Act Natural - A Guide To Natural Acting

[photo of an actor reviewing their script]

Natural acting is defined as acting that is most natural for the situation. For example, consider two roles in the same play. One character is meant to act paranoid and over-the-top in their actions. Meanwhile, the other character is meant to act calmly because they don’t believe the threat is real. The first character may act outlandishly for comedy purposes, while their friend acts as anyone in the audience would. Both of these are instances of natural acting - acting that is most appropriate for the character.

In truth, this is all easier said than done. What is natural and believable acting for one character isn’t going to work for every character. Natural acting takes time to master, so here are some tips to best practice your acting.

Practice Everything

[photo of an actor practicing their script]

It can seem pointless to say this, but it cannot be overstated how important it is to practice. However, this doesn’t mean just practicing your scripts or your go-to characters. You must willingly step out of your comfort zone and experiment with new characters.

It’s a difficult feat, but you cannot be afraid to fail. The best way to understand how different characters think and feel is to keep practicing them. Practicing new acting types is a helpful skill for any kind of acting.

Understand Your Motivation

When you’re giving a character to act as part of a show, the best way to find your natural acting is to get into the right headspace. Take some time to sit down and read over the script. Once you understand the story, spent some extra time understanding the nuances of your character.

What is their background? What are they striving toward? Why do they show the types of emotion they do? What do they learn? To act is to let yourself become a piece of the character, and only by considering motivations like these can you achieve that.

Ignore The Audience

This step is difficult - especially for beginning actors - but the key to acting nature is to imagine things are natural. The minute you remember an audience is watching you, be it in person or later on, your acting becomes more mechanical.

Instead of focusing on the show as a show, it helps to think of yourself inside the show. Allow the surprises to shock you and the tears to fall. For however long the performance is running, you have to leave the fourth wall behind. You are at your most relaxed when you can forget the audience and live within the scene.

‘Natural’ Is Not ‘Neutral’

[photo of a person standing stoically and unamused]

Acting neutral is acting that reflects mundane life; it lacks any soul and does not make an interesting show. Just because you would walk away from a dangerous heist plan and go get coffee does not mean your character would, and it does not make that choice any less natural. Shows can make use of outlandish characters making rash decisions because it makes sense for them to make those choices.

This concept ties back to understanding your character. You might want to show your audience just what your character is feeling, but you shouldn’t be trying too hard. If you immerse yourself in the character, the emotions will be clear to anyone watching.

Be Ready To Interpret

Not every actor has the innate sense to fully become their characters. It is a skill that takes many years to master. Despite this, you should try to experiment with the roles you obtain. There are many ways to interpret a character.

Imagine you are playing the role of an adult daughter that has just lost her mother. The mother was emotionally detached, but the two cared for each other in their own ways. One actor might play the daughter as relieved by the loss because she no longer has to pretend their relationship was fine. Another actor might give the daughter’s lines emotional outbursts because she’ll never get the chance to learn about her mother. How you understand a character makes all the difference, so try different approaches.

[photo of cameraman filming a scene]

At its core, natural acting is acting as the character’s authentic self. An audience can tell if your performance isn’t getting involved enough with the story. The character you play must be believable within the story they inhabit. Over time, getting in touch with your characters becomes easier, and the emotional connection between character and actor is stronger. Practice a variety of methods to find the best interpretation of your character, and they will come to life in their story.