I tweeted earlier “the secret to acting (and one of the hardest things) is to BE interesting and not to TRY to be interesting”. This was as I was sitting on set preparing to shoot a small role as a bartender and trying to find a way to make this small part “interesting” to watch. I needed to quit trying to be interesting.
This brought to mind another example from my own life when I was auditioning for a 3 line role as an FBI agent. I went in and just read my 3 lines as naturally as I could, in character. I didn’t really think I had done anything all that original or spectacular but when I finished my 3 lines, the room erupted in laughter and praise about how great I was. I smiled and thanked them and left, a bit baffled. To me, I just delivered my lines as real and naturally as I could, as the character I had created in my head. I wasn’t trying to be funny or interesting but apparently I just was.
I got the part and the director actually expanded my role and wrote me into several more scenes and into the sequel.
Another story I’ve heard was something about Marlon Brando in a stage production where he was not the focus of the scene. He was just supposed to walk across the stage eating an apple while some other characters were having a conversation. However, there was so much going on inside his head, behind his eyes, that he was utterly captivating and stole everyone’s attention, and the scene, from the main characters.
This is obviously a tough balance to strike (in fact, much of acting is a balancing act…to be prepared, but not too prepared, rehearsed but not too rehearsed). As actors, we all have our own methods and tools and in the end we are acting, pretending but sometimes if you can just inhabit that character as a real person, you will be far more interesting than trying to find some artificial way to make that character interesting.
In the immortal words of a master (Jedi master, that is), “Do or do not, there is no try.”