Building Your Emotional Palette – 4 Questions Every Actor Must Ask


     Watching a painter create can be enchanting. Their jars of brushes, a palette alive with infinite color and the artist a pathway from paint to canvas bringing their vision to life. As actors our artistry is found in bringing our roles to life. Taking them from the page then birthing them into existence through our emotional and physical being.

  1. How many wells of emotion do I know?

We must prepare by starting with what we know about ourselves and our own experiences. What emotional wells are most familiar to you? Joy, ennui, grief, excitement, ecstasy, etc. Some wells we know much better than others. Some we have only witnessed and have yet to experience ourselves. Some we can only imagine. Make a list of all the emotions you have experienced, witnessed and imagined. This is the first step in preparing your emotional palette.

  1. What are my emotional triggers?

     Actors must connect authentically with emotion. To guide us we must identify our emotional triggers.This work can be difficult though is essential. To recall specific places, people, smells, sounds, colors, voices, tastes, etc., and connect them with acute emotion.  Begin identifying and listing these triggers for each emotion you have listed.

  1. What happens to my physicality that is emotionally specific?

Our physical body is a perfect vessel for revealing emotion. Do you pull on your bottom lip when you are thinking? Do your shoulders slump when you hear bad news? Do you clap your hands together when you get excited? Can you not make eye contact when you are nervous? One of your jobs as an actor is to find and know these actions, not only specific to yourself, but in the study of people all around you. Start listing actions that are indicative of specific emotions.

  1. How do I build and deepen my emotional palette?

     To do this you must become a dedicated student to what it means to be human. We are complex. Our individual experiences and consciousness result in emotions being triggered, revealed and shared in an infinite number of possibilities. The world around you is your classroom.

    Pay attention.

    Know yourself.

    Study others.

    Relentlessly delve and learn.

    Practice, practice, practice.

    Trust, trust, trust.



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