LESSON: Adapting Characters to Actors

handshake-1443446582M5mGood actors put a lot of effort to adapt themselves to the character they’re playing. Unfortunately sometimes directors forget to adapt the character’s to the actors.

Characters and actors are like a partnership. If actors are the only ones putting the effort the relationship will suffer. That’s why we need to make sure that there is collaboration from both sides.

There are a few ways to make this possible.

SCREENWRITING

Sometimes there are roles that simply need to be of a specific gender or type. But is it? There are examples such as Cate Blanchet as Bob Dylan that demonstrate how casting choices can make a story more interesting. When writing try to keep a flexible mind on how the character’s look. Don’t write it on stone. Write it in pencil. Also try experiments where characters are of the opposite sex or ten years older. See how that changes the story in an interesting way.

CASTING

Many times opportunities are lost in auditions. She’s not blond enough, he’s too old, she’s not a he. When in fact, most roles can be adapted to different ages, creeds and even genders, as discussed previously. Avoid having a strict look for ypur character. Be flexible. Sometimes we find truly outstanding actors in auditions but we end up rejecting them because we can’t find a place for them. You must remember, it’s more important to have good actors than average actors that simply fit the role. A talented and experienced actor can make a character work.

DIRECTING

Once you’ve made your choice, the job is not truly completed. This is where the character must listen to the actor. Even the best actors in the world have mannerisms. Things about their style that are recurrent in their screen apparitions. Make use of that. This includes adapting dialogue that the actor can easily manage, personality attributes that the actor is comfortable playing and certain looks that are compatible with the actor’s look (remember all those movies with terrible make up characterization? That’s what happens when you force a look on an actor).

Of course, it’s still the actors job to pull it off. Characters can only be adapted to a certain extent. These tips should never serve as an excuse for an actor not to do their job, but think about previous projects you’ve worked on and ask yourself, ‘would it have helped if I made a little more effort on adapting the character to the actor?’.