Nothing is more natural than the desire to be comfortable. It’s comforting to be praised and liked and to be part of a group all pointed in the same direction.
As a result, it’s natural to look for an acting class that is fun. Desire for comfort is instinctive in most all of us. Unfortunately, seeking comfort is completely detrimental to actors.
Actors who retreat to their comfort zones are really cheating themselves of their most valuable asset: themselves. Being comfortable in acting is actually working against the flow of the craft. When you are comfortable with no challenge, there are no sparks of passion, there is no vulnerability and there is no desire on the part of the audience to watch.
Actors who are comfortable are backing away from what affects their audience. And you can’t explore your vulnerability when you are backing into your comfort zone.
In short, work to abandon comfort in your acting. Working on yourself includes finding the comfort zones you back into when someone or something is too demanding or making you ill at ease. If you have to jettison your old habits and your surefire routines, do it. In their place experiment, test, and reinvent. Reinvent your acting by challenging your comfort hideaways.
Comfort zones are often disguised but here are a few to look for.
1. Self-criticism. It's a great place to hide. Saying, “I really screwed up that scene” seems to indicate that you are being hard on yourself and not being passive. But it’s really self-indulgent and, therefore, a comfort zone.
2. Hidden Acting Attitudes. Anything starting with “I’m not…” like “I’m really not sexy enough." It feels comfortable because you do it so often.
3. Routines. These are the comedy bits family and friends “love” about you. One actor in my class avoided personal emotion because it made the actor uncomfortable. The actor’s comfort station was being “funny” instead.
Abandoning your comfort stations begin with acknowledging you do play it safe. If you are sure you don’t have any comfort stations, then you are either in denial or you are out there taking risks, challenging yourself, the script, the other actors, and especially yourself.
In short, you should work on yourself as much as you work on the character.
Bill Howey has been an acting teacher and coach for 30 years. Many of his clients have gone onto successful careers in the business. He conducts scene study workshops and offers private acting coaching at his studio in Burbank, California. He began his professional acting career at the Cleveland Play House. He also appeared on television and in film. Bill produced live TV in Australia and has produced and directed independent films. His book, The Actor’s Menu is available on Amazon.com. For more information, visit to www.billhowey.com.