In class the other day, we talked about status and how an actor can adjust status to change the nature of their character. When you adjust status, your thoughts, behaviors and very essence change with it.
When status is easy to understand, it’s easier to change. So let’s take a look at status in two parts.
The first part of status is how you feel about yourself in the world. Are you doing better than others? Are you worse off? You arrive at status through comparison. In other words, “Are you less than or greater than those you compare yourself to?”
We all have thoughts about people (friends, family, romance), places (home, work, where you go when you play) and things (stuff, money, politics). And as we consistently think these thoughts, we form our status in the world. Just imagine, you arrive at status when you think things like, “I don’t have close friends like other people do” or “I have so much more money than most people” or “I hate being single and at this point I’m too old to find someone great.” These are the kinds of thoughts you use to position yourself in the world.
One way to think about it is to ask yourself, “Is this where I should be? Are others doing better than me?” We all know that in “real life,” this behavior can be painful and even detrimental to your well-being. (I don’t recommend it.) And yet, most of us do it. It’s a human behavior that we can relate to and understand.
The second part of status is how you feel about yourself when you’re with this person. When I say “this person,” I’m referring to the other person or persons in the scene with you. A high status person can feel low status around certain people. A low status person can feel high status around certain people. For example, a person can think, “I’m such a screwup. I suck.” But then feel superior to the other people they’re with. When used thoughtfully, the tool of changing status can be nuanced and as complex as the actor wants.
Actors think a lot about “being right for the part.” It’s not always enough to empathize with your character. You may need tools to help you with a transformation. Status is one way to make acting adjustments that will further align you with the character and ultimately, the story.