Creating a Character for Film or TV

By Mark Stolzenberg

Mark Stolzenberg Acting Coach(Continued from the homepage) Of course there always exceptions to this. In film we use who we are even more than on stage.

There are some basic things you can do to help in creating a character. Write a 2-10 page biography of your character.  Include the following: age, health issues, family members, social class, occupation, income, hobbies, favorite foods, favorite color, physical attributes, primary wishes, desires, and motivation, what animal are you most like. Also include a private secret about your character, not to be shared with anyone.

  1. Research your character type and study some samples. For example, when I played a PHOTOGRAPHER on BOARDWALK EMPIRE, I googled famous photographers from that era and used them as images. Another time, I starred in a film called, “Luggage Of The Gods,” in which I played a CAVEMAN. Needless to say, I had to do a lot of research on that one to realistically create a believable caveman.
  2. Read your script very carefully to pick up clues the writer has given you about your personality, type, and propensities.
  3. Practice being the character at home. For example, do your household choirs as your character or talk on the phone to friends as your character.
  1. Find images and phrases that help you connect to your character such as: sunlight, spirit, darkness, bouncy, an animal, healer, killer with a gun, warm, friendly, cold, bitchy, etc.
  2. Experiment with different interpretations of your character before you lock in to a specific interpretation. You can take things from various interpretations and mix them to create a truly unique, textured, believable character.
  3. How would your character uniquely react to certain events such as falling down the stairs, winning the lottery, or getting divorced.
  4. Close your eyes and center yourself. Feel your personal inner being. Slowly breathe and with each breath allow the film character into your soul. Go deep. This will help you OWN YOUR CHARACTER and BE BELIEVABLE.

The above are some helpful suggestions. Creating a rich, believable, textured, spirited character is a skill to constantly work on and develop in yourself and in your life time as an actor.

Mark Stolzenberg teaches at The New York Acting School for Film and Television.