June 12, 2011

How We Are Wired...


Some actors are consistently told that their acting is too big or too small. You might have heard an acting teacher say, “I'm not getting what you're feeling” or “you're too busy; stop moving your eyebrows.”

For years, I struggled to help actors who seemed to be either withholding what they were feeling or displaying something other than what they said they were feeling. Both types of actors were having a problem with expression and I was at a loss as to what to do about it. 

My thoughts had always been that there was a flaw in how they were approaching the work. They weren't doing it correctly. Why wouldn’t this be the answer? There were plenty of other actors who didn’t have this problem.

I came upon some very interesting research that changed how I taught actors the craft of acting. I discovered that when it came to emotional reveal, which includes reactions, the playing field wasn't leveled. There are some actors who were born to do it better. If you are one of those actors I described earlier, the problem may not be with your dedication to the craft, but how you are wired.


Science has shown that 10 hours after birth, babies are already exhibiting signs of either being an introvert or extrovert when it comes to expressiveness. Some babies are much more expressive while others remain stoic. Depending on if the parents are introverts or extroverts, the child will continue on its introverted or extroverted path. 

Interestingly for the actor with problems of revealing too much or too little, scientists have hooked introverts and extroverts up to a machine to see just how intensely each was feeling a given emotion: Under a moderate amount of stimuli, the extrovert was showing more emotional facial expression than the introvert, but the introvert was actually feeling more intensely than the extrovert. When they raised the stimuli, the introvert started to shut down and the extrovert calmed down.  

Think about it: how you communicate with your face, now, was established at birth. This is not a psychological problem or an acting problem. It's a difference in your wiring.