Pathology: The Key to Creating a Compelling and Genuine Character

Pathology:  that part of medicine dealing with the nature of diseases, their causes and symptoms . . .

What is the character’s sickness?  How sick?  How irrational?  How violent will he be when triggered?  How deceptive will she be to get what she wants?  Will she do anything?  Will he degrade herself?  Will he sell his soul to the devil to have her?  Will he betray his brother to get rich?  Will she destroy the love of her life to win the election?  Is he a totally “pathological liar’?  Or does he tell “little lies” once a day–the way most people do– to protect themselves or others from pain or embarrassment?  How chronically does the abnormal or exaggerated behavior and psychology appear?

Teachers, critics, directors, complain about actors who are “trying too hard too be liked”.  Nobody is that interested in perfect people.  They aren’t real.  They don’t exist.  An actor must be just as interested (if not more) in the flaws of a character as in the strengths.  That’s what makes the character’s journey interesting.  Otherwise, there is no triumph for the character because everything has come easy.  A character has conquered nothing if he hasn’t conquered his own weakness, at least to some degree.

Writers try to write provocative characters.  They write about truths that we don’t talk about in public.  They explore the private tragedies, ecstasies, triumphs, hatreds, evils and loves that make what happens in the story happen.  They explore the feelings that motivate the “players” to take action.  Writers write these feelings and thoughts, Painters paint these feelings and thoughts, “Actors” act these feelings and thoughts.  Don’t be afraid.  That’s why they hire us: to be brave, and explore all the feelings and thoughts that are human.  To be brave, and “act” these actions most only fantasize about doing.

You will often feel cleansed, purged, exhilarated after playing a “dark”, violent, evil or in some way diseased, or damaged character.  A Pathological Character.  You must delve into your own fantasy life, your own imagination to make any character complete.  It is crucial to find your own thoughts or desires that are connected to your character’s pathology.  Exploring that character’s “humanness”, your own humanness and fallibility–and the wounds behind the character’s actions, can be rewarding and enlightening.

By the way . . . every character has some pathology.  Every single one.  Find it.  Explore it.  Use it.  Have fun with it.

The great teacher BILL HICKEY said, “I believe that we all have everything in us.  But we do what we do not because of who we are, but because of what we perceive the other person to be.  That I teach.  Part of my technique is to make the other actor feel I’m not talking to his character; I’m talking to him.  And I mean me.  They think we’re acting but we’re not – a dangerous thing to play when it’s hostile.”

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Adam Lazarre-White Adam Lazarre-White grew up in NYC, graduated from Harvard University with Honors, started at QB for the “Crimson” and played in the Harvard Jazz Band. He is known for roles on Scandal, Heroes, Ocean’s 13, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, The Temptations, Living Single, The Parkers, and starring on The Young & The Restless. Adam’s writing and directing have become equal pursuit in recent years; and he has owned his acting school in Hollywood, ALW Acting Studios since 2000. For info on Adam's classes, acting, writing & directing visit his website at