How to Master the Art of Being Yourself

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Regardless of the profession, we’re often told to just be ourselves. And this may come as a surprise, but the same holds true for actors. In fact, maybe even more so. Those casting are most interested in your interpretation of the script. In fact, we want the most dynamic, comfortable, spontaneous “you” you can be.

As actors we’re typically taught we’re supposed to be everything. We’re supposed to be as well versed in Shakespeare as Arthur Miller, as comfortable with comedy as pathos, as skilled at sitcom as stage. For what it’s worth, all of these tasks have their own (rather steep) degrees of difficulty and require a mastery that’s not immediately intuitive to anyone. Yet we’re told this is the definition of versatility and expected of us all. No sweat.

Well, as much as I love him, Shakespeare is not for everyone. I challenge you to sit through a few painfully long hours of poorly performed productions of the Bard and you’ll likely come to the very same conclusion. Maybe most of these actors might be better cast in any other genre but this one, but it creates an extraordinary effect on those daring souls up on that stage by challenging their comfort zones. Think not? Try it sometime, Lil’ Chicken.

If you practice this, you are effectively conditioning yourself to play in the moment. By doing so, you come to rely on your choices, impulses, and commitment to the cast of players you’re immediately working with. It’s quite the high-wire act, I’ll grant you. Not a simple feat by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps it’s because only by contrast will we distinguish a significant difference in our desired performance.

And perhaps, by fully immersing ourselves in an unfamiliar performance style that’s a good 180 degrees from how we see ourselves and what we’re used to, is where we find our real creativity. It’s where you’ll define yourself and your point of view within the story.

I suppose it can go without saying, but mastering the art of being yourself as an actor, in business, and in life as a whole, is an ongoing drive. To do so with the continued aim of excellence is the goal. This is how we establish our standards, and ultimately defines what we become known for. Without standards, we become known for either not caring or simply settling, neither of which instills confidence. In acting, this is why we continually train. If you’re not working the muscle, it will atrophy. If you’re not challenging your comfort zone, you’re becoming complacent. And, of course, at some point we must stop tweaking, step back, and simply present. This is where the rubber hits the road: The ultimate delivery of everything we’ve prepared for up to this very moment.

So goes coming into our own in any worthwhile field of endeavor. It’s what we do and dedicate ourselves to that defines us, weather weathering the stumbles with equal parts grace and guffaw and earning to trust ourselves. Make it your mission to continually problem solve, but stay in your lane to garner the greatest results. If these are the components that offer mastery of any subject, why not on the art of being ourselves? Isn’t that one of the overall goals in life anyway? If it’s not yet, I recommend you scribble this one up near the top of that to-do list. Almost everything hinges on it.

Ready to show a casting director the real you? Start by checking out our film audition listings! And for more great advice, watch the video below!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Kate McClanaghan
Kate McClanaghan is a casting director, producer, and founder of both Big House Casting & Audio (Chicago and Los Angeles) and Actors’ Sound Advice. She’s a seasoned industry veteran and actor who has trained actors and produced demos for more than 5,000 performers over her 30 years in the business.
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