An Actor’s Path to Truth: Physical Action and Behavior

“Acting” or “Act” comes from the word ACTION.  What are you doing in the scene?  What are your actions?

Can you infuse the scene with more action to help you be more alive and invested in the reality that you want to create?  Clean the room, shine the silver, do a crossword puzzle, iron your shirts, organize paperwork, cook, apply make-up, eat, shine your shoes, make coffee, roll a “cigarette”, pour a drink, fold your clothes . . . investigate someone else’s things if you are in another character’s home–the books or items on shelves, the fabrics, the curtains, the furniture, the glassware, the food in the ‘fridge, the paintings on the walls, their music. Explore; find out. DO NOT SIT AROUND AND WAIT FOR YOUR NEXT LINE! 

People live, they behave, they DO THINGS while they are talking or not talking.  Concentrating on what you are DOING, and not on how you are saying what you have to say, will make your acting much more exciting and much more “real”.  If you are a boy cleaning up the restaurant while the gangsters talk at their table in the corner, then really clean, really sweep–involve yourself in your task.  Cleaning and listening are your tasks.  Don’t just “play at” moving the broom over the floor: sweep the stage. Sweep the real dirt that needs sweeping, and any other specific, created, imaginary dirt you “put there”.  If you are involved in your tasks, then the audience will be involved in your tasks.

When creating a character, ask yourself what they do.  What does a waitress do on a shift?  What does a mother of five do at 4pm on a weekday?  What does a “beat-cop” do?  What does a horse trainer do?  Find out, and do these things until they are easy, unconscious, or instinctive.  Then do them in the scenes.  The ease and familiarity with which you do these things will truthfully represent life, and your character, as much as anything else you do or say as an actor.

Stanislavski said that actors should not think of the “line of feelings” but the “ . . . line of actions, the line of truthful actions and genuine confidence in them” when they come on stage.

Always be very specific with your behavior.  Put your make-up on just right, set the table just so, or peel the label off a beer bottle and don’t miss any of the paper–be specific, be focused, be involved.

Actors try to cry.  People try not to cry.  That is the simple truth.  The following is a classic situation.  A woman, who works at a factory or on her farm, finds herself at her other (primary!) job of raising her four children and running a household.  She is totally overwhelmed with the bills and her husband’s depression and drinking, but unable to talk to anybody, she starts washing the millionth set of dishes and, in the midst of this mundane activity, suddenly bursts into tears.  It is the trying NOT to cry–to just “keep on keepin’ on”–to just do the job, that leaves the room for the emotion to well up and surprise the actor, as well as the audience.  It is the truth of human behavior.


“The job of the director is turning psychology into behavior.”   —  Elia Kazan

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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