Thursday, February 3, 2011

Congratulations, you’re the proud parents of a Character.

by carol

Let’s take a look at the birth of the new Steve McGarrett from CBS’ successful primetime program Hawaii Five-0. 

Most of us met Steve McGarrett for the first time in the show’s pilot. We were introduced to a man surrounded by violence who was engaged in a military action against terrorism. His father was murdered. McGarrett returned to his home in Hawaii and became the leader of an elite crime-fighting team. They pursued the man who killed his father. There was a showdown.

The show’s focus is on the physical actions and reactions of Steve McGarrett and the people around him. The writers skillfully created a fully functioning character and put him in a story that is the outcome of events that occur before the audience ever meets the main character. 

Viewers can see that McGarrett is smart, tough, resourceful and determined. But we do not know how or why he became the person he is. The writers will continue to control the behavior and actions of Steve McGarrett but it will be the actor Alex O’Loughlin who creates the mind and heart of this character.
"Writers create opportunities for actors, we supply the bones or frame of the character and it is up to the actor to create the flesh, blood, skin, hair, eyes and teeth and to breathe life into the character and make him unique. That's why we cast actors who can create their character based upon their understanding of the story."  - Mark Kasdan, co-writer of Silverado, Criminal Law
“I just did my character work based on the script that these guys wrote.  I mean, it’s my job — my job is character.  That’s the only thing that I have any kind of control over.  It’s the only thing I have any input into, really, I mean, at the end of the day. That’s what I’ve been trained in and that’s what I really enjoy doing.  So I guess I came to this and did the character work that I always do. And I found a lot of layers to this guy.  He’s a really interesting case study for me as an actor and as a sort of researcher of human movement.  But…the only reason I can continue bringing colors and levels to this (man) is because of the writing that’s delivered to me on a week-to-week basis.” - Alex O’Loughlin
The backstory initiates the creative process of the actor. The actor constructs a complete biography of the character, often with a psychological profile. The back story is the life history which establishes motivation and reasoning for the character’s actions, a cause and effect that explains the who and why of Steve McGarrett. By developing a rich, complex past for McGarrett, Alex can understand the reason for the particular point of view and attitude the character has and portray him as the individual McGarrett is.
“It’s not about your emotions, it’s about the emotions of these characters, and so you are simply the device with which you deliver this character’s reality, or you bring life to this character and you become the mouthpiece for this character.”  - Alex O’Loughlin
Screenplay writers and the actors chosen to portray their stories may never meet. Yet it is their collaboration that will ultimately give birth to an interesting character with an interesting story.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article Carol, thanks. It's really intriguing how actors approach this aspect of the job. Once upon a time, actors just 'acted' but now they inhabit a character and it's such a creative process that begins well before the cameras roll. Acting is far more subtle these days I find compared with film and TV from days gone by.