When actors are booked for a romantic scene, they often come to me with a common problem – they feel blocked when it comes to feeling authentic love for their scene partner.
They’ve prepared for weeks, and are completely ready to defend their character tooth and nail. The problem is they end up hating their scene partner and everything that they’ve prepared goes down the drain.
This is one of the many reasons why actors feel blocked when it comes to love. Love scenes can be challenging for actors because they might find their scene partner unattractive, annoying, mean, awkward, the list goes on.
When it comes to steamy scenes, I often hear actors say it’s difficult for them to be authentic in such awkward circumstances, especially when they are not attracted to the other actor or actress.
Here’s the bottom line: if you want to play from a truthful place in order to impact your audience, you definitely need to fall in love with your scene partner.
The best part is that you can make this shift happen authentically. There is no need to fake it. So here are four practical things you can do:
- Choose one aspect that you can relate to. Even if you hate everything you see before you, find one tiny thing to connect with, be it a freckle, a dimple, a finger, it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, even if it’s one centimeter, one cell, this is what you’ll be speaking to during your scene. You’re projecting your emotions at that freckle. It’s a quick way to show up authentically when you don’t have time to create a love story.
- Research your partner. When you’re booked for a part with a love scene or story, plan ahead in case you don’t have time to rehearse with your scene partner during filming. Do a little research on them. Look at their IMDb page, Instagram, Facebook, watch their reel, give yourself time to find at least one thing about them that you can relate to and fall in love with. Meeting in person is ideal, so ask production for their contact so you can meet in person.
- Crystalize the Origin of your Relationship. Imagine. Where did you meet? When did you meet? What was that experience like? How was your first kiss? The first time you had sex? Your wedding? And make those memories 100 out of 10; you’re telling a BIG LOVE story here, not a passing fling. Make it as magical and as loving as possible. And use your scene partner when you’re creating the story – don’t use substitutions – because as an actor it’s your job to defend your character’s life and not your own. I never recommend using substitutions because falling in love authentically is far less work, and substitutions can end up taking you away from the moment. If you want to feel authentic and in-the-moment love for your scene partner, let your imagination fly with their image.
- Get Physical. If you and your scene partner butt heads, here’s a strategy to help you still show up and get your work done at a higher level. Find a space where you two can be together and improvise the scene with pillows between you two. This way you can really get into each other’s physicality but with a barrier at first, so you can build comfort touching each other and hitting one another without damage. It may seem silly at first, but you’re creating a world with that other person, as a couple, that you can live in when you’re shooting.
Even for romantic relationships with a degree of conflict, there’s a certain intimacy and physical closeness, so this exercise is perfect (even if you like each other) to establish some of that physical comfort and chemistry that’s present in partnerships.
Ultimately, when you are on set, you are responsible for your work regardless of whether you like your scene partner or not. You now have the ball in your court to take action no matter how you feel about your scene partner, move past the discomfort and dislike, and create an authentic, intimate love scene that wows the audience (and maybe the Casting Director too).
Jo Kelly is an acting coach that has spent more than 20 years coaching award-winning actors, including Owen Wilson, Brittany Daniel, Karen Strassman, Carlos Leal.
Check out Jo’s free training on how to stop trying to be a good actor – so you have a chance at being great.