This may sound strange, in the sense that it’s an odd thing to spend any time thinking about, but I’ve never understood “method acting.” From time to time, I come across stories of some serious and dedicated actor being somewhat hard to deal with on the set of some movie because they insist on religiously embodying a character for the entirety of a production, on and off set. As a basic principle of acting, it makes some sense. There is a high level of commitment inherent in the discipline the method requires. We also commonly associate any kind of struggle with great art, no matter how flawed that reasoning may be in the face of abundant contradictory evidence. As a form of sacrifice, it makes perfect sense. It can be rationalized as a unique form, a particular affect and performative headspace required, by some, to perfect their art. That is all well and good. I get it.
But what about when the cameras come on? Or a director is giving them notes? Or they are required to do many takes of the same fictional scene? Or any number of other parts of the moviemaking process that have no analog in real life, like the crew that is obviously extraneous to the diegesis in which the character is supposed to reside. If an actor is playing a character when the cameras are both on and off then how do they reconcile the fact that the person they are embodying is actually playing a role in a film, and is not in fact a real person? Is it more about being the character within the context of the filmmaking process or in general? I’ve never quite understood. Granted, I’ve also never done much research on the topic. On the surface it seems like a recipe for losing oneself in a fictional character’s dual world – the world of the film and the one where the actor also lives. A relatable phenomenon to our present predicament.
All of this leads me to consider the fact that maybe we’re all method actors in a different, non-artistic oriented form. We have to be many different people in different contexts and somehow reconcile those various realities into some coherent whole: the person we want or strive to be. Maybe we’re all embodying a role and trying to maintain it even when the spotlights are turned off and we’re mostly alone. It may be a necessity in our surveillance soaked reality. The level of privacy we enjoy is always decreasing over time, our bodies endlessly monetized, forever within the fixed gaze of the critical public eye. Camera, lights, action. Get ready for your close-up.