone who's obviously just going through the motions in a forced manner.
  • Plain English, please, not all of us can speak whatever that -speak from that show is. (Especially Tyraspeak!)


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