Acting Emotional

The other day, I had an epiphany. It’s fun. You should try it sometime. It went something like this:

Whenever I act, especially in auditions and other high pressure situations I’m always watching myself, waiting to “feel” whatever emotion is demanded of me. When I do, I expect it to “feel” tangible, like some sort of solid presence in my torso, filling me with passion, rage, grief, whatever the moment requires.


Whenever I’m actually worked up about something in life, it doesn’t feel like that at all. Instead of fullness, I feel hollow, calm, detached. My boyfriend will tell you that this is hilarious, because at the same time as I’m feeling so cool and in control, my stupid body has gone ahead without me into red-faced, yelling, bawl-its-eyes-out mode. What’s up with that, right?

Now for the epiphany. When we are emotional, we are the stillness in the centre of the maelstrom. We are the conduit for an energy that is physically bigger than our bodies. Our bodies therefore become the conjunction between the intangible force of feeling and the physical possibility of action.

For those less philosophically inclined, or anyone out there with hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (in which case I apologize for ’philosophically’), emotion is action. I’ve been saying this for years in my private life, but it’s taken me far too long to make the connection between my personal theory and my acting life.* Our feelings aren’t nouns, but verbs. **

The determination to “feel” something, I think, acts as a pretty good defense against actually achieving it. We clench up all our mental muscles and strain really hard, like a small child screwing up its face to achieve the state of “deep thought,” or “concentration”. By doing this, by trying to impose a static state from the outside in, we pretty much guarantee that we’ve just shut the valve on any sort of natural, spontaneous reaction, and walk ourselves right into Bad Actingland.

As soon as you decide how you are supposed to feel you’ve stopped yourself from actually feeling anything, especially since how emotions actually present themselves is often very different from the way we think they should. Your moment of private breakdown may not manifest in tears, so don’t worry so much about the result and simply let whatever happens when you let your guard down happen. (And accept that you probably won’t look particularly pretty while you’re doing it, but there is real beauty in a truthful, genuine reaction, and trust me, that’s way cooler and epically more awesome than ’pretty.’ ’Pretty’ is boring. Kristen Stewart take note.)

We cannot exist passively. To be alive is to, at the very least, be.*** I mean, heck, it’s even in the name we call ourselves.**** We are, duh da da daaah, human beings. Or, if you find bad puns in any way inspiring, we are humans, being.

Next up, forget everything I”ve said here! Stay tuned for “The more we know, the freer we are; or, the joys of creative specificity.” …okay, maybe I’ll work on the title. No promises, though.

*Which admittedly makes me feel a bit of a dunce.

**However, and this is equally important, they are not our acting verbs (motivations, choices, actions, whichever school you hail from). We do not say what we say or do what we do because we are angry, or because we are sad, but because, by God, we are not going to wash one more of our roommate’s dirty dishes. This may make us angry, frustrated, determined, hysterical, even full of virtuous pride in finally standing up for ourselves, but, regardless, what we are DOING, and what we think about it, is the same. Our emotions affect how we express ourselves, but our acting choices and our emotions exist on two different planes. Just to clarify.

***Go ahead. Do the speech. I know you wanna.
****Okay, not the Latin. Nothing’s more solidly static than homo sapiens. But hey, we’re alive. Latin’s dead.^
^Yeah, I went there. Snap.
%d bloggers like this: