One of the things I enjoy the most about acting now is being the detective, or investigator discovering the facts that affect the character I am going to play. When I get the audition sides, or the script if available, the fun begins. My task is to gather as much information as I can figure out from the written material about my character, the rest of the cast’s relationships to me, the story line, and how my character fits into that. In other words, a whole lot of questions to find personal answers for.

Since good acting is responding truthfully to imaginary circumstances, it is necessary to know what those circumstances are, what the premise of the story and the individual scenes are about. Those wonderful words that question the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY of the written material for your character’s behavior if answered with the facts as given will give you a wealth of information to start building your character on a solid factual foundation. Once I discover as many facts as I can, then the questions become how can those facts effect and influence my character’s behavior? Now my juices can be stimulated by making all the information I’ve discovered personal and important to me. I now get to imagine a relationship to every person, place, and thing my character comes in contact with.

Sanford Meisner always asked us “What makes your heart beat a little faster?” What excites you? What turns you on? This is some of the best part of your motivation work, the finding out of just what does make your heart beat a little faster. We’re not talking about the character, and what you think would motivate them. We are talking about you, yourself, and nobody else. You see motivation only works if it has the power to stimulate and affect your behavior, both your emotions and actions. And you can not get away by faking it or lying, you are either affected or not, and the camera can see the difference. And why would you want anything less than the most truthful, powerful experience possible? Remember, if is it is not important, and meaningful to you as the character, how can you expect it to matter to your audience?

Do yourself and everyone else involved a favor, and invest in yourself by doing your homework. Ask yourself the questions. Search out the facts. Choose relationships. Give yourself strong personal motivation for all your character says and does. Make it matter to you personally, and you will get to experience the material in a way that teaches you as surely as reality, for you have made it real for yourself and for your audience. Do your detective work each and every time you work on material, and it will become an automatic and very beneficial tool for all your preparation to audition and work.

Peter Looney

Professional film acting teacher and coach in Los Angels for 28yrs.

Professional SAG;AFTRA;AEA actor for 40yrs.