I have been working on reaching that “raw” character state for some time now, while working on a monologue (Suburbia (Eric Bogosian) by Jeff). I read the whole monologue a few times to get an idea of what’s going on. Then I started to work on creating the character bio. I got some details down, but it wasn’t enough.
I then started to obsess over why I say
“It used to scare me that I didn’t know what was coming in my life.”
I mean really obsess over it like my life depended on it. I was obsessed over what events led up to this particular moment where I say it. I started to reverse engineer it, so to speak. I started writing, and connecting events (ideas) started to come to life. I wrote enough to get me an idea of the primary state of being, which was “I want to be loved by my mom”. Note: This does not have to be what is in the movie or the book, but it is my rendition of it. Here is the first draft of it : Suburbia – First Line.
As soon as I understood why it scared me, I said the line out loud, and it was raw. My voice was cracking, I didn’t want to say it but I had to (which is something else I have to work, why I have to say it; and incidentally it is also the answer to the question “What just happened”). I started to say all sorts of things afterwards, and coincidentally some of the things I said were in the monologue. The strongest feel was when I uttered something on the lines of “I don’t want to be doing or not doing something, I just want what happens to happen”.
This got me to realize that the idea that I have to create a “character bio” is silly. Looking from outside, it does feel like I am creating a bio for a character, but as the actor all I have to focus is on “line bio”; why do I say this sentence, and why those particular words and why in that order and such. Really obsess over everything in that line. Whatever chain of events that you can connect, keep going until you reach that primary motivator, and realize that the consequences will swing you towards a positive or negative primary state of being.
The mindset shift is that it is not about the character. It is about the line, why I say what I say and why do I want to say it, the series of events that led me to this point in my life. It has to be about “my bio” and not “character bio”. You can call it whatever you like to someone else, but in your mind it has to be “My bio, my story”.
Pick up a line, whether from a news video/article, or random story, or uttered by someone, or that line from the script that is still bugging you. Then write and write and write and write about the series of events that led to that event, until you understand your primary state of being and your motivation for saying that line.