For most of the twenty-two years I have been coaching, I have brought up the V word, “Vulnerability” at least once every class. I recall a wonderful actor asking me what I meant. I certainly knew what it felt like but a definition escaped me. I did some research and found this definition: “Willingly putting oneself in front of possible emotional or physical danger.” In acting, this is imperative.
Vulnerability is the trait that sets successful actors apart. The willingness to expose your innermost thoughts and feelings is key to delivering captivating performances.
However, being vulnerable is not always easy. It requires strength, self-awareness, and a deep commitment to tap into our complex human emotions. In this blog, we list five tips to help you embrace vulnerability and utilize it to enhance your acting abilities.
An actor once asked me if there was an easier way to do this. I thought about it for a moment and replied, “No. I don’t believe it is possible to take your audience on a ride you are not willing to go on, and I don’t really think it’s fair.”
Trust Your Director, Co-Actors, and the Material
At the heart of vulnerability lies trust. As an actor, it’s essential to cultivate trust in your director, co-actors, and the material you’re working on.
Trusting your director means recognizing that they have your best interests at heart. It involves accepting their guidance, vision, and constructive criticism as valuable tools for your artistic growth.
Likewise, trusting your co-actors creates a supportive and collaborative environment where everyone can explore their talents and take creative risks. This collective trust can help you take your performance to new heights.
Lastly, trusting the material you’re working on allows you to fully surrender to the story and the characters’ desires, struggles, and emotional depths. When you embrace trust and let go of your reservations, your performance gains a level of authenticity. It can make all the difference between a flat and memorable portrayal.
If you find that you don’t trust all of the above, perhaps you might decline the project. Of course, some of these elements are impossible to know until you have already been hired for the part.
Distractions can range from external sources to internal mental chatter. They can derail your growth and ability to commit fully to a character.
Blocking out distractions in your acting practice is essential for cultivating vulnerability. By intentionally creating a focused and present mindset, you can connect with your character more profoundly. This increased focus lets you understand your character’s needs, motivations, and internal struggles.
Before you go on stage or set or start rehearsals, do centering techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, to ground yourself in the present. These can help release tension and increase your concentration.
It also helps to establish clear intentions for your acting practice. What are your goals in terms of character development or emotional exploration? You can then put your attention and energy toward those specific objectives.
Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” should be in every actor’s library. The list of ideas and exercises suggested to open up creativity is endless. I first read this book in 1992 and still do my morning pages.
Be Honest About Your Feelings
Honesty allows actors to deliver believable performances. Tapping into your emotions and experiences enables you to bring a sense of truth and depth to your portrayal. By embracing this level of vulnerability, you have the power to evoke emotional responses and make the storytelling more impactful.
Acknowledging your genuine emotions invites empathy and understanding. Audiences are perceptive and can tell when an actor is not fully committed to their role. Being open and truthful lets you establish deeper connections.
In addition, embracing honesty is vital to your artistic growth. It allows you to explore new layers and nuances within your performances. Acknowledging your feelings and allowing them to guide your acting practice can help you evolve and improve your craft.
Let the Script Guide You
The script forms the core basis of your character. By analyzing the text, you can gain valuable insights into your character’s motivations, personality, and relationships. Additionally, the dialogue provides clues about your character’s thought processes, relationships with others, and behavior.
Once you truly understand your character’s mindset, you can physically embody them and convey their lines and actions more effectively.
Hopefully, all of your roles will be well-crafted, but if they are not, given enough training, actors can get through most projects with their dignity still intact.
Practice Emotional Release Techniques
When you practice acting, you’ll quickly learn that vulnerability isn’t always comfortable. It involves delving into complex human emotions, including love, pain, fear, disappointment, and uncertainty.
Exposing your innermost thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities onstage or in front of a camera can be liberating and emotionally demanding. By laying yourself bare, flaws and all, you invite the audience to perceive and judge you.
Being scrutinized by others can be terrifying and paves the way for criticism and rejection. However, this vulnerability can differentiate you from other actors and shape an impactful performance.
Audiences expect authenticity and connection. When they witness genuine emotions at play during your performance, they can empathize, relate, and be moved.
Emotional release exercises like journaling and guided meditation can help you explore and express suppressed emotions. Similarly, physical release exercises such as dancing, working out, improvisation, or even primal screaming can help you access vulnerability more readily.
Experiment with various techniques and find what works best for you. These techniques can be highly personal, so be gentle and patient with yourself throughout the process.
Start Your Acting Journey Today!
Remember, vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. It’s a source of strength that allows you to breathe life into your character and deliver moving performances.
Being vulnerable requires endless courage and practice. Anyone familiar with Brene Brown’s work will know this. If you are not, I highly recommend that you watch a few of her videos or read her books. However, once you’ve learned to shed the layers of fears and insecurities, you can achieve a layer of authenticity in your craft that not all actors can achieve.
I read that after Marlon Brando did “Last Tango in Paris” he decided to no longer allow his emotions to be such a big part of his performances. The difference in his work pre and post-this film is strikingly obvious.
Anyone who wants to practice acting must be ready to embrace discipline and continuous improvement. At TBell Actors Studio, we offer a supportive environment where actors can learn to improve their skills and harness the power of their emotions.
Enroll in our classes today and be the actor you’ve always wanted to be!