Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more


Information about understanding and using emotions within acting
What am I feeling? So, let’s talk a little bit about emotion. First of all, I would advise you not to think very much about emotion at all. In the beginning I said that we almost always make the mistake of looking at a script– –and right away start imagining different emotional states– –we think that we need to get into. And this will only make us self-conscious and introspective and tense. Remember that it’s called acting and not emoting. What we should be looking for are things to do rather than to feel. But you might also have noticed that in the last two videos about objective and relationship– –I’ve started to talk about how you feel about something.
Or how you feel as a result of something happening. And this is how you can think about emotion in your acting. How you feel about something. Or how something makes you feel. In the words of Meisner, emotion is a byproduct of doing. This goes back to the example of the football player trying to score a goal. Depending on what happens moment to moment in trying to accomplish this– –they and the audience may feel many things. And may feel them very deeply. But that ultimately is not the main focus. It’s a result of something else. How we feel about something can also be a good indicator of– if we understand our choices or not, if we understand a scene or not.
Our emotional responses to the work we do using our imagination– –can do a lot to guide us in our preparations. But once we start acting we should leave it alone and see what happens in the moment. The goal is by no means to be emotionally empty. It’s just not where our focus should be.
So, is this the whole truth? No. Everything in acting is a paradox. It’s this way, but sometimes it’s that way. There will be times when a scene calls for you to have a certain emotion showing. But usually this is less of a problem than we think. And either way, it’s mostly not helpful to focus on the emotion you’re supposed to feel– –but rather on creating the imaginary circumstances that might make you feel that way.
In this video, Johan talks about feelings and emotion in acting.

Thinking too much about different emotional states, and how to project them, will usually only serve to make us self-conscious and tense. Instead, we want to focus on what we’re doing and then let any emotions come as a byproduct of that.

Our emotions can also be helpful in guiding our preparations. We can think about how we feel about something or how something makes us feel.

Once we have done our preparations and fully commit to the circumstances and our scene partner, feeling things is usually less of a problem than we might think.

This article is from the free online

Introduction to Acting

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now