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What is authenticity in acting?

‘This is me standing in my truth, in my authentic self’ – Risa Bramon Garcia

Authenticity is a key concept in the performance industry. Any level of artifice is met with suspicion and the implication that something is being hidden. 

So what do you do when your job is pretending to be other people? 

It has been said that actors are not trying to lie; they are trying to tell the truth in imaginary circumstances. The same can be said for actors in an audition. To be openly authentic can be the most terrifying and vulnerable position for a human being to be in, but it is one that allows the deepest connections to form. 

Authentic is defined as: ‘of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine’. In general we believe people to be authentic if they are consistent and confident in their actions and beliefs. In order to achieve this a person has to be introspective; they need to know what they are remaining true to

The key elements of authenticity:

  • A person has a high level of introspection; they are regularly questioning who they are and what they believe. This is a never-ending journey of self discovery which is being constantly informed by the changing circumstances of the individual. 
  • A person believes in themselves wholeheartedly. They have a high level of self confidence and self worth – they do not doubt themselves. Authentic people trust themselves, have made peace with who they are and therefore not afraid to be themselves without artifice. 
  • A person is consistent in their words and actions. An authentic person follows through on their commitments and bases their actions on their aforementioned beliefs and ideals.  Inconsistency can imply insincerity. 

Acting is a people based profession; we work in close proximity with others, often for extended periods of time. As such, you are more likely to be hired if you are easy and positive to work with. We are always looking to make meaningful connections with others and this is easiest with authentic people. There is a lack of guile, which lends itself well to building strong and lasting relationships. It’s a lot easier to trust someone who keeps their word, is honest about who they are, and does not need constant reassurance of their own value. Producers need to believe that a production is in safe hands and any level of artifice can breed mistrust. They are unlikely to hire an actor who does not appear confident in their abilities or if they are inconsistent in their commitments. 

Being authentic is also important to an actor’s mental health and wellbeing. Constant rejection can be a very damaging force on an actor’s psyche, but people who trust in themselves and their abilities don’t see rejection as an inherent judgment of who they are as people, but as an inevitable part of a competitive industry. Remaining authentic allows us to validate ourselves, rather than requiring external validation. This validation gives you a greater sense of security and purpose. 

The ability to be reflective and introspective helps an actor both in their personal life and in their ability to create and sustain a character. The more you understand about yourself, the more you are able to understand about a character’s similarities and differences. Understanding human psychology allows us to understand the motivation behind a character’s actions, as well as the possible impacts and effects on their behaviour. By understanding yourself, you can better understand your roles – it is flexing the same muscles.

Your viewpoint is always unique – the more you attempt to be someone else, the less interesting you become as an individual.  When performing a role you will bring this unique perspective and create something no other actor can. 

How to cultivate your own authenticity: 

  • Read books or listen to podcasts on self-development and psychology, not just acting.  It will help authenticity, and understanding people.
  • Have experiences outside of acting; travel, experience different cultures, discover hobbies – as it helps build a rounded, authentic self and gives you experience to draw upon and creates a better sense of empathy
  • Write a list of the most authentic people you know, or actors you have worked with – what makes you describe them as authentic?