So we’re not all Jake Gyllenhaal, being offered 100 scripts a day with every imaginable character at our finger tips. In fact, most us haven’t ever been offered a role. We’re auditioning, and typically it’s for [insert exact age range, hair colour and character bio we’ve read 1000 times]. To put it simply we’re not being challenged. But it’s vital as actors to be working on acting roles that actually push us, disturb us and make us think and grow. Acting roles that make us detectives and inspire us to step outside of our comfort zone. So here’s what you can do to stay challenged as an actor:
Change your mentality
Have you actually expressed to your agent/manager that you want to do a different kinds of work? That you don’t just want to keep auditioning for the same kind of brief? That you want to push boundaries? Sometimes our managers see us in a certain light and we need to be open and honest with them about the kind of work we actually want to be seen for.
Have you seen what your local theatre scene is putting on an emailed about an audition? No. Do it. Putting yourself out there for a challenge is half the battle. You will be amazed what is out there when you start looking.
Grab a monologue or scene
So no opportunities are coming. Not even an audition. Grab a monologue or scene and do it yourself. Pick something by a playwright you’ve never heard of, or perhaps a piece from a different era, or genre than what you’re used to. You can workshop the monologue on your own or get a friend to help direct it for you. Choosing a scene is even better. Find an acting friend and work on a scene that pushes you both. It’s fun and a great way to maintain and develop your acting chops.
What scares you? What excites you? Get inspired by film, TV and theatre and investigate what you love about the transformational roles you watch. There are plenty of great interviews with actors discussing their process of getting inside complex characters. You can often learn as much from observation, so watch the great film roles and see how the best actors do it.
Learn a character
I was given this advice by an acting lecturer at drama school and I think it’s great. Read a play or script. Choose a character that challenges and excites you. Think about the character, learn some lines, a monologue or the whole part (if you’re feeling epic) and then watch the play or film and see how the actor plays the part. What would you have done differently? What do you love about their portrayal and what could you have done better? It’s a great way of practicing a challenging role, without needing anyones permission.
Delve into difficult language
I hate not understanding stuff. And when I am reading unfamiliar language I am often turned off. But you need to fight this feeling. Push on when something is confusing or challenging. Never acted Shakespeare? Take up the challenge and learn a Shakespeare monologue or find a local audition for a Shakespeare play.
Work on craft not on success
Your craft, your learning, is all you have control over. Don’t just take opportunities because they push your career forward, make decisions that push you and make you a better actor. Of course this is your career, so it’s always a balancing act, but what will get you work in the long run is your skill and depth as an actor, which is a direct result of honing your craft through challenging acting roles.