On Recognizing the Actor vs. Expecting the Character

A voice actor recently shared an experience she had on Twitter where a fan attacked her for behavior actually committed by a character she played. While most of the commenters sympathized with her, it is sadly not an uncommon to find fans who cannot separate the actor from the character.

Who knows what leads to this inability to separate reality from fiction, but it does make you wonder how these fans reconcile actors who play a variety of characters who may not have a whole lot in common. For example, I had a recording session recently where I was (over the course of an hour or so):

  • two different little girls
  • two different adult men (Wow, does that sound creepy after the previous line!)
  • an older woman and her elderly husband
  • a sawhorse
  • a couple of creatures made of rock
  • a village of paper dolls
  • a brigade of spoons (and various kitchen utensils)

And let me tell you – Trying to type up this blog post with no fingers (or any appendages to speak of) while the light glints off my silver surface to reflect on the computer screen is quite trying. But honestly, there just weren’t any qualified spoons lining up to fill these parts.

Even more impressively, throughout a childhood (into college) engaged in ballet, I was a rat, a bat, a flower, a variety of candy, dolls of various nationalities, and a wraith. In fact, in the same show I was a wraith, I was also a page and a soulless churchgoer, so… The worst part of that was quickly having to shift between having no body and having no soul. Or was it giving up my body to begin with…? I wonder if I remembered to get my soul back after that show…

You may be rolling your eyes right now, but I hope I’m making my point.

Often, part of why people become actors or dancers to begin with is to get the opportunity to be people we would never be in our daily life. Yes, sometimes we get to play characters similar to us, but more often than not, we don’t and we look forward to the chance to explore. I’m no more a rock creature than I am a society woman who would carry on with a married man. But I’ve played both, just days apart.

And you can’t even say, “Well, actors and dancers have some choice in what they audition for, so they can stack their deck.” Because while that’s sometimes true, we can’t control what happens after the audition. Many actors and dancers, myself included, can tell you about auditioning for one character, and then being cast as a completely different character that we would never in a million years have tried. We’re really just doing our job and having as much fun as we can in the process. And then we go home. We’re not our characters.

But someday…if I continue to work hard, I might just figure out how to become a convincing potato masher. (That’s the transformation I’m really looking forward to!)

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