What a Peloton Instructor Can Teach You About Creating a Character

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Photo Source: Courtesy Peloton

Talking directly to camera?! To an unknown audience? Live?! 

Hannah Corbin couldn’t quite grasp this novel concept when she started the at-home fitness experience known as Peloton 10 years ago. 

“Obviously, I had never even dreamed of this version of performing,” she says. “So it was exciting to get to develop it. We got to create it—and continue to create it.” 

Now Corbin is as popular an onscreen presence as many TV actors. Every week, the instructor can be found on a high-tech stationary bike at the company’s New York City studios, guiding thousands of riders through their workouts. (She teaches on-demand barre and Pilates, too.) Even more impressive, she does it all with a great on-camera presence and a fun anecdote at the ready. 

Corbin, a longtime SAG-AFTRA member for her dance and aerial work, says that Pelotoners are actually viewing “an elevated version” of her personality. “It’s not me 100% of the time,” she says. “There’s also boring me and nerdy me and fancy me and eclectic me.”  

Here, Corbin shares how to rise to the top of the personality leaderboard. 

How did you establish your onscreen character? 

It definitely evolved. Ten years ago, I was in my 20s, and I am a different person now. I know that people are counting on us to be the bright spot in their day. I’m very grateful for and I love the version of myself now. For me, a lot of it comes from every time I step onto that small stage, I know it's someone’s first opportunity to meet me. So what do I want to bring to that moment? What do I want them to walk away with? I view that as very exciting and thrilling, [and] that energy fuels me.

Was it difficult to get comfortable in front of the camera? 

It’s one shade away from crazy. I’m talking to a wall and pretending people are there. But I have found that I can envision any reaction I want. Every joke I tell lands. People are hanging on my every word. There are no haters. I joke a lot about being an only child! An imagination is a wonderful thing to have in my toolbox. 

How do you teach a class without literally—and figuratively!—breaking a sweat? 

I think adrenaline helps. When you see the clock countdown and see how many people are on your leaderboard, it really does sprinkle in that extra layer of magic. I also try to make my rides approachable and doable. 

On those days when you’re not feeling it, do you just fake it? 

Oh, I’ll often be like, “Oh my goodness, my breath is all over the place. So if you’re having one of those days, I see you and feel you and let’s get through this together.” We’re very realistic in that you’re allowed to have a bad day. What you’re not allowed to do is unpack and live there. Like, let’s put one foot in front of the other and move forward. 

Have your acting and dancing skills factored into your Peloton career—and vice versa? 

Well, I’ve always been a performer, and my entire life has been about finding a performance that is both enjoyable and fulfilling. On the flip side, I went back to acting lessons a little while ago and could not get in touch with my raw feelings. It was the first time I was keenly aware of how much work I’ve put into my on-camera personality! 

What’s your go-to advice for actors preparing for an on-camera monologue

Approach it like the other person on the other side of the camera wants the best for you. If you assume, “Oh, this is a bad choice,” then you’re stuck questioning everything and get into this rut of stagnant energy. Having that support instead of the fear and stress will take you a long way.

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