You need to deeply understand the social dynamics, historical context, and cultural nuances that defined that era. Additionally, each period has its own language and speech patterns that must be executed flawlessly. Actors that star in period dramas need to master the accents, mannerisms and subtleties of body language associated with that time to deliver more a genuine performance.
If you want to excel in period piece acting, here are invaluable tips to help you add depth and authenticity to your portrayal.
First Things First, What Are the Different Kinds of Period Pieces?
Before you step into the world of period piece acting, it’s vital to understand the specific subgenre of the period piece you’re involved in. This will help inform your approach and enable you to breathe life into the character.
This sub-genre focuses on love stories set in specific historical periods. These narratives commonly explore passion and relationships within the context of that era’s cultural dynamics and social norms. Well-known historical romance films include “Pride and Prejudice”, “Titanic” and “The Age of Innocence.”
This sub-genre focuses on visual spectacle. It uses high production values and computer-generated imagery (CGI) to depict large-scale battles and recreate iconic landmarks and cities. Iconic epics include “Gladiator” and “Spartacus.”
A biopic depicts the life of an actual individual. While the plot doesn’t have to be entirely accurate, it must offer a glimpse into a notable figure’s personal journey, struggles and achievements. Some notable biopics include “Erin Brockovich”, “The King’s Speech,” “Elvis” and “Hidden Figures.”
This subgenre emphasizes the accurate portrayal of the clothing, set designs and visual aesthetics of a historical period. Popular examples include “Little Women,” “Downton Abbey” and “Marie Antoinette.”
Essential Tips for Successful Period Piece Acting
Learn Everything You Can About the Era
The setting takes center stage in period dramas. It shapes the story and the character’s experiences.
Familiarize yourself with that era’s etiquette, moral codes, and customs. What are your character’s beliefs and values? How would they be expected to act in society? This will help you better understand your character’s life and the struggles they may face.
Study the Art and Literature
Novels, poems, sculptures, paintings and even architecture can provide valuable insights into the dreams, needs and emotions of those living in that time. Visit museums and historical sites to gain visual references to inform your performance.
Study their work and legacy if you’re playing a character in a biopic. Look at diaries, letters and personal accounts to understand them from other people’s perspectives. This will help you deliver a well-rounded, unbiased portrayal.
Adhere to Essential Acting Principles
What makes period dramas so exceptional is their ability to bridge the gap between the past and the present. They convey universal themes such as love, grief, fear, desire and the pursuit of success that transcend time and continue to shape our lives today.
To fully portray the human condition, it’s vital to remain faithful to essential acting principles. Strive for emotional authenticity, actively listen to your scene partner, pay attention to your body language and explore the nuances of your character’s voice. Being fully committed to your character lets you deliver a genuine and believable performance that resonates with a contemporary audience.
Take Classes for Acting
An acting coach can help you understand specific dialects or accents used during that era. You can create a more realistic portrayal by mastering the right intonation, pronunciation and speech patterns. Enrolling in classes for acting also exposes you to other actors and teachers that can provide constructive feedback and help refine your performance.
Unleash Your Potential by Enrolling in Acting Classes Today!
Improve your period piece acting skills at Theresa Bell Actors Studio. Our classes for acting offer students a safe and supportive space where they can engage in scene work and tap into their characters’ emotional core.
Learn from experienced instructors and get all the tools and resources you need to elevate your acting prowess. We have studio classes and private coaching sessions to meet your unique needs.
Book acting lessons today and let us help you hone your craft!