Marlon Brando once said, “Acting is a survival mechanism.”
Every day of our lives we adapt to specific situations. Sometimes we hold our tongues, sometimes we speak out of turn, at times we avoid, and at other times we confront. Our behavior varies from one situation to another. Indeed, we act and behave differently depending on the circumstances, the environment, and the people that we are around.
For example, we are nurturing and playful when we are reading a bed time story to our toddler; but we are strict and demanding when enforcing a curfew for our teenage son or daughter.
There is a story about the legendary actress Uta Hagen. She was asked to play a comedic role, but because she didn’t think she was funny she turned it down. She changed her mind when she realized she could be as silly as the character by tapping into the part of herself that came out when she was feeding her poodles.
What I find even more intriguing is why we react the way we do. Actors can help. Actors play a variety of different roles and they have to understand the specific behavior of the characters that they portray. Being aware of ourselves enables us to depict those behaviors truthfully.
Elia Kazan directed Marlon Brando in “On The Waterfront.” Kazan trusted Brando’s remarkable instincts. He knew Brando would find the behavior and the emotion that fit the sense and proportion of the moment.