Some actors tend to believe that if they are charismatic, they will win the audition room over and get the part. While that may be somewhat eensy teensy true, the real test is to see if you can bring charisma to your character. Why’s that? Because you want to win the audience over.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of charisma is “a special magnetic charm or appeal”.
Whether you’re nervous, shy, socially awkward, anxious or just want to be respected doesn’t matter. You’re an actor! You’re going to transform the words on the page and play out a part that you hope continues forever. The way to do that is to make sure the audience demands you stay. So just how do you make the audience fall in love with your character?
Below are five tips to help you command charisma for your character:
USE A DRAMATIC PAUSE
One line, two lines, ten lines — no matter. There’s no rule that says you can’t pause during a sentence or in between sentences. This brings anticipation. It makes the audience lean in a little closer to their screen as if you’re going to tell them a secret.
Example without the pause:
“Hey! You over there! C’mere! I’ve got something I want to share with you.”
Example with the pause:
“Hey! (nodding head up, pause) You over there! C’mere! I’ve got something I want to (pause, slow words down, dun-dun-daaah!) share… with… you.”
Video example: Fast forward to minute 1:32 – See how Gru creates anticipation.
Despicable Me – Gru Wants To Steal The Moon Scene
PUT A SMILE IN YOUR VOICE
Putting a smile in your voice doesn’t mean you have to be physically smiling. It means you should be emotionally expressive. You can use hand gestures and full body motions to get this across. This works well for serious and comedic characters.
Example without the smile:
“Are you kidding me? What do you mean all the money in the safe is gone?!”
Example with the smile:
“(big eyes) Are you kidding me? What do you mean (hand gesture as if you’re carrying a huge pile of money) all the money in the safe is gone?! (neurotic look)“
Video example: Both actors use their faces to emotional expressions.
A Fish Called Wanda – Kevin Kline and Michael Palin
OWN THE SPACE AROUND YOU
Anyone ever get too close for comfort? Or too far if you’re in an intimate scene? Your character needs to own their personal space. Let’s say you’re in a two-person scene and something super funny happens. It’s a natural response that you’ll both have a hearty laugh, maybe slap each other on the knee or hit the table because it’s so darn funny. While you’re sharing space with the other actor, you need to keep a halo effect around you where there can be no unwanted invasion of space. This allows you to control what happens in your character’s personal space.
Example: You and your scene partner are laughing it up. Instead of letting your partner slap you on the knee, you can do a full on belly laugh where you arch your back backwards and spread out your arms, creating an area that’s just for you. This gesture will keep the audience’s eyes on you throughout the scene.
Video example: Watch how John Ritter creates a space around him with no space available.
Three’s Company – Jack in Jail (John Ritter)
MAKE YOUR EYES SPARKLE
Creating a charismatic character is not easy. No matter what type of character you’re portraying, there is a way to make your eyes sparkle, or twinkle. By doing so, you will pull the viewer into your character and if you do it just right, the viewer will stay with you throughout your run.
For headshots, photographers sometimes tell their subjects to put their head down and look at the ground. Then the photographer will count to three and on three, you lift your head, smile and make “sparkly eyes” into the camera.
Example: You have a closeup. The scene is you walking into a hotel and seeing a long lost friend. That moment of happiness, seeing your friend, will make your eyes sparkle. Take that sparkle and apply to all scenes, even if they are sad, crying scenes. Your eyes will draw people in and have them talking about you non-stop.
Video example: Uzo Aduba uses her eyes to command every scene
Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black
BRING AUTHENTICITY TO YOUR CHARACTER
Nothing makes an audience cringe more than bad acting. The viewers want to feel what you’re feeling and want to be on the journey with your character.
Bringing authenticity to your character is the most charismatic thing you can do. It will attract the viewer to your character without them knowing why they’re attracted. All they know is that they want more.
Example: Your character is a doctor, plumber, fisherman, mom… someone who wouldn’t necessarily know how to sing and dance, yet the script calls for your character to do just that (like enter a talent show even though your character has no talent.) Even though YOU the actor may be great at singing and dancing, you want to portray your character as not having those skills, so put your ego in check and sing and dance how your character would — which could be awful!
Video example: So deliciously “bad” you want to watch it over and over again.
Xena, Gabrielle & Joxer Are Dancing in the Moonlight
And there you have it! By using these five tips on how to bring charisma to your character, you will be able to command both the audition room and the audience!