Everyone has his/her own approach on how to tackle a role. Truth be told, there is no method that is better than the other. What matters most is what works best for you. I have tried a few different methods in my career. Some work better than others, depending on the role. There are times where a role is very similar to who I am personally, so I just go off my pure instincts according to the circumstances of the scene. In this case, it’s purely acting 101: listen and react.
The roles I truly enjoy the most are the ones where I am someone completely different. In order to have a full understanding of the character, I have to do a lot of research. For me, this involves more than the usual script breakdown. I want to dig deep into the character’s mindset. What I do for this is research similar characters. This could be a real life person that I may know, or a fictional character. Regardless, I do everything I can to study that person and borrow some things that I feel can help enhance the character.
I’ve had the honor of playing some really complex characters before. I’ve played sociopaths, killers, and repressed homosexuals just to name a few. With roles like these there are times where I take the character with me off camera. I want to see how these characters can interact in the real world (without killing anyone of course). It allows me to play the part as truthfully as possible. At the same time, I find things within myself that I never knew I had before. It’s actually pretty cool. The drawback with those types of roles, however, is that I need some time before I hop into something else so I can go back to being myself. That is why I choose not to do those roles as much, but certainly will for the right part.
As a performer, I highly suggest to try different things. These are just a couple of approaches that I’ve taken, but that doesn’t mean I’m closed off to anything else. If someone has his/her own technique or method, I always listen and give it a try. If it works, great! If not, then I’ll either move on or find a way to tweak it for my own liking. The point is don’t get stuck. Continue to learn and evolve. That’s how you eventually become great.