6 Ways To Get Into Character
As a voice actor, you may often have to get into character – like those in video games or cartoons – characters that require a special set of skills. You may have to imagine yourself in the role of a creature that’s from out of this world, or within a fictional context that has no real-world equivalent. You may even be the first person to ever voice such a character, which means that your ability to interpret what the producers are looking for will be key to nailing the job.
When faced with a new character, start by learning as much as you can about them through the dialogue in the script, through their relationships with other characters, and through their opportunities and struggles. What is your character’s motivation in this particular scene? What are they saying – and how does that relate to how they might be feeling? What’s the dynamic between them and the other characters they’re interacting with? What details in the script can you use to really bring this character to life? When you can answer these questions, you will be able to immerse yourself in the mind of the character.
Here are six techniques to help you answer these questions and more – ensuring that you’re well-prepared to take on the persona and voice of a new character.
1. Read the Script Thoroughly
Analyzing the script is an important part of your script read through. Before you even begin trying to figure out how the character will sound and how you will interpret the character, you will want to read the script you’ve been given several times.
First, read it through casually, then read it through with a bit more thought, taking notes on key points in the dialogue. Then you may want to read the script again, coupled with looking at an image of how the character looks physically to give you a complete picture.
You should note what your character says to other characters and how they speak about your character in order to acquire an accurate depiction of the morals, values and motivations behind your character or role.
- Analyze Character Motivation
Once you have a good grasp of the script and the timeline of events for your character, you can now start to build a life for your character. This essentially means being critical of your character and their actions. What was your character doing before the current line you are reading? What will they be doing after? A few other important questions to keep in mind are: “How?” “Why? and “Is this true? These questions can really help you dig down deep into the specifics of what drives your character forward.
Hollywood actors speak on getting into character for various roles:
A noteworthy takeaway is that sometimes actors will need to stand, walk or dress like the characters they are setting out to play in order to really get inside the mind of their character and give a convincing portrayal and read. If you feel the need to stand like your character or even dress how your character would – then you should definitely give it a go before stepping up to your mic.
- Pay Attention to Action Words in the Script
You can explore your script through the use of action words. For example: if your character is uttering a line such as “Why are you going that way?” you will want to figure out the action behind this line. Is your character accusing someone? Asking in a demanding tone? Or simply inquiring? Keep the goal or what your character is trying to achieve in mind, through each line spoken.
If action words are not included as part of the direction given, you may want to either check with the director or delve into the script yourself and craft your own interpretation of the character and script. As long as you are consistent with the storyline of your character you will be able to create a meaningful read – one that viewers can identify and connect with.
- Think Physically
Next, you should think about the way your character looks and acts physically in order to give them the appropriate sounding voice. Sometimes it helps to stand and walk as the character would stand and walk when you are reading the script to really get into character. Make the facial expressions the character would make while reading out certain lines – become the character. Even though the audience will only hear your voice, you have to make your voice reflect the actions and physicality of the character as closely as possible.
Just look at how Mandy Moore moves around as she lends her voice to Disney’s Tangled.
- Leave Yourself at the Door
You have to put your own personality traits aside to get into the role of the character. As a voice actor, this is important because you are often recording in your own studio and are probably separate from other characters or even a director who can provide you with on-the-spot feedback. You will have to rely on your own interpretations and directions to guide your character.
Part of leaving yourself at the door of your studio is to put aside the ways that you might interpret a certain emotion. For example: your interpretation of expressing frustration may be to cry, but your character’s idea of expressing frustration may be to vocally express that in another way. You want to make sure that you are being true to your character and their reactions.
- Find a source of Inspiration
Oftentimes part of the artistic direction will be to include personas or characters who are similar to the character you will be voicing. Use these vocal archetypes to discern how your character will sound and what the goal of the character is. Pay attention to how similar characters use inflection and tone and try to replicate those sounds throughout your read.
Voice actor Anatal Silotch, often plays music to help him get into the character’s mood. If he is playing a character who has experienced some sort of tragedy or loss, he will play sad, soft melodies. His tip is to “picture yourself being in that [character’s] shoes. How they would feel, how their voice would sound. Would it be shaky? Would it be strong? And try to understand the script as best as you can,” he says.
Becoming a successful voice actor, especially in the realm of animation and cartoon voice acting takes work and dedication – just ask the pros!
Getting in the mind of your character is the key to a perfect read
Ultimately, getting inside the mind of your character is the grunt of the work involved in creating a voice for your character that will land well with the intended audience. Once you have analyzed your character’s motivations and decided how they will sound, you can then give the perfect read for your client. Be open to receiving feedback from the client and make necessary changes in order to create a great character that will be well received by the end audience.
If you need more inspiration on getting into character, voice coach and voice actor Rachel Alena shares her experience with getting into the mindset of the Three Little Pigs for an interactive children’s app.