An actor’s trick to trigger who you want to be and the results you want to see.
Last weekend I was teaching a characterisation workshop for our local theatre group. It covered character construction, connection, development, and I shared a trick for ‘getting into character’ quickly. I use a Trigger Line.
This coincided with my having to submit my goals for the coming year to the mentoring programme that I just signed up for.
As I finished typing up my goals that afternoon, I had a lightbulb moment:
Why not combine the Trigger Line technique with my personal development and lifestyle design?
I signed on the online dotted line for the programme not because I need to get a lot of things done, achieve big goals, ra ra ra, but rather I need to first transform myself from the inside out in order to be able to fulfil those other desires and goals.
I need to Be in order to Do.
So how does an acting technique come into this?
For an actor to authentically ‘be’ a character they need to fully understand the character’s motivation for doing or saying the things they see in their script. For a good actor, the question isn’t so much what or how it’s ‘why’. They will get inside the character’s head and make a connection to be able to portray that character to their audience. When they know how to ‘be’ that character, the ‘doing’ comes quite naturally (the what and the how).
Some actors will stay ‘in character’ even when not on stage or camera. David Suchet is an example of this, I read that he was Poirot on and off camera during filming. For many of us, he IS Poirot. We don’t see any trace of David Suchet, we only see Poirot. That’s what makes him so good.
Recently, I’ve played a tart with homicidal tendencies and before that, Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, interspersed with voice-over work where I play regular characters when the work is available.
I do my homework and construct my characters, understanding their motivation and development etc. When I arrive at the voice-over gig or for rehearsals, to be able to get into character quickly I use a Trigger Line.
This is usually a line from the script that, for me, encapsulates the essence of the character.
By saying it to myself I can trigger a fast character connection, I can be in that peak state ready to work. (It also means I can pop out for a cuppa in between scenes and not act like a complete basket case.)
There really is nothing new under the sun, and many of you have heard of the use of positive affirmations to promote successful mindsets. But for me, chanting ‘I am positive, I am productive, I am powerful’ doesn’t trigger that peak state for the other areas of my life.
Maybe because it is lacking in another P: It’s not personal.
The trigger line works for me as an actor because it has a personal connection with the character. Therefore, it figures that trigger lines for other areas of my life also need to be personal in nature, there has to be a connection there.
The connection has to be with the character that I will become.
Positive affirmations are a powerful and helpful tool. Saying them every day to yourself is like mental, spiritual, and psychological physiotherapy. They help promote strong growth and development in an intended direction.
They differ from a trigger line in that a trigger line jump-starts a mental state, it propels you into a peak state of awareness or attitude, based on the work that you have done previously. It’s like having a shortcut to a program on your computer: click the link and bam! You’re in the program, up and running.
I submitted my goals for next year to the program, and on the bottom of the page, I included some trigger lines. I’ll construct the character that I want to become and then use these trigger lines to help link me quickly into that peak state,( the mindset and attitude) until it becomes a natural part of me.
Why am I sharing all this?
I figure if it’s helpful for me, it may be helpful for you too.
The quote above is a deep inspiration for me, it figures and will figure in my thinking over the next few months. It is not, however, a trigger line. It’s just too long.
It’s a line, not a monologue that we’re after.
‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’
This may seem like the perfect trigger line for me, considering my goals for next year. Yet it isn’t magnetic enough to pull me into character, into peak mental state. It is more of a goal or a powerful inspiration.
Below are my trigger lines for the next few months:
- “With responsibility comes great power” — Kain Ramsey
- “Decide what you want and work out how to get it” — Benjamin P Hardy
- “We live in the age of no excuses” “Clarity comes with action” — Jeff Goins
Three trigger lines is a lot, one or two is better. When I find one that encapsulates the whole ideal I will put these aside.
Maybe my lines don’t resonate with you and that’s fine as they are for me after all, I shared them just as an example. For me, they link directly to what I want and the mental state/attitude I need to have to achieve it.
When I feel my mind wandering, I can use these lines to zing back into the character, the person, I want to be.
We can put them on our screensavers or our phones to keep us on point. Canva.com helps me create little graphics like this one.
Write them in our journals to help trigger that peak state for planning and development.
So how about you?
- What trigger lines can you use as you step into a new season of your life?
- Who do you want to be?