BE PERSONAL IN YOUR WORK II – Creating Character

Part II – Creating a character begins with the writing and being a “Detective”

In Adam’s last Blog he began to lay out the road map for deep personalization in your acting work.  Part II discusses Creating Character.

Creating a character begins with the writing and being a “Detective”, finding everything that is available to you, given to you and implied by the writer. However, there is another step that is just as profoundly important. It is being creative from your own Point of View and from your own artistry, to develop what is on the page into a living, breathing, exciting human being.

Here are techniques and exercises that can help you.

“Dress-Up” & Character Interview

Build a character from the “outside – in.”  With the help of a teacher or another actor, use your costume, jewelry, make –up, changes in physicality, and voice quality, to transform into a character as another actor, a class, or an audience watches.

During the transformation, you should be ‘INTERVIEWED’ and respond in character in an improvisational way to questions. You will tell the interviewer about yourself; and tell stories from your character’s life.

This exercise helps you create a ‘seamless transformation’ between you and the character. It will also cement what you know about your character, and can highlight what you don’t know about your character. It will help you see what you haven’t established specifically enough for yourself yet.

Picture Exercise

Study PHOTOS of the type of character you are creating, in terms of time period, locale, economic class, culture, education, job, and career. Select one photo – not only on the basis of what you think the character looks like but also, and as importantly, select the photo based on what the photo makes you feel from the person in the photo. Does that woman’s expression express the character you are playing? Does that man’s body language express the character you are creating?

You must create this characterization from photographs of REAL PEOPLE – NOT stills from a movie with actors and NOT advertisements with models. You also may not select photos of celebrities of whom we all have preconceived impressions. Then, to the best of your ability (without spending too much money on costume) – using what’s in your closet creatively, buying selected items (shirt, hat or corset) from a thrift shop – you mimic the photos EXACTLY: Every element. If your character is from a time period before photography was invented, you can use a highly realistic, detailed, figurative PAINTING, perhaps like a Rembrandt. Your body language and expression should be exacting, disciplined and relentless regarding detail. The angle of each finger, the exact tilt of the head, the tiny, slight smile almost only ‘felt’ coming from his lips. Truthfully you need another actor or a teacher to examine your pose and help you adjust, to find your most exact ‘reproduction of the photograph’. Each adjustment should lead you to a more truthful, detailed and accurate reproduction of the life captured in the photo.

Once you have reached the best, most detailed “frozen” reproduction of the photo – you “come to life” with a single gesture and sound, or spoken phrase. This gesture and sound should be taken somehow from your feeling inspired by the photo itself. You should discover and explore different choices, then commit to one along with the meticulous physical mimicry. Then you resume your character’s pose…and freeze in it again. Ideally, if you are doing this with other actors in a class , you then “fully come to life again”, with your chosen phrase – but now “stay alive.” Wal, talk, and interact with whoever you can: whoever is at your disposal. Perhaps the guy at a gas station or 7-11.

Take your character for a walk. This can be a little scary – and great fun.


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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