If you’ve watched a lot of interviews with actors and directors, then you already know that acting is much more complex than it might seem to the average civilian.
The context of each performance only serves to complicate things even further.
Yes, it’s fairly obvious that live theatre and film acting require different approaches, but even more interesting are the similarities between theatre and film when it comes to how actors prepare and ultimately perform.
Since none of us here on the LNGFRM staff are actors ourselves (except for Jerry, who we all know wasn’t really sick that one time he called out to get a 4-day weekend), we got in touch with Jeannine Friedrich, a professional actor and all-around expert-level performing artist who has become a big name throughout Europe and her native Switzerland by turning in killer performances both on stage and on screen.
Friedrich has worked with many acclaimed European directors and producers, and she has big plans for future projects.
Friedrich explained her preparation process as well as the importance of chemistry with fellow cast members and much, much more. You’ll find our full interview with Friedrich below.
Is your character prep the same between screen and stage performances?
Friedrich: My character preparation is basically the same for screen and stage, as the difference for me lies more in the execution of the character’s performance than in the preparation of that performance.
Either way, there is a lot of research that goes into a character’s environment, culture, and background, as well as spending an extensive amount of time working with and analyzing the script where there is loads of hidden information about the character.
If the play or musical is an iconic one that people know, there is a certain expectation for the character’s performance so there would be additional research on past performances to really understand the style and the writer’s intention for the piece.
Do you feel that film acting is similar to stage acting in many ways?
Friedrich: I would say the preparation of the work, the content, is similar in terms of personal connection and methods used to perform, but the execution, in terms of facial expressions, gestures, and voice, may differ.
I am much more focused on the script for stage acting, working extensively on the enunciation and diction as well as being word-perfect, whereas with screen acting I am focusing on being subtle and as natural and real-to-life as possible.
Do you feel that both stage and screen acting have their own benefits and challenges?
Friedrich: Yes, absolutely. Simply speaking, stage performances are a one-time execution from beginning to end. Stage acting is a live performance whereas with screen acting there can be several takes per scene.
So the benefits and challenges are, in a way, the same thing. Having to perform something live is an amazing experience but also very challenging as you basically need to be over-prepared and flexible with the material, able to act on the spot if anything goes wrong.
It can also be challenging when you are performing an iconic character as the audience has high expectations since they are very familiar with it. You cannot allow yourself to make mistakes with the script or your blocking.
With screen acting and the possibility to have more takes per scene, you can really immerse and relax yourself into the character, but it is also challenging as every little move, sound, and pore is captured. You’ll notice immediately if there is truthfulness lacking in the performance. You also need to be very flexible with lines as a lot of times there are last-minute changes made.
What is your process for memorizing lines and feeling comfortable with a script?
Friedrich: There are many different techniques I use depending on how much time I have and the size of the script.
If I have enough time and the script is long, I usually reread the script and the specific parts over and over again and do all the character work first. Normally, the lines are memorized that way almost automatically.
Other techniques I use are reading the text out loud with no inflection, writing the text down several times, using images and ideas to remember what comes next, recording and listening back or recording the other characters’ lines with breaks or memorizing backward, starting with one line, reading and repeating it off book until it is fully memorized and then gradually adding another line and so forth. All in all, repetition is key.
Eventually, when I am able to say all the lines at high speed without a break, I know I am fully prepared.
Is there always a sense of camaraderie between fellow actors on a project?
Friedrich: I have been lucky enough to be part of projects and companies such as The Galli Theater and The Fundamental Theater Project where this has been the case.
But it doesn’t always work that way. It really comes down to professionalism. Usually though, with projects that have been extensively cast, this chemistry is a major criterion for choosing an actor, especially for bigger roles.
When you first started performing on-camera, what surprised you most about the process?
Friedrich: I guess for me, rather than being surprised, I was amazed about the importance of the technicality. There are so many other factors like light, sound, cameras, and lenses that make for just one good take that in the end, it’s not just you and your acting. Also, so much of the storytelling happens in post-production. There are so many takes and scenes that you will never get to see on screen.
Above all else, what gets you excited to take on a new role?
Friedrich: It’s the connection to the story and the character. Something that just really resonates with me and makes me want to be a part of it.
It is always exciting to get to know something new. It feels like when you pack your suitcase to go on vacation. You know the destination and where you are going and you are preparing yourself for it, but you don’t know what the journey will be or the things that you will experience. I love that anticipation of a new story, the new lessons and new challenges it will offer.