There are many times that an actor needs to be able to snap into character quickly. Auditions are the main place, but there are also quite a few on-set and on-stage moments too. Perhaps you’re playing multiple characters, or a performance gets interrupted and you have to pick up from where you left off all of a sudden.
The good news is, there are a few tricks that you can learn and practice that will help you to get into character quickly. Obviously, you need to do your preparation and character work first. However, once you know all of that well, you can use one of these tricks to help you switch on that character whenever you need to.
A Physical Trait
In your character prep work, you’ll look at how your character stands, walks, gestures and other physical traits. By making one of these elements important to who your character is, you can use this trait to help you find the character quickly and bring up all of the emotional and historical work that you’ve done beforehand.
A particular way of walking is a great option – a limp or a shuffle. Something like big hand gestures or a facial tic like a wink can also work nicely. It can also be just a shift in the way you stand or sit that can help you bring your character to the fore. A vocal cue can also help bring your character out. Think of the way they clear their throat or laugh or the words they use to say hello to a friend.
Your Costume Or Props
Try to find an item of clothing or a personal prop that you feel symbolizes your character. This can be a wig, their shoes, a particular jacket or even something like a specific cigarette brand. Whenever you wear the item or hold it in your hand, you can use it to channel all of your planning and preparation from your brain out into the world as your character.
Remember, this is very much an outside-in approach to character and can only be truly effective if you have done all of the emotional and mental prep work before. The external and the internal need to come together to create a well-rounded character that people will believe exists.
An Emotion Or Thought
A character can often be found through a thought, belief or specific emotion that has become a part of this fictional person’s psyche due to events around them. If you have a character that has a strong belief structure, you may be able to find them quickly through a mantra that brings you into or reminds you of their thought patterns.
For example, you might be playing someone who has abandonment issues due to negligent parents. If you give yourself a mantra that reminds you of a made up childhood event (part of your character preparation), you should be able to say that to yourself and feel your character come alive in you.