Photo Credit: Kozlik /

At face value, authenticity and acting may seem at odds. Acting is, at its core, pretending to be someone you’re not in a story that doesn’t belong to you. How can that possibly be authentic?

The truth is, authenticity and acting are intrinsically linked. You can’t tell a compelling story if you tell it as a lie. Your audience already knows they’re watching a performance. Your goal as an actor is to ensure they change their mind and feel like they’re seeing the truth instead. That’s where authenticity comes in.

Authenticity requires an actor to be honest and true to themselves, the character they’re portraying and the story being told. It’s based on the notion of being vulnerable and open—not just to the characters you step into, but with yourself, too. Below, you’ll find a more in-depth look at how authenticity works in acting, why it’s important and how it can elevate your career.

What is Authenticity in Acting?

The standard definition of authenticity is “of undisputed origin; genuine.” The meaning is a bit different when it comes to acting, but “genuine” is a great place to start.

On the surface, actors seem to don many masks. You take on different characters, step into new roles and find fresh stories to tell. But if all your performances are masks, you’re not performing authentically. Authenticity in acting is believing in yourself and your character, and being consistent and truthful with your performance.

As an individual, you should connect with the emotions, thoughts, values and feelings of your character. Their reality becomes your reality. No longer will you stand on a stage and deliver lines—you’ll speak your truth.

Why is Authenticity Important for Actors?

To be a successful actor, you must secure roles. You can’t excel in the field without managing to convince casting directors (or your audience) that you’re the right person for the job. Authenticity can profoundly affect your ability to secure roles.

Think about it—when you step into a casting call, your main goal is to convince the casting director that you can embody the role you’re auditioning for. When you give an authentic performance, even in the brief window of an audition, you disappear into the character. They’re no longer watching you and seeing Actor #105 trying to land the part. They’re seeing the character, complete with the right emotions, inflection and delivery.

That same feeling carries over to the audience. To perform authentically is to transport not only yourself but the audience as well. They’ll feel what you feel as you perform, and that creates an unforgettable experience for anyone watching.

Consider your favorite performances and actors. Why are they your favorite? They probably moved you in some way and stirred or evoked feelings you didn’t expect. Perhaps they roused something already inside you, or you felt so deeply for the character that their experience became your experience. That’s the power of an authentic performance—and it lingers in the heart and mind of anyone who sees it.

The Principle of Authenticity

Authenticity stretches beyond your characters. To be a truly authentic actor, you must also know yourself, and the principle of authenticity is to both know and choose to be you. This requires introspection and developing your point of view. It’s a courageous act and requires you to unabashedly, unashamedly commit to yourself and all that you are.

As you deepen your sense of self, you become a more genuine person and performer, and your craft benefits greatly from that development. Being in touch with your thoughts, values and feelings allows you to summon the right emotion for the characters you portray. Even if they’re nothing like you, you have a deep well to draw from and you’re already actively walking the path of discovery and acceptance.

Beyond that, bringing your authentic self to every audition means showing up and giving it your all. Don’t show up to auditions to be perfect or to please one person. Show up as yourself, with all your energy, all your experiences, and all your feelings. When you pour that into the character and mold all that you are into what the character knows and feels, you’re delivering something truly authentic. Your joy is their joy, your grief is their grief. You don’t lose everything to the role, but elevate yourself and the character— whoever they may be, and whatever they do.

Types of Authenticity

Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, as the saying goes, while others experience most of their thoughts and feelings internally. There’s sometimes a considerable gap between someone’s rich internal world and their external reality, and the concept of “internal” and “external” diverge from one another on principle. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that internal and external authenticity in performances are different, too.

External authenticity: This works from the outside and goes inward, so to speak. To achieve external authenticity, you begin with the external stimuli, dialogue rhythm, cadence and style. That, in turn, informs the emotions, feelings and person behind them. You master the outward characteristics and presentation of your character and then build the rest up behind that appearance.

Internal authenticity: Internal authenticity begins with harnessing the internal world, thoughts and feelings of the role. You feel what they feel and push that outward.

When approached the right way, both forms of authenticity make for a compelling, memorable performance. You may find that one works better for you. Consider the following scenarios to grasp how to cultivate both types of authenticity:

1. You’re auditioning for the role of a miner in an impoverished rural town. They have a gruff manner of speaking, use local slang and carry themselves in the manner of someone who works long and backbreaking days. As an actor, cultivating that character’s unique visual, vocal and external world helps capture the essence of who they are. It’s not only important to the story but also to who they are. If the external performance is inauthentic, no amount of internal commitment or feeling will make it believable.

