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How to Create a Character with Samuel L. Jackson | Discover MasterClass | MasterClass



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If there's source material, read it,

especially if it's a book.

Read a book, because writers tend

to give you vital info about who the character is, where

he came from, what he does.

Sometimes they even try and explain

why he's doing it, why he's doing a particular thing.

And after you've done that, reread the story again

to get the story in your mind.

And after you've read that, figure out

how you feel about that character,

and why he's doing those things that he's

doing inside that script.

And once you think you know why that character is

doing those things, then you figure out OK,

where'd he come from?

Who is he?

How old is he?

Does he feel that way about this character

because he has a brother or sister that is that way?

Who are his parents?

What's his educational background?

Does he have a military background?

Did he go into the army?

Has he ever been in jail?

Is he out of jail?

How educated is he?

Is he smart, sort of smart, very smart?

It's not there.

And sometimes, you will never have

to explain that to an audience, or to the other cast members.

But it's important to you as a person,

because all those kinds of things

determine how you feel about people,

how you look at them, how you interpret their actions,

what your prejudices are toward those people

in a particular way.

Are they smarter than me?

Do I like that?

Do I not like that?

Is he dumber than me?

Am I going to manipulate him because of it?

And it's stuff that an audience might--

or they probably won't, ever know.

But for you as the actor, when you're

interacting with that character that you

think you're smarter than, it interprets

how you approach that character, and how

you accept what they say to you, or what you think of it,

or what you're trying to do.

And all those things are dictated by what kind of person

I am.

And if there's no source material

to tell me what kind of person I am, then it's incumbent upon me

to create a human being that's inside that story, that

has a full life, that feels a certain way about things,

because this happened to him, that happened to him,

this didn't happen to him.

He didn't have this advantage growing up,

or he had this advantage.

Or he had a woman who left him, so he can't relate to women,

because he thinks women are all whatever,

and he just cannot deal with them,

or he doesn't understand the female psyche.

Or his mom did something to him, so he can't handle family life.

And he doesn't know how to be a father, because he didn't have

a father, or the father he had, had no idea how to treat him,

or he watched him treat his mother a certain way,

or didn't do this.

All kinds of things that you can make up about that person,

but what you need is a whole person.

Which is something Lloyd Richards imposed upon me,

Douglas Turner Ward imposed upon me,

that says whenever you're on stage,

you're coming from somewhere, and you're

going somewhere when you leave.

And do you want people to go with you when you go?

So when you show up in there, you--

boom, you hit that moment.

And when you leave, everybody is like, "Well, [BLEEP] I

wanna go with him.

Where is he going?

That was, uh, he looks like he has something on his mind."

And then I had another actor tell me once,

he's like, "Look, every time a camera passes you

when you're on set, always look like there's

something on your mind.

Don't be standing there waiting on your line."

You know, thinking about something, either

what that character just said, or how

you feel about the thing that character said.

Or even if you thinking about "I need to get out of here.

I'm sick of being here," people need to see that on your face,

not just--

unless you're playing an idiot.