As actors, behavior is our business. But when you say one thing and your body communicates something else we believe what we see, not what you say. The non-verbal signals we send speak louder than words.
Actors need to be aware of how the things they do may be perceived by others. Your body language reflects the truth of your inner life through your posture, gestures, facial expressions and voice. Master it and your work, relationships and career will improve.
Here are 10 things you may be doing that are keeping you from booking auditions.
Confidence is attractive. Don’t be a wallflower at your audition. Own the space you occupy. Sitting (or standing) with your legs slightly apart gives you a base that makes you look and feel more confident.
Hands and feet betray a thoughtless mind. In performance, wandering aimlessly or randomly shifting your weight tells us you don’t know what you’re doing. In general, it just makes you look uncomfortable, impatient or nervous. Plant your feet and stop fidgeting so you (and we) can focus on the story you’re telling.
At the risk of sounding like your mom, Sit up straight!” The hunchback look is not “in” right now. Slouching cuts you off and makes you look timid, uptight or stressed out. Straighten up and you’ll look and feel better.
Actors who fidget, blink uncontrollably, drum their fingers, twirl their hair, pick their fingernails, tap their feet or shake their leg aren’t fully present. Your body’s telling us you’re either nervous or you simply lack inner calm.
Palms down or pointing gestures
Gesturing with your palms up is non-threatening. Palms down gestures are dominant and pointing gestures are aggressive. Try it. Use each when appropriate.
Crossing Your Arms
Crossing your arms creates a wall between you and the person you’re talking with. Your door is closed. Open it and you won’t look defensive, unapproachable, shy or nervous. FYI, crossing your legs cuts you off too.
When we’re nervous our internal engine revs. We talk and move faster as we move away from our center. When that happens, ask yourself “What do I want?” Then consciously slow down and just focus on getting it. You’ll look (and feel) calmer and more in control.
A lot of us hold tension in our shoulders. When you feel them riding up around your ears consciously exhale the tension out of your body letting them move down and back slightly. You’ll look and feel taller and more at ease.
Leaning offers several possibilities good and bad. Leaning in, toward the person you’re talking to, could mean you’re into what they’re saying or, if you lean in too far, you might come across as needy or creepy.
Leaning back could signal you’re confident and relaxed or, if you lean back too far, you could come off as skeptical, superior, or disinterested.
Having a positive relationship to auditions is essential to having the career you want. People rarely excel at something they hate doing. An audition is a chance to do what you love in front of people who can hire you to do more of it. If that’s not a great thing I don’t know what is. Negative energy could be responsible for all of the above.
Watching people is truly fascinating and a great way to learn about yourself and others. Studying the conscious and unconscious signals we send will inform your acting work in the best of ways!
Recording yourself on camera helps you identify habits that don’t serve you well so you can choose new postures, gestures and facial expressions that effectively convey the messages you want to send.
Understanding body language not only makes you a better actor, it helps you present your best self, in the best way possible way in any circumstance you’re in.
All my best,
Originally published on Backstage
Philip Hernandez is a respected acting teacher and singing coach in NYC. He is also the only actor in Broadway history to play both Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in Les Miserables. He created principal roles in Broadway’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman and Paul Simon’s The Capeman. You may also know him from his many television appearances: The Blacklist, Gotham, Blue Bloods, The Path, Bull, Nurse Jackie, Elementary, Person of Interest, Law and Order, Hostages and Damages to name a few. For information about acting lessons CLICK HERE or singing lessons CLICK HERE.