Before going into some of the necessary ingredients for an outstanding MONOLOGUE, It’s important to place emphesis on just WHERE the monologue is coming from. What I mean by that is, what/who exactly is the powerplant of the monologue? This question naturally brings us to CHARACTER. After all, the monologue is the story of the character. What that character is going through at the moment, where they came from, what they are about to go. If the character is weak, the monologue can’t be that far behind. When the character is flushed out and solid, knowing exactly who they are, the monologue will then has the chance of being somewhat interesting.
As I mentioned previously, after a film screening last Saturday evening of Tom Hanks latest film, I had the opportunity to speak with him personally. My question to Mr Hanks was this: Being the articulated actor that you are, what was your preparation technique going into this film and how far out did you prepare for the many characters you played?
Now, before I share my slightly modified version of his answer, it’s important for you to understand a little
bit about the movie we were
each of the main eight characters in this film played five to seven different characters each! It was pretty incredible actually. And, each of the characters were distinctly defined and quite different from each other. It truly was an actors playground. As Tom put it: We all had a blast! But as a result, we each put five other actors out of work!
Here is Tom’s (modified) answer to my question : You have to allow for the character to evolve. The script gives you the breakdown of the character, then you start working from there. As you begin to investigate your character, you must allow for each discovery to make it’s own adjustment to the character. For instance, as you add wardrobe, the material has a certain weight to it. Allow that (gravity) to effect the way the character moves. Then there’s hair and make up (or prosthetics) in some cases. That too will create emotions that will sway the character one way or another…let it. As you build upon each change, discover what the changes are showing and allowing you. It’s a total process with each character. By the time you show up on set, you should have a complet and developed rendition of the character, come fully alive.
After speaking with Mr Hanks, I’ve come to appreciate the magnitude of his professionalism and creative ability more than ever. A true actors, actor! Cloud Atlas is one wild ride of a film with so much going on that you’re sure to wonder if you’re actually following the story or not. This story is way, way out there. I’m not a believer of reincarnation myself, however that’s all I’ll say about that. This is after all, a teaching on MONOLOGUES.
ACTOR, KNOW THY MONOLOGUE — You’ve got to know who you are and what’s going on in the life of your character and the moment of the piece. You really have to know it. You can’t just memorize the lines and throw on some wardrobe pieces…you’ve got to own it. Inside, out, sideways, top to bottom. You’re monologue has to be generated from the core of your being. Yes, even if it’s a comical piece. When you know it well, it will be seen as something that’s honest. It has to be HONEST.
DO NOT JUDGE YOUR MONOLOGUE — Actors often times pass judgment on there performances. They judge the character as well as what the character is saying or doing. DON’T GET CAUGHT DOING THIS! It will be a sure recipe for disaster. All of the choices have to be your choices – and you have to own them. Like them or not. If they belong to your character, accept them!
STAY IN THE LIFE OF YOUR CHARACTER – From the beginning of your performance to the end…and beyond, you can’t break character. Think of your character work as something similar to putting on an outfit. Some outfits are easier to put on then others. Some have more layers then others. However, once you’re in and you’re wearing the outfit, it has an effect on you, it changes you. Depending on the exact combination and dynamic of the clothing pieces, it can transport you…making you feel differently, think differently. Stay with it. We, as the viewer, want to take the ride with you.