Emotional scenes are not the simplest for an actor to bring out. These scenes often require extra effort on the part of the actor to capture the emotion very well. So, how can you act out emotions accurately to connect to your audience? If you always wonder how actors manage to cry on cue or get beetroot-red with anger, then we have got you! Whatever the emotion is whether rage, joy, love, sadness or fear, the process is mostly the same. Once you have become a master in one, you can use the tips for other emotions.

Acting deals with very delicate emotions. It is not putting up a mask. Each time an actor acts he does not hide; he exposes himself.

Jeanne Moreau

In this article, we have covered some tips on how an actor can successfully portray emotions in an acting scene. Right now, you are wondering How To Act Emotions – and by the end of reading this article I would like to think you will be using these tips to feel confident enough to Act out an emotional scene. Let us get to it, shall we?

  1. Familiarize yourself with the context.
    You cannot bring out emotions properly without knowing what is happening in the scene. You should consider the context of the scene before acting out any emotion. Doing so will help you understand the characters motivation and the events leading to the feeling. How do you do this? Start by familiarizing yourself with the whole scene. There is no compromise to this as you cannot understand emotions by merely reading your lines only. You can even read the entire script to find out the events leading to the scene you are playing.

    Once you have read, consider the character you are playing. Peer into their past, present and future to understand the reason behind the emotional buildup. If a character is leaping with joy, crying or yelling, there must have been events leading to the accumulation. Understanding them will help you bring out the emotions effectively. Also, understand how a character relates to others and how the relations contribute to the emotion. The key to portraying emotion is working together with other actors in the scene to bring out something believable to the audience.
  2. Identify the exclamation points in the scene.
    Reading the scene or even the whole script is the only ticket to getting the emotions of the scene right. The exclamation points in the scene usually signify the actor needs to put a little more force on the lines there. However, most actors will struggle to identify the right emotion according to the exclamation. It can be challenging to handle the exclamation if you have mot read the scene. What are we talking about?

    An exclamation point like “excuse me!” can have very different meanings depending on the context used. For instance, it can be a polite cue to be excused, or it can be an angry or disgusted remark if the character is upset. A variety of reasons can stem an exclamation. The only way to identify whether the exclamation is showing anger, fear or excitement is by reading the scene. Identifying the exclamation points helps in acting emotions correctly. Any misunderstanding on the exclamations can result in a disaster, or you may fail to do the feeling the justice it deserves.
  3. Consider the characters internal struggle.
    The first things to remember when trying to figure out how to act emotions is that the audience is tired of all the fake drama. It’s not just about the situation; it is about the character! It’s the character’s reaction to the scenario at hand that makes the scene more interesting. So, before acting any emotion, consider the characters emotional baggage and how they are invested at the moment or given scenario. Why is the character overwhelmed with joy or grief? What’s going on at the back of their mind?

    Try imagining how the character is feeling and put it down in a diary. Take account of the present and past to account for the emotions without misjudgement. Imagining the characters feeling will help you in acting them out.
  4. Focus on your character’s needs at that time.
    After reading through the whole scene, combing through your lines and connecting with the character, try to figure out what the character needs at that point. It’s not about the significance of that scene in the script, but what needs to happen at that moment. For instance, your character may be sad or mad in the scene. Focus on what the character wants out of the relationship with the other character. You may know how it ends, but the significance should be in the moment’s needs.

    For you to know your character’s needs, you first need to learn them and imagine what they are going through. You will be finding out how your character wants a particular scene to play out so you can be able to channel the emotions appropriately.
  5. Practice being the character.
    You have read the script and understood your lines, what next? Once you have imagined what your character is feeling and connected with them deeply, it never hurts to practice being the character. Make yourself believe that you are the character before going on stage. You can do so by acting in front of the mirror. Try to bring out their feelings, fears and whatever emotions are in the scene. Charge yourself to feel the emotions.

    Bring the whole scene to life by immersing yourself, body and feelings into the story. Recite the lines in character and practice the body movements, posture, and tone until they register in your mind naturally. You can even go a step further and have a friend or colleague access you as you realistically.
  6. Don’t forget the physical action.
    As an actor, it’s so easy to get consumed with how to act emotions that you forget about the physical action. Do you know why they say actions speak louder than words? It’s not just about acting the feelings. It’s about you as a whole package.

    Physical activity is essential in acting out emotions. An actor may, for instance, keep tapping their finger on the desk or pacing back and forth. These actions show how nervous the character may be. They may also cup their face when talking to show anger. Words alone may not portray enough emotions without actions.

    It is vital as an actor to remember that the characters actions speak volumes and capture more emotions than the words on their own. Ensure you read the stage directions and incorporate them into your actions accordingly. Also, it is critical to pay attention to your body. Your posture and facial expressions should convey the emotion appropriately. If there are no stage directions, the emotions throughout the scenes and your imagination of what the character is feeling should guide you on the physical action to incorporate.

    While physicality is vital in bringing out emotions, it is crucial to concentrate on the scene only. It’s easy to get carried away by the distraction around. Close your mind to the audience, camera people, or the crew. Your mind and body should all be committed fully to the character and scene at hand.
  7. Be in the moment.
    A famous actor once said that there is nothing as hard as trying to sustain or control emotion. The simplest way is to just be in the moment. Lose yourself in the moment because emotion is very fluid. It’s however, essential to know to what extent you can lose yourself.

