For an actor creating a character from scratch is a major undertaking. If you wish to achieve more than playing some variation of yourself there are many elements that go into creating a role.
After developing a solid technique you will have to learn how to break down a script. The writer provides the actor with a road map and it is the job of the actor to navigate the twists and turns of the writers vision. Actors approach their roles differently. Brando was an actor who relied heavily on his instincts and intuition to gain an understanding and feel for the character’s point of view. He was a keen observer of human nature who spent hours watching people in a variety of situations. In the latest Brando bio by Susan Mizruchi (“Brando’s Smile”) Ms. Mizruchi writes that Brando was an avid reader/researcher that would read voraciously to gain information on all aspects of the character’s nature. Annotating every script he worked on was part of an insatiable curiosity that was an integral part of his process. To gain an understanding of character he had to know why his characters were motivated to do the things they did.
Intuition is another tool that is an integral part of the process. Getting a “feeling” for what is happening “moment-to-moment” and “impulse-to-impulse” is a non-intellectual way of dealing with the written word. The actor cannot impose himself/herself on the script. In other words you don’t do the script, the script does you.
“Imagination”, said teacher/director Robert Lewis, “is the most powerful tool the actor has at their disposal.” For any artist imagination is not a luxury. It is a necessity; the fuel that ignites creativity. The actor’s choices are directly influenced by the imagination. Vivid visual images have a major impact on the actor’s choices.
Time and place cannot be ignored. Stella Adler said, “Where you are is who you are.” This not only refers to the immediate place but the economic, political, social climate of the time. Dress codes, morality, protocols, etiquette, must be addressed.
It is your job to inhabit the world of the character that you play. Their voice, walk, speech patterns, mannerisms are all part of creating the role. You must express yourself emotionally and physically as the character does. You cannot ignore the essential elements of character. It is your job to bring the character to life.
Develop your technique, respect the process, and bring all of who you are to each and every role that you play. Do not compromise any aspect of preparation. And learn how to play. It is the child in each and every one of us that gives birth to creativity.