When I think of an actor whose work most informed my understanding of seeking what brings my character joy – I think of Anthony Hopkins. From “Silence of the Lambs” to “Red” every moment on the screen I feel that no matter how heinous the method used by the character to attain his goals, Anthony is ultimately focused on “how do I attain the objective which will ultimately bring me joy.”
Now, as actors we are often called upon to play the antagonists – the characters who embrace the “taking” aka “evil” side of oneself. If you are not intrinsically that person driven by a desire to take, to make others do what you wish – what is your first response to playing a character like that? Enthusiasm? Or reluctance?
You may laugh and think, “I’m an actor. I live for playing any character completely different from me.” And I say – excellent. But if the following sounds familiar to you, then this chapter is for you:
I was at an event one night, and overheard a woman sharing, “I only play intelligent characters. I will never be cast for the sexy woman. I’m not sexy. I’m strong and confident.” I asked her, “Are you saying that casting directors don’t think you are sexy, or is that how you feel about yourself.” She replied, “I don’t know how to be sexy. You just have to have that thing.” So, I asked her “Are you a murder? Do you know how to kill?” She was surprised, “No. That’s not the same thing.” “Can you imagine yourself playing a murder? An assassin? A trigger happy intelligent lawyer?” “I guess so,” she replied as she turned to her friend and ended my intrusive interchange.
Had she been willing to engage me, I would have asked her, “Do you have a personal opinion about sexy women? Do you feel that sexy means dumb? Do you tend to judge your characters?” But alas – I couldn’t ask her, so I will share what I would have said to her with you: Never judge a character you are playing. Simply consider “What do I want?” “Why do I want it?” “What am I willing to do to get it”. Finding what brings your character joy – being loved, being wanted, being heard, being in control, etc. precedes all.
The steps taken to attain joy are character specific and should be embraced wholeheartedly, enthusiastically. If you have personal reservations you are allowing your short list of daily “joy definers” to limit you. So to that woman who didn’t feel she was sexy, I say, “Does the control and power of your intellect bring you joy? Well try spending a whole day exploring the habit of deriving joy from inhaling the smell of every person you meet. Relish filling every atom of your body with the energy of the people you meet. Explore the thrill of being completely bonded mentally, spiritually – visualize light coming from your heart, your stomach, your belly button and fuse your light with people. And breathe. Now. Do you feel connected to people? Aroused? Do you feel like you are radiating energy from head-to-toe? Now go talk to a complete stranger, maintain the flow of energy and the hyper-awareness. Notice how they react to you. Tell me – do you feel sexy now.”