    Being in the moment means that you should let the emotions of the scene guide your actions. Let the emotion of the scene resonate through you. It’s like you are a vessel for the character in the scene to come alive. Try to experience what you imagined your character must be feeling. That’s why it’s essential to let yourself imagine and feel what the character is feeling as you read through the scenes. You should ensure you have taken a moment to meet and know your character before going on stage or camera.

    As we mentioned, it can be incredibly challenging g to control your emotions. Once you have familiarized with the character and allowed yourself to experience the feelings in the scene, you may find yourself feeling upset or overjoyed according to emotions of the character. Run with it! Follow your actor’s gut and instinct. It’s a great technique in acting emotions.
  8. Centre yourself to one fundamental emotion in a scene.
    A mistake most actors make is confusing the audience by throwing in a whole lot of different emotions in a single scene. It’s crucial to stick to one feeling when acting out an emotional scene. If your character is happy, bring out happiness. If the character is mad, let them remain so. Changing a character’s emotional reactions too much during one scene can be confusing, and the character may lose connection with the emotional scene. Try sticking to one emotion in the entirety of one scene. You can vary your tone and mood but not the feelings.
  9. A little humour never hurt anyone.
    There is a special place for actors who can incorporate a little humour in everything. It doesn’t matter how sad or emotional the scene is. Humour is always a great way to lighten the moment. You can appeal to the audience by adding some humour even in dark moments. People surprisingly take dark humour so well. Ensure that the energy is focused on the right moment. Your audience will appreciate some laughter amidst the tears and anger emotions in the scene. Don’t hesitate in throwing in some funny lines if the script allows.
  10. Try playing polar opposites.
    You do not always have to play apparent emotions. Try shaking up things a bit to connect to the audience. Obvious is boring! What do I mean? The audience is expecting you to yell, scream or break something in an angry scene. However, have you ever heard of stone-cold anger? Surprise them by conveying the emotion of anger with utter silence or few words. You can also mask sadness by appearing cheerful but maintaining the sadness emotion in the scene.

    You also don’t need to portray an evil actor in a bad light. You can bring them out as kind, polite and friendly unlike rudeness and evil laughter as the audience is expecting. It might not always be easy to do this, and what is worse, it may not work all the time. Try rehearsing before going on camera. It’s still a plus to act out emotions in a non-obvious way as it helps the audience connect with you.
  11. Control your voice.
    Your voice can make you or break you when acting emotions. At times your goal, according to the scene, maybe to overact and raise your voice. However, you may find yourself shouting, screaming, or just deafening the audience. In such a case, you will have portrayed the wrong emotion. You, therefore, need to be aware of your voice and how to use it accordingly to convey the right feeling.

    Learning the mastery of controlling your voice can help with how to act emotions. Even if you are acting an angry scene, it is still essential to avoid screaming. Keep your voice audible, but even or it will come out as forced or just an act. That way, you will miss the chance to emotionally appeal to the audience.

    One way to learn to control your voice is by paying attention to your physical actions. Your posture and body movements may affect how the voice comes out. For instance, if you find your voice breaking in the middle of the line, you will unconsciously raise your voice, right? It may also help if you do something that works for you in your day-to-day life. There are also beneficial voice classes that may help with learning how to control your voice.
  12. Learn how to cry on cue.
    A lot of emotional scenes you are going to encounter in your acting career require you to cry. However, how do you just shed tears on cue in front of the audience without any catalyst? It’s never easy to master the art of crying with no reason here are some tips that can come in handy!

    ·  Start the motions of crying to trigger the tears
    What do you do right before crying? Physical actions associated with crying such as sniffling, rubbing your eyes, breathing heavily and sobbing softly may trigger the tears. I like to think of it like chewing gum. It’s not food, but your gut is instantaneously triggered to secrete digestive juices. Engaging these actions may push your body to produce tears in response.

    ·  Reverse psychology
    Do you remember the times you were really triggered to cry, but your ego was too big? Yes, those times you said that you wouldn’t let them see your tears coz they don’t deserve it! Do you remember what happened? The tears came flowing like a river. That is what we call reverse psychology. It can help in triggering the tears. So, if after everything you can’t get yourself to cry on stage, try reverse psychology.

    ·  Use the stage lights to your advantage
    If all the tips above don’t work, try staring straight into the stage lights. The bright lights will irritate your eyes and your eyes will water to protect themselves. If you really cannot get yourself to cry on cue, stage lights may just come in handy!

It’s essential to be able to apply some classical conditioning to your lines. Practice makes perfect. When you say an emotional line that requires you to cry, the tears should automatically come. You should be able to call up all the emotions and tears needed for the line. You can go over it over and over until you are entirely conditioned to the emotional response required by the act or scene.

Actors Takeaway:
how to act emotions

Acting emotions is never easy for actors even after years of experience. However, with the tips we have discussed, it’s just a matter of mastering the skill and running with to. If you find it difficult to show emotions in real life, it may as well be challenging to do so in acting. The tips above will, however, help you navigate the challenge. So, what else is holding you back?