By Omoye Uzamere
Last week Saturday, I had to shoot a scene where my character’s husband beats her. I needed my co-actor to hit me for real, because I have no actual life experience to draw from – I do not know any woman closely, who has been abused nor have I been in that position myself – so I needed to feel authentic emotions to give a genuine reaction. Nothing is worse than seeing through an actor’s pretense.
The crew would occasionally interject, “Ah! I’m sorry for you oh” and the director gave all these technical blockings in order to protect my supple skin, “flick your hand this way, while she turns her head that way. We’ll put the sound effects in post”.
To be fair to him, THIS was the guy who was to batter me!
Now you see why everyone was concerned for me?
Although I told the director that I didn’t mind being hit, he said there was no need for it, as they would shoot from an angle that would mask the grit (or lack thereof). So just before the scene was to start, I whispered to my co-actor, asking him to hit me for real.
I am always excited about doing work that challenges my reality and takes me out of my comfort zone. The result of playing some of these nothing-like-me characters is EMPATHY. What is empathy? (The ability to understand and share the feelings of another).
However, must I have the same experience as someone to understand or share his or her feelings? Absolutely not! All I need to do is put myself in their shoes.
Actors are some of the most compassionate people because we’re taught to understand the character, not judge them. Could that be why most actors have foundations and charitable projects? Hmmm…
In our training, the moment an actor says, “My character is very stupid. He/She makes the worst choices for his/her life”; you have judged him/her. You’ve put a blanket on how far [or well] you can represent the character’s reality. You might say that about another character [being the way your own character sees them, but you cannot become someone that you have judged]. Our job is to understand people and why they do the things they do. Judgments stand in the way of great portrayals of a character.
Perhaps that incident will teach me how it feels to be a battered wife and help me handle the subject more delicately next time I come across it. Having said this, I believe that acting and drama is one of the best foundational trainings for kids.
In the age where bullying among children is at an all-time high, we need to raise children who are more thoughtful, considerate, understanding and EMPATHETIC.
Acting classes create experiences that help children easily see themselves in another’s shoes and treat them with more kindness, a trait that they will grow with into adulthood. This is something I am passionate about; a side to myself I would love to revive – the Drama Teacher.
I say we catch them young!
Read also: Are You An Actor? Then It’s Time To #UseIt
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