MOST local actors fall short of expectations because they do “personality” rather than character acting, which is what dramatic performance should be all about.
What’s the difference?
“Personality” acting happens when an actor pretty much plays himself—same look, same voice, gestures, way of walking, dressing, thinking, feeling, with only minor and external variations thereof.
The personality actor’s logic: I became popular due to my good looks and uniquely appealing personality traits, so why should I give my fans anything else?
Because dear Mr. or Ms Star, that’s what acting should be about—the creation of a character other than your usual self.
Less than that is, well, merely “personality” performance, and the fact that it’s popular on the local scene helps account for the general superficiality and predictability of portrayals on the local stage, TV and film.
But there are actors who pride themselves in virtually “disappearing” into the characters they create and play. They know that character acting is more than just adding “interesting” details and adumbrations onto your real persons, it’s finding the essence of this “other” person whom you’ve been assigned to play.
And, why is that so important? Because it’s the distinct character that each person has become that dictates, explains and makes empathetic all of the actions, feelings and decisions he makes.
Therefore, playing a character is more than just pretending to be him, it’s understanding or vivifying him so well that his motives become crystal-clear to the audience as well.
From the actor’s completely believable and insightful portrayal, viewers gain corresponding insights into the roots of human behavior and human nature, and that’s what teaches them a lot about life, which is the reason why they bother to watch performances in the first place!
So, actors who pretty much play themselves are short-changing their audience, because many viewers want to see and experience more than just their idols being their lovely or hunky selves.
True, there are fans who are content with that, but many viewers want more—the total package, the whole enchilada of the truly moving and insightful dramatic experience, not just mere variations thereof.
A good actor changes his voice and looks not just because it’s “interesting” and “challenging” to do so, but because it’s the believability of the character he creates and plays that makes viewers understand him so well that they can empathize with him and learn from the shared experience. If the actor remains himself, viewers see him, not the character he’s portraying, and no life lessons are learned.
The best example of the actor who makes it a point to “disappear” into his or her assigned character is Meryl Streep. From Julia Child and Margaret Thatcher to the villainness in “The Devil Wears Prada” and the simpering housewife in her latest film, “Hope Springs,” Streep effects major changes in her appearance and acting approach, because she understands the importance of character as the real engine that drives the dramatic process to its subliminally empathetic conclusion.
She bothers to be somebody else, because she knows that it’s in “being” that other person that she can best serve and enlighten her audience about the wonders and cankers of human nature.
The fact that many local actors fail to appreciate that important point helps account for the general predictability and mediocrity of their TV-film portrayals.