I have always believed in the philosophy that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Not that I would ever skin a cat mind you, not really. There is always more than one way to do a thing, which is a concept that can be applied to all things in life. As an actor, there is more than one way to develop a character. As a director, there is always more than one way a play/show can be done.
I was recently asked the following question;
Do you believe in “The Method”, or do you just “pretend”? I know what I used to do, but how about Mr Watkins?
Do I believe in “The Method?” Look, I’ll be completely honest with you all here and now. I cannot, in all truth, claim to even know what “Method” truly means, so I did a little reading and found what are to me rather vague techniques for character development which I think most actors I know employ to one degree or another. There are variations on the core themes, and even Stanislavski gradually adapted and changed his “Method” over time. To my point of view, there is no real “Method.” Just a range of methods to help an actor “connect” with their character.
Christopher Walken has his own method which focuses on connecting with his lines, and that works for him. Other actors are able to completely conform themselves in to a character of incredible contrast to themselves through physical props, visualisation and any number of other tricks. Regardless, what it all comes down to is the actor finding a way to connect with a character that works within the context of the show. Notice I said “A” character, not the. There is more than one way to portray a character.
I suppose, from a certain point of view, I do have a method, one born organically over many years of trying ideas and practice, but I didn’t always have a method as such. Once upon a time, I did pretend. Then I acted, which is not so different from pretending, only a little more convincing. Then I performed through the development of skills in presentation and showmanship. Finally, I learnt that all that was simply getting experience. Through those phases, I wasn’t really connecting with the character I was trying to be. I was a mere walking piece of card using techniques and styles without actually feeling.
Up until today, I thought of Method Actors as being restricted, immersed, even consumed by their character. What I’ve learnt couldn’t be further from the truth. That is just one type of Method Actor. So if we consider goal of a Method Actor is to create emotional truth, rather than having a “Method” to acting, this sort of defines every actor, with a few exceptions. Now I find myself rethinking my organically developed approach as just another method for finding emotional truth, one that works for me.
My “Method” reflects my appreciation and respect for the diversity we find in Humanity. I believe that we all have the potential to be anything. Evil, Passionate, Depressed, Loving, Criminal, Honourable, Aggressive, Timid, and we can be all these things at once. What makes me different from anyone else, or any character I have played is the choices I have made. These choices hinge concepts such as circumstances, environment, opportunities, tragedy, fortunes, and so forth. For me, it isn’t about the lines or the character as they are now. It is the Why behind the character? Once I develop an understanding for the choices my character may have made, I find I can relate. I can believe that I could be that person, and if I could be that person, then I am that person. I believe that through this approach I gain and emotional truth to my performance, and is therefore my Method.