How Do I... Find a Character?

The Ella Morris Blog

Ella Morris | Thursday, May 14, 2015

How Do I... Find a Character? written by Ella Morris for Downstage Centre, published on Thursday, May 14, 2015Keep your eyes peeled and get looking - how do you find a character?

As an actor – professional or amateur, one of the hardest yet fundamental things is finding out who your character is.


Have you ever watched a television programme or play and really related to a character or have become totally engrossed in a story? Chances are you have. A great actor will do that to you. Chances are they have worked hard to find their character. I mean - why invest the time and effort in telling a story if you aren’t going to tell it properly?


Have you ever watched a television programme or play and really related to a character?Whether you are an actor or interested in what it takes to put a story together (theatrical or televisual), here are 4 key things to consider when finding that character:


Think about why you auditioned for the part in the first place.

What was interesting about that character? Was it that you could personally relate to them? Or perhaps they were the polar opposite of you? Was it because they were a key figure in the story? This is a great starting point that should come to you quite easily. If you don’t act – you could do this for fun (why not?). Take a favourite play, film or television show and pick who you’d audition for and work out why.


What would the story be like without your character?

A character wouldn’t be in a story if they didn’t serve a purpose. What’s yours? Look at every scene that your character is in and try to understand your character’s motivation for each scene. The first scene that your character is in will always be an introduction to who your character is – it’s the time where the audience form their opinion of you. So use it! Another interesting approach is to see how the character started off in the play and how they end up – what is their journey?


Relationships with other characters.

How does your character relate to others in the story? When I played Doris, a nightclub charlady in The Thrill of Love, she had strong relationships with both Ruth Ellis and Sylvia the nightclub manager and I asked myself ‘Why would a char develop such a strong bond with a tough, no-nonsense nightclub manager and a volatile, flaky nightclub hostess?’ and that’s where the answers started to come.DSC Blogger Ella Morris


Back Story.

Every real and fake person has a back story that makes them who they are! Put yourself in the hot seat (or do it with somebody else) and start with the basics. Ask yourself, do I have a family? Where do I live? What do I do for a living? What do I do in my spare time? You could then start to be more inventive and go as far as asking things like ‘What food do I like to eat when I go out?’, ‘What is my dream holiday destination?‘ or ‘Do I have any fears?’ Have a play and get creative – you never know what you might uncover. It’s also important to consider the realities of the character in terms of where the story is set and what time period – a char in the 1950’s is going to be much different to a cleaner in 2015!


So there you have it – there are so many ways for an actor to find a character and these are not finite, but these pointers will definitely set you off on your way! Happy character finding!


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