The Acting Technique That Changed Everything for This ‘Power Book III’ Star

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Photo Source: Starz

The following Career Dispatch essay was written by MeKai Curtis, who stars on “Power Book III: Raising Kanan,” which airs Sundays on Starz at 8 p.m.

Acting is reacting. Acting is being. Technique is merely a tool to help direct and shape the raw emotion you feel in one moment.

At first, that phrase sounded so cliche and boring, but I was hearing that at a time when my ear was less mature and not necessarily open to hearing the golden keys that were jingling right in front of my face. I am not a classically trained actor. However, I have consistently sharpened my tools, always striving for improvement. In several one-on-one conversations with fellow actors, coaches, and my parents (my first coaches), I have heard time and time again: Acting is about reacting. 

I also heard it from the mouths of casting directors at seminars and masterclasses. Even hearing the phrase repeatedly, I still found “reacting” or “being” a disorienting task. 

I still cannot for the life of me figure out where that disconnect originates. As previously shared, I have never “trained” or studied the actual craft of our artistry. Perhaps it was a bit selfish, but I thought there was no need. I like to consider myself a person always ready and willing to learn, so that’s what I’m talking about when I say that I sought out an “objective viewpoint.” I attended a scene study class one evening in Los Angeles. As I continued growing in my craft and taking on complex roles, I understood there was more work that needed to happen to bring such rich and nuanced characters to life. I needed to up my game to match the tone of the projects I was seeking. 

I struggled with timing and transition for a while, but gratefully, beginning to understand and apply scene study techniques made a world of difference. The Scene Study application allowed me to connect a lot of missing dots through execution. For me, it’s taking this big picture as your movie/show/storyline, then looking further inside to see a smaller picture that makes up a scene—then discovering how each of the smaller pictures affects the overall composition; breaking it all down and seeing what is truly being communicated. 

I often ask a few questions: What does your character want? What is their objective? What is the goal they’ve set out for? After identifying and answering those questions, the next natural questions for me are, How do they feel? What did that make them feel?

After identifying the character’s goal and motivation to do so, the choice of how that character feels is deeply rooted in reaction. How does that character respond to all things previously considered? It all depends. For every action, there’s a reaction. That’s what it means to act and react. 

The legend Bill Duke says, “Acting is becoming.” That’s my technique. To become means to transform. When I’m acting, I am considering the character’s goals and experiences. I imagine the goals and events as if they were happening to me and how I would respond as if I were to turn into this character and feel these raw emotions.

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