2. On the other hand, imagine you’re taking on the role of a deeply conflicted character. You memorize the lines, you know all the marks and movements and the external setting is clear. That isn’t enough. You must put something behind it. You’re not just there to deliver dialogue. You must choose the right emotions, you must know what the character feels and thinks, and what goes behind the words they’re saying. Their internal world may not reflect their external actions, and you must know and feel that to put it into your performance. By doing so, you’re showcasing internal authenticity.

As you can see, there’s a place for both types and a truly remarkable performance combines the two. No one only has an external or internal life. Both should be present in your performance, but you must know where to begin. What’s missing from the words in the script? What is that character asking for someone to see, or what can’t they help but show? Find the answers to those questions, and you’re well on your way to both types of authenticity.

Is Authenticity Always a Good Thing?

While this article has touted the value of authenticity so far, there’s a time and place for everything. There is no blanket answer for everything, and what thrills and delights one audience or casting director may not be the right strategy for another. With that in mind, successful acting is a marriage between adaptability and authenticity—and learning when to lean on one or the other.

While you should bring your authentic self to every audition, just as the advice above suggests, you cannot be unmoving. If you’re going out for a role that is nothing like your lived experience, or your casting director (or audience) is looking for something different than your read on the character, you have the option to adapt or walk away. Rooting yourself firmly in your interpretation may cause you to lose out on opportunities. In other words, you’re too focused on the trees and lose sight of the forest consequently.

Beyond that, authenticity cannot mean a refusal to grow and change. You must stretch yourself beyond what you know and what you are. Adaptability without authenticity seems insincere and false, while authenticity without adaptability can come across as frustrating and immovable. To tap into a role’s full potential (and your own), find the sweet spot in the center.

Acting Techniques Focused on Authenticity

While there are several schools of acting out there, the following are particularly well-suited for authentic acting:

Method Acting

Students of “The Method” or method acting, which has been around since the 1930s, learn to become the characters they portray. They deeply empathize with their roles and train themselves to step fully into them, becoming a sort of vessel for their characters. They learn to feel what their characters feel and live as they live, often literally, rather than rely on the ability to “fake” or insert emotions and behaviors.

Method acting sometimes runs so deep that actors experience actual psychological changes. It relies on a very literal type of authenticity, which actors may achieve through the following techniques:

  • Tension release: This prepares the body to take on another person’s life.
  • Focus on senses: A focus on specific senses helps to bring certain stimuli through in their work.
  • Emotional replication: Method actors learn to recognize the feelings of their characters and duplicate them to such an extent that they’re driven by them.
  • Sense memory: As a core tenant of method acting, sense memory has actors draw from sensations and personal memory to create authentic and genuine responses.

Meisner Technique

The Meisner Technique combines response to stimuli and encourages actors to trust their instincts. It’s sometimes called the “real people” technique because, at its core, it encourages actors to behave as real people—not as performers putting on a show. They achieve this through a combination of:

  • Emotional preparation: Through this, actors learn to display the full depth of a character and their complexities. It’s a journey through their background, experiences and influences to get the whole picture.
  • Repetition: This exercise lets actors practice inflection, tone, intensity and emotional variation by repeating a phrase or short piece. It’s less about the words and more about what’s beneath them.
  • Improvisation: Act before thinking through a combination of emotional connection and pure instinct.

Stanislavski Technique

This is an earlier technique that went on to inform schools like Method acting. Actors internalize the experiences and feelings of the characters they portray by imagining themselves in those circumstances. It was intended to forge a connection between the actor and their role, tapping into something authentic in the process.

To Recap

Take a look back at what you’ve learned so far:

  • Authenticity is a way of living your life, as well as something to bring into your performances and acting.
  • True authenticity results in a deeper, more complex performance and creates a link between you, your character and the audience.
  • Authenticity comes in internal and external varieties.
  • Several schools of acting focus on authenticity, but offer different ways of achieving or practicing it.
  • Living authentically allows you to grow as an actor, and more easily showcases your abilities to casting directors and observers.


Let’s journey back to a word used at the beginning of this article and revisit the term “genuine.” To be genuine and authentic blurs the line that marks something as purely a performance or a script, and allows you to forge a real connection with what you’re doing. You’ll deliver a new truth to your audience, rather than giving them a show.

The goal of most actors is to create something meaningful, at once bigger than themselves and yet the embodiment of themselves and their craft. Authenticity allows you to do that. With that in mind, it’s time to unleash your authentic self on stage and screen.

Ready to take your acting to the next level? Embrace authenticity and unlock the chance for your dream roles by signing up or logging in to Casting Frontier today!

You may also like: