ON ACTING: On Preparation
If he expects (or the director asks him) to cry (more precisely, to be made to cry) at a particular point in the scene in the scene, he activates in himself, before the scene, in rehearsal, his deep personal potential for sadness, so that when--during the performance--other characters in his play or film say the cruel dialogue or do the cruel actions things to him written in the script, he will honestly and excitingly be made sad...and cry.
This process of pre-performance character emotional activation is often called emotional preparation. It can be seen as the pre-performance unbalancing of the actor's own emotional nature consistent with the feelings anticipated in the actor's interpretation of the script; a form of targeted and self-inflicted emotional torture, as one of my students so labelled the process.
One of the most celebrated forms of the self-torture, or emotional preparation for a scene, is recalling the past events in one's own everyday life, the past events which have made one feel in our prior everyday real life the anticipated scripted emotion(s)/requirement(s) of interpreted character.
In this process, or technique, or actor-exercise of emotional preparation, the actor seeks to chip away at the scars of his won past experience, thereby tenderizing the wounds of that own past experience, making old, healed over (or in another image, buried) emotional residue of the past highly sensitive again, barely contained by a new immediate healing, seeking in himself by this present preparation a present heightened potential for pain (and pleasure) that mirrors his interpreted emotional identification with the soon-to-be-performed character.
A warning on the label of this process, however: while the actor seeks to bring his own emotional nature applicable to character closer to the surface of his actual 'being,' the actor-as-character seeks to keep it in check during the reality of the scene. It is only because the conflictual events of the scene keep bumping into the now barely healed wounds of these past experiences that the emotion tumbles out in the dialogue and other actions of the character-in-performance, revealing the deep emotional nature of the actor-who-is-now-character.