How To Make Your Characters Come Alive Through “Physical State”

Connected to the “Moment Before”, and where you are coming from, is the issue of your state of physical being.  Are you hot?  Are you cold?  Wet from the rain?  Out of breath from running?  Are you “tired”–as in beaten down–from a long shift at the factory?  Or “tired”–as in sleepy–just waking up from a dream?  Are you drunk?  And more important than the general question of drunkenness, is how drunk and what kind of drunk?  Be SPECIFIC.  Is it a stupid, sloppy, can’t walk, I just drank a pint of bourbon drunk?  Is it the exhilarated, sugar infused, four “Patron” Tequila Margaritas drunk?  The fuzzy, warm, sexy, 3 glasses of red wine drunk?  Or is it the, “I had two drinks, nobody else can tell, but I just feel ‘ballsy’” drunk?   Or the “I just feel mean” drunk? 

Are you “High”?  If you are, what are you on?  Cocaine?  Are you edgy, confident, aggressive?  Or is it heroin: are you dreamy, sensual and vegetative?  Is it pills?  “Uppers”?  Speed?  Ecstasy?  ‘Downers?  ‘Ludes?  Valium?  Painkillers?  Or is it marijuana?  Are you creative, tangential, distracted, sensual, turned on, thirsty . . . “munchies” anyone?  Maybe you are sober – but “fiending” or “jonesing” for your addiction.  Is it as simple as a cigarette?  Or maybe caffeine.  Those two–or the lack of those two–can be trouble.  What are people like when they need something that they can’t get?  What if what you need is sex?  Are you sweating?  Does your “need” raise your temperature?  Or make you “giggly”?  YOUR PHYSICAL STATE CAN INFORM THE ENTIRE SCENE!!  It can be great obstacle or a great inspiration or catalyst.  Never forget to account for it.

Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson are two of the great actors, who throughout their long careers have been extraordinary at creating “Physical State”.  See Harrison Ford in “The Fugitive”.  See Mel Gibson in “Lethal Weapon”.  That is why they have been so successful in “Action Movies”.  The physical state of the hero conquering great pain, hardship, IS THE MOVIE–scene after scene.

As important, both these great actors are never afraid to show their vulnerability (ironic, no?).  They do not operate like many other glossy, steroid-muscled “action heroes”.  They do not act unrealistically indestructible.  What makes them so interesting is that they play the character’s fear.  They play the character’s uncertainty.  They play the character’s pain.  And then they heroically overcome it.  That is why we follow them.  That is why we love them.  The actors who never flinch, never hesitate, never feel anything, are never scared, never hurt, may get careers as  “badasses”, but they are not human–and will never be grand movie stars like Harrison Ford of old or Hugh Jackman now.  When Hugh Jackman moves us in “Les Miserables” as the lead character, “Jean Valjean”, in the beginning, starving, desperate, dehydrated, the power of his artistry is centered not only in his loneliness, and emotional desperation, but in his commitment to his Physical State.  Even when Hugh Jackman is playing the superhero Wolverine, he CHOOSES to play Wolverine’s physical distress, pain or physical state rather than play Wolverine as unfeeling and indestructible.  Many other actors might only choose to play Wolverine’s ferocity, scene after scene, moment after moment.  An actor’s genius is in his or her CHOICES. CHOOSE to enrich your work with a truthful, dynamic PHYSICAL STATE.


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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