Never aim for heartache, not even in the saddest of scenes. As an actor, your job is to fight for your character’s dream ending, the Disney fairy tale prince-on-a-white-horse fantasy, even when the odds are stacked against you.
Let’s say your scene is a confrontation with your lover who has betrayed you. You can’t drown in tears. You have to get him to fall to his knees in repentance, pledge his undying love to you, and pull out a 3-carat diamond ring—all while a helicopter lands nearby to whisk you two away to a private island where flocks of doves will attend your nuptials. You must believe you can get this kind of “Bachelor”-esque romantic happy ending if you just say the right thing, get him to feel guilty enough, or show him what he stands to lose if he lets you go. Don’t fight to “make him understand that he hurt you” or “get him to apologize.” Simple resolution or fleeting happiness isn’t enough. Fight for Technicolor joy—the kind that makes the music swell and the sun break through the clouds. Fight for your character’s dream ending. Only by letting her dream big, and believing that her ultimate, ridiculous bliss is possible, can you allow the audience to see her hope, and so, her heartbreak.
Jackie Apodaca is an associate professor and the head of performance at Southern Oregon University.