The Best Questions to Ask Yourself for Character Analysis

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Anyone can act as a character. But to wholly become somebody else, get inside that person’s brain, and understand the way they tick is something special, and it separates the great performances from the truly outstanding ones. To rank among the latter, you will need to analyze your character before moving forward with your performance. This process means different things to different actors, but asking biographical questions about your character is a great place to start. We’ve rounded up some of the most valuable questions to help you get into the heart, mind, and shoes of the character you’re embodying. 

Understand your character’s childhood. 

You should know what your character’s earliest years were like and how that time shaped them. Some relationships are apparent, but it’s important to probe more subtly, too. Here are some of the most pertinent questions: 

  • What was their relationship like with their mother (or other parental figure)? Everyone’s parents screw them up differently. And mothers, especially, tend to bear the brunt of that burden.
  • What was their relationship like with their father (or other parental figure)? Was their father present or absent? What did he do for work? How did he treat other members of his family compared with how he treated your character? 
  • How many siblings do they have? What is your character’s relationship like with each of their siblings? Where do they fall in sibling order, and how did that impact their responsibilities growing up?  
  • What location did they live in? Are they from a city, small town, or suburb, or from somewhere unusual? Did they move around a lot growing up?
  • What were their living accommodations like? Did they grow up in a big house, a tiny apartment, or a one-floor home that their parents worked hard to afford? 
  • What was dinnertime like? Did the family eat dinner together every night? Was no one allowed to eat until someone said grace? 
  • What role did religion play in their upbringing? Did they go to church on Sundays, or Hebrew school in the afternoon? 
  • What was their childhood bedroom like? Did they have their own room? What was on the walls? Did they have to share a bed with one or multiple siblings? What was the view from their window? 
  • What was one item—a blanket, stuffed animal, etc.—that brought them comfort during scary or trying times? Do they still have that item today?  
  • Who was their childhood best friend? Are they still friends to this day? If not, what was the catalyst for the relationship’s demise? Do the two remember the last time they saw one another? Where is the friend today? 
  • What was their favorite outfit or item of clothing to wear? How did it make them feel to wear it? What store did it come from? How much did it cost? Was it handmade? 
  • Did they play any sports growing up? If so, when did they stop, and why? 
  • Who was their first crush? Were the feelings reciprocated? Was this person also their first kiss? 

Figure out your character’s education and schooling.

Access to and quality of education are two of the biggest factors of success in adulthood; so actors should know their character’s educational history to understand how it would impact how they move through the world. Here are some questions to ask yourself: 

  • What level of education did they receive? Did they graduate from high school? Did they go to college? Did they receive additional degrees after that?
  • What was their favorite subject in school? Was the subject they were passionate about nurtured or stifled? Does it have something to do with their current profession or trade?
  • Who was their favorite teacher? Did they ever spend time talking outside of class?
  • What was their relationship with their classmates like? Were they popular or a loner? Did they have a similar socioeconomic status to their peers for the most part?
  • What was lunchtime like every day? Whom did they sit with? What did they eat?
  • How did they get to school each day? Did they take a long car ride with their parents, or sit at the back of the bus?
  • If they went to college, where did they go and why? Did they attend a school close to home, or as far away as possible? 

Think about the type of person your character is today. 

When it comes to biographical details about your character, some will be obvious, or even overt, in the script: what job they do, who they are in a relationship with, where they live, and so on. But questions that may be the key to unlocking this person’s psyche could be hidden below the surface. Here are some examples: 

  • How do they make money? Do they enjoy their work, or is it solely for the sake of a paycheck? How long have they been at their current job? What would they do if money wasn’t a factor?
  • Where do they live? Do they live in an apartment in a big city, or close to where they grew up?
  • Where can they be found on a Friday night? Are they out at a bar, or home with their baby? Whatever the activity may be, is it one they want to be doing?
  • Are they in a romantic relationship? Whether they are or not, are they happy in their current situation?
  • What outfit makes them feel most like themselves? Is it a power suit, or a T-shirt and well-worn jeans?
  • What are their political beliefs? Did they vote in the last election (relative to the point in time that they live in)?
  • What are the biggest causes of stress in their life? Or, put another way, what are the things that make them toss and turn at night?
  • Do they have children? If so, how many? If not, do they eventually want to have them?
  • What are their goals, big and small? What do they want to be doing five years from now, or 25 years for now? 

You can use any or all of the prompts above to help you draft a road map for understanding your character. You know what they say about questions: The only bad ones are the ones you don’t ask.