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When you find yourself completely absorbed in an actor’s performance, you’ve witnessed natural acting. It feels so real, you forget you’re watching a person who is acting a part. That’s the goal for actors—to “become” the character, seemingly without effort, living in the moment. But this skill is so elusive that thespians train for years to achieve this level of realism. Even the simple task of walking can present quite a challenge when a camera is pointed at you or an audience is watching your every move. As acclaimed actress Helen Mirren says, “One of the most difficult things to do in my profession of acting … is to walk as yourself.”

In addition to deep preparation and analysis, countless noble attempts and modifications, here are a few ways to appear natural when acting:

Fully relax your body

It’s normal for actors to feel nervous or experience muscle tension before performing, but it’s important to find a way to relax. As Ian McKellen said on “The Dick Cavett Show” back in the ’80s, “An actor has to somehow relax. And relaxation is a technical achievement which has to do with having control over every part of their body, their minds so that it doesn’t wander, their imaginations, their face, the tone of their voice—so that all those attributes can express the character that he’s portraying and the intention that character has in speaking or in being or listening or sitting still.” When you’re relaxed, you’re at your best. For some, stretching and meditation do the trick, while others might sit down and imagine each body part relaxing one at a time from the top down. Likewise, breathing exercises such as inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath to the count of seven, and then exhaling for eight seconds (and repeating this cycle a few times) have been proven to relax the body.

Keep your line deliveries flexible

Have a firm understanding of who your character is. By having a strong foundation of your character’s past, relationships, wants, needs, and objectives, you won’t need to search for the character at performance time. And know your lines inside and out. This kind of preparation allows you to let things happen naturally when the camera is rolling. However, don’t rehearse your lines the same way over and over again as this can limit and stiffen your performance. Planning exactly how the scene is going to play out cuts you off from spontaneity, freshness, or organic moments. As Viola Davis says, “One of the things that I do when I collaborate is, whatever the other actor gives me, I use. I don’t go home and prepare a performance and then come to the set and use that performance that I prepared at home. Whatever I work with at home, I only take it to a certain extent. And then when I go on stage, I prepare myself for the fact that the other actor may give me something completely different.”

Put reality in your doing

Whatever action your character is doing—chopping vegetables, washing the car, using a cell phone—don’t just pretend to do these things, actually apply yourself to the tasks as you would in real life. Doing something that requires thought can be helpful and add authenticity to the performance. As Sanford Meisner taught, “The foundation of acting is the reality of doing.” But of course, any action you do should not distract from the essence of the scene.

What about the scene is relevant to your own life?

Deconstruct what’s happening in the scene and with your character, and consider how it applies to your life. When you say certain lines, what do you bring to it personally? Have a deep understanding of the character’s emotions as well as an introspection of your own complexities. Acting is an opportunity to dig into deep, honest emotions. Find opportunities to come from a place of your genuine self. As Margot Robbie said, “When I first read [‘Wolf of Wall Street’] I thought I have nothing in common with [the role of Naomi Lapaglia]. I hate her. It was a really tricky one to get my head around. But her motivation was ‘You guys are doing it, why shouldn’t I? It’s this man’s world, and I’m going to get mine.’ And I understood that.”

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