ON ACTING: The Undiscovered Self
It is not a process of replicating old human definition, but rather an attempt at new human exploration.
How much do we really know about human nature, ours and/or others?
Ask any 17yr. old, and they will say they know 70% of human nature. Ask a 30 yr. old; they say 50%...a 50 yr. old says 20%. I'm in my seventies; I'm about down to 3%. My life time has been one long surprise after another when it comes to how I respond under pressure: which is the truest definition of my character: how I feel and deal under duress.
When I was young I THOUGHT (more alarmingly, was CERTAIN) I would do such-and-such when pressured, but most of the time--dare I say 97% of the time--I was pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised.
That greatest joy and success in acting comes from this: a safe place to continue emotionally to test oneself under pressure (due to the conflict of a scene and the intimacy of character relationships); and, when subjected to such pressure, discover (and reveal before an audience) the full and subtle complexity of one's own particular human nature...and therby, through the process of identification, the audience's.
Good actors eagerly embrace the exploratory nature of acting. They look foward to traveling new rivers of their experience, leaving the map-making of their exploratory journey to those (the audience) who follow.
Bad actors on the other hand avoid new places, choosing in performance to go up well-mapped and crowded old rivers (of themselves and others). They are tired, safe tourists, not new and brave explorers. They perform only what is known. They carefully present (and control) prior experience. The best of these bad actors are limited in performance choices to cliches...because, after all, what is a cliche but a truth so well known that people are bored by hearing and seeing it over and over.
If one seeks a career based only capitalizing on the already discovered, I suggest that person go into engineering, or some other applied science. But if they want a career of expanding new personal boundries, a one way ticket on a space ship into the undiscoved self, the interior universe--by the way, populated by as many cells as there are stars in the universe--try your hand at courageous acting; seek in performance new emotional discoveries about yourself (and others). I can almost guarantee will never be the same; and your success will be greater.