Looking at your character in the third person is like trying to understand someone in your real life. You can’t get into their head from a distance. Your view of them will always be colored by your own position, and misunderstandings will typically abound.
Let’s say that you are in Kansas, and I’m in Virginia. I don’t know what it looks like to be in Kansas. I see Kansas from my Virginian perspective. An actor from Texas would see Kansas from a Texan perspective. We filter everything through the lens of where we are. We can’t help it; that’s how our brains work.
I can’t begin to really get the Kansan perspective unless I go to Kansas. Unless I see what the world looks like from there. I have to physically put myself in your shoes (Kansas) to understand why you feel as you do, why you see things the way you do, why certain issues matter to you in a way that they don’t matter to me, as an East Coaster.
At that point, I get some “Aha!” moments. I stop applying stereotypes to you, stereotypes that come out of my East Coast sensibility, etc. I open the door to variety, paradoxically, when I step into your very particular shoes.
I also get out of my head. Script analysis is largely an intellectual activity; as actors, we are searching for feelings. It is easier to get to the character’s feelings when you are willing to align yourself with your character’s perspective by saying, “I am hurt when my mother says ‘this’ to me, because I want her to love me,” or “I want nothing more than to run away from this situation, but I’d feel guilty if I did.”
That’s very different from saying, “She really wants her mother’s love, but her mother always criticizes her,” or “She doesn’t leave, because she’d feel too guilty.”
Can you feel the difference in those statements? The first feel more personal, more specific. You can’t help but get drawn into them. The second are distant, cerebral, and generic.
Great art tells us something about the general – about being a human being – by getting very specific about individuals in particular circumstances. Using the first person in your acting puts you one step closer to that specificity.
Changing your perspective in this way also makes script analysis so much easier. But that’s further down the road . . .
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