So I don’t go full method. I go halfway there.
I don’t stay in character the whole way through the process, nor do I demand people address me ONLY by my character’s name. I don’t create a “character bubble” or insist on absolute solitude.
But I do go halfway.
I’m in character in between takes and I’m in character during rehearsal hold/pauses. I’m in character a good while before I enter and after I exit. I do like my space on set or backstage. I need my time to “get in”. I like to stay “in”.
But “in” isn’t the character, per se. It’s just the right headspace.
That’s where my process lives: not in the identity of the character but in the headspace of the character, or, as one of my theatre school mentors dubbed it, the “State of Being” of the character.
And I like to live there most of the time during the process.
It’s not too far to fly off the edge and plunge into the deep end. It is too far to be comfortable or to necessarily maintain an appropriate level of sanity.
Especially with my current project, Encore’s production of The Monument. At the time of this writing, we haven’t even begun rehearsals. But I’m already in that headspace. I’m already in that State of Being. And it is a dark place to be.
Those that know me well and who have had the misfortune of having to suffer through me during a production, beginning to end, would probably say I tend to get “affected” by the role. It’s not some actory bullshit. It’s not some “method”. It’s not some artistic wank-off. It’s just where I need to live if I’m going to play the part convincingly and, ideally, truthfully.
My role in The Monument is that of a young soldier-turned war criminal, about to be put to death for crimes against humanity committed during a genocidal conflict. Think Rwanda. Think Bosnia. Think Darfur. Hell, think the Third Reich.
I play the guy that did all that stuff.
It’s easily and inarguably the most challenging role I’ve ever taken on. I won’t get in to the minutia of the approach, but clearly, the character has just emerged from darkness, is confronted with even more darkness, and is trying to find solace and peace and, maybe, even forgiveness.
So how far do I go? How deep into the darkness do I push myself? How much of humanity’s ugliness do I need to force-feed my psyche to play this part effectively?
The answer is both “enough” and “too much” and, although we haven’t even begun, I’m already feeling the weight of that.
And that’s what we, as actors do. And that’s what the “layman” doesn’t quite grasp. Sure, we’ve got technique. Sure, we’ve got some tricks. But ultimately, acting, and hopefully, acting well, is the sum total of a person’s willingness to subject themselves to the elements of the human condition that most people find appalling or reprehensible, and, always, unapproachable.
But we have to do it. We have to go to those dark places. Because that, ultimately, is our job. And that’s where our work lives.
Even if we don’t go full method, we still need to take the tour.