Read More Books, Be a Better Actor

Photo Source: Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Are you looking for fresh inspiration for your acting or even life in general? The good news is you don’t have to trek across the globe to find it (unless you want to); if you’ve got a local library or bookstore or even a stack of novels you’ve been meaning to read, that inspiration is at your fingertips. The simple act of reading not only helps expand your horizons, it can help you become the best version of yourself while also helping your acting career have more of that ever-elusive x-factor.

Reading increases your empathy.
When you read—especially if it’s a story about someone completely the opposite of your personality—you get a glimpse of how that person feels, thinks, and what motivates him to move one way or another.

This is a huge benefit for the actor who is struggling to connect with a character they don’t relate to. It’s also helpful in offering a non-stereotypical approach to an unfamiliar character, helping you think outside the box for a more original and believable response.

Reading increases your awareness of the world around you.
By meeting different people and visiting different places through the pages of a book, you innately gain a better a better understanding of different cultures, family dynamics, and relationships. It also showcases how many different reactions there are to a similar situation, even it’s a subtle change. This broader awareness can help you play a more believable character.

READ: 6 Books Every Actor Should Have on the Shelf

Reading helps to improve your memory.
For a career where learning lines fast is a must, this is an incredible benefit for actors. Not only do you get to read something fun, but it’s helping you mentally, too.

Reading helps your concentration and focus.
Both are vital to the actor working on a chaotic film set. We know how it goes: makeup or hair race in to fix some minor detail between takes. Lights are being repositioned. The camera is changing a lens or moving from the tripod to a dolly. Before the words “action” and “cut,” there’s a lot happening. Taking the time to read every day can help you tune out some of that noise to focus on why you’re there.

Reading improves your vocabulary and helps reduce stress.
Having a larger vocabulary can help you communicate with more accuracy when talking to the director about his vision for the role you’re playing.

We’ve chosen one of the most stressful career paths where there’s not much stability. One minute you could have a regular spot on a show, the next the series is finished or your character gets killed off and you’re back to finding another job. It could take months or years to find another semi-regular spot. But it’s a relief to know that reading can help to reduce these career stressors as it shifts your focus away from all the random things that worry us, helping our minds to temporarily calm down as we escape into the story.

These are only a few ways reading can help your acting career and make you a healthier you. There are many other benefits to reading, including an improvement in analytical thinking, writing skills and storytelling (which is great for creating compelling backstory), and making you more intelligent.

Besides, you never know when you’ll audition for the next big blockbuster based on a novel you’ve read and you’ll be that much better prepared than an actor who isn’t familiar with the story.

*This post was originally published on July 26, 2018. It has since been updated.

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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.

Charis Joy Jackson
Charis Joy Jackson is an actress, casting director, director, and producer. She’s been working in independent film for 10 years and teaches an intensive three-month acting school.
See full bio and articles here!

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