How do you create a character? Or, more importantly, how do you make a character your own by combining what is in the script and what is in you? This is something you have to think about with every role you play, but I was most doubtful of myself in spring 2012 when I found out that I had been cast as an uptight Victorian lady in Chemical Imbalance, a comedy version of the tale of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.
My first thought was “What the hell?” I was of the opinion that the director had no idea what he was doing, that I had been horribly miscast and that I would have suited better as the Scottish cook than the lady of the house. Since my physique is all but delicate, my laugh sounds like that of a cackling witch, and most of my facial expressions are ridiculous to say the least, I was baffled as to how I was supposed to be able to transform into a society lady with a pretty dress and a posh accent. The answer: you make the character your own.
Although there is a script, depending on how much leeway you have and what the director wants, the script can be taken as a guideline, leaving some legroom for experiments. The most important thing for me when it comes to acting is the character’s background story. All the information you gather breathes life into the character and you can either listen to what is already in the script or spice it up and take it in another direction. That was what I did with Euphronia Jekyll: what had seemed like a delicate lady on page who complains of stomach aches became a silly woman with a short temper and a fierce need to climb up the social ladder, no matter the costs.
With a play like this, there are a lot of things that can help you discover who your character is. Because of the historical setting, there’s always social class as well as gender roles: where do you fit in, who do you side with and who is against you? I also take inspiration from other characters, the biggest influence for Euphronia being none other than Hyacinth Bucket (or Bouquet) from the British TV series Keeping Up Appearances, with – dare I say it? – a little bit of my own mother thrown into the mix.
So, my words of wisdom (if I have any) are these: take a bit of this, a little bit of that, and mix it all together. But remember: it should be shaken, not stirred.
Lotta Heikkinen’s theatrical ambition is to one day play a dramatic role: maybe then people will finally take her seriously.
This is the sixth and final entry in a series of blog posts entitled “My Approach to Acting”. In the series, members of Thespians Anonymous write about their individual approaches to acting and creating characters.