Here is a quick lesson in how you get into character when acting. Knowing your lines is a good place to start. In order to get into character you must first know your character. (The quicker you know your lines, the more time you have to act your character in rehearsals. You cannot learn your lines too soon.) Through script analysis you can pick up on all the context clues that the playwright offers. The more complete picture you have of your character the easier it is to portray them accurately. You are not your character, and your character is not you. Your actions should be believable for the character, and you must know why they do the things they do. Afterall, if you don’t believe in every action, why would an audience? You should know your character so well, so WHEN something goes amiss, as often in live theater it does, (someone drops a line, or misses an entrance, a missing prop) you can confidently carry on and remain within character and not act out in contrary to your character. I was recently in a show where a main character said a line a scene too early on opening night. After other members of the cast had managed to get the dialogue back to the proper scene he just repeated the line he had missed , in a jokingly tongue-in-cheek manner, (because he knew he had screwed up but was also making it obvious to the audience,) which made the line sound like a euphanism. The impression given then was that his character was sleeping around which is completely contrary to the character. Perhaps if the actor had spent more than two weeks at rehearsals and given time for his character to develop, he would not have broken character opening night.
Your character is a different person than yourself. Their walk will differ from your own. Their vocal patterns will differ from your own. Start with finding how you differ from your character and using Stanivslovski’s “magical if”, think of circumstances or reasons that would make you think more like your character – to overcome those differences. Empathy for character is a must, but never sympathy. You cannot accurately portray someone if you are judging them – that’s called mockery.
I always pick a physical tendency that would suit my character to bring me to their head space. One that is unlike any of my own idiosyncrasies (clasping my hands behind my back, an eyebrow raise, cocking my head to one side.) Familiarize yourself with Stanislovski’s method acting techniques and use of emotional memory. I highly recommend the book, “The First Six Lessons” by Richard Boleslavsky as an introduction.
Before every read through, rehearsal, and performance take the necessary time to not only warm up your body and voice – but to get into the head space to recollect all you know of your character. It is a creative process, and cannot be falsified the last week of rehearsals. Time is my emphasis here, it takes the necessary time and discipline to both properly develop and get into character.