Interviews on the Relationship Between the Actor and the Character
More than 30 hours of interviews were conducted in six different cities in the US and UK. The demographics of the interviewees can be found in the Demographics chart, right. The genders of the interviewees broke down as 18 women and 13 men. Interviewees were initially self-selected by providing an e-mail address at the end of the questionnaire where they could agree to be interviewed. Once I had this information, I contacted them to find out where they were located and if they were still interested in participating. It was at this point that the respondents gave up their anonymity. Therefore, in this section, the interviewees will be referred to by name rather than respondent number.
The sites for interviewing were chosen based on the number of interviewees in each area. There was a sizeable number of actors that agreed to be interviewed in Minneapolis and there were theatre companies that agreed to host the interviews; it became one of the four locations. The same held true of Atlanta and New York City as there were adequate numbers of actors that agreed to be interviewed in both locations. The fourth location chosen was Madison, Wisconsin because of its proximity to Minneapolis for ease of travel and its nearness to the actor population of Chicago. In the UK, a similar methodology was followed with the bulk of interviews taking place in London. In the following, I will introduce each actor quoted by identifying their demographic information.
After asking for a brief introduction the interviewees were asked about their training and to describe their primary task as a performer. Their ideas about the task varied somewhat, but as the comments demonstrate, they all expressed the need to interact with the audience on some level. How they describe this goal is where the variance lies.
Equity actor Tim Gadzinski has a very straightforward view: “to entertain”. While Peggy O’Connell, Equity member, says her task is “to bring the text to life”. Her answer is echoed by UK Equity member Emma Pallant, who says “to bring the text or the person who is represented in the text to life”. Paid, non-union, actor David Coral believes he needs “to be a vehicle first for the director and then the playwright”. Letitia Lange, 3rd year MFA student, wants to “take people out of their seats and bring them into this world that you create, into my world.” Similarly, Steve Hevenstone, paid, non-union, wants to “portray the character as honestly as I can for the audience’s pleasure”. Jacob Mills, paid, non-union, says his task is to “communicate clearly to the audience. Unless I do that, then it doesn’t matter what I’m doing.” This is echoed by Sarah Goldingay, 1st year PhD student, who says her task is to “communicate to the audience”.
Unsurprisingly, each respondent describes their task in very active terms. Barbara Kingsley, paid, union actor, speaks of creating a “marriage with strangers that I possibly will never meet”, Mark Rosenwinkel, paid, union actor, wants to “take the audience on a journey”, and Kate Eifrig, also a paid, union actor, wants “to tell the story”. It is clear from these responses that the interviewees are very much focused on the audience when they perform.
Moving forward though the interview, the next question asked:
Discuss how you relate to your character. Is it a distinct thing/entity, is it you, is it another point of view? How would you describe your relation to the role you are playing?
This question led to some interesting discussions regarding the perceived split between the actor and the character. As the questionnaire has demonstrated, the actors in the overall response population see a definite split between the character and themselves. How this split was described is where the variance appears. This can be examined by viewing some of the interview responses. 2nd year undergraduate acting student Kathryn LeBlanc describes the relationship as “myself adjusted”. Jacob Mills, a mask-based performer takes a similar view: “The characters are all parts of me...it’s like being schizophrenic, I think, in a certain sense, although it’s not as manic-y as that is”. This view is further echoed by paid, non-union actress, Christine Nelson:
Paula Weakly, another paid, non-union actor, also describes using parts of herself, taking it a bit further by using the example of playing Medea:
Steve Hevenstone gives a very succinct explanation when he discusses the “inner dialogue” between himself and the character: “…it’s part me, how I would be in this situation and it’s part the character, and you’re constantly having an inner dialogue between the two.”
This portion of the discussion is summed up by Tim Gadzinski:
The actors interviewed see the character as an aspect of themselves. They bring themselves to the role and then make adjustments as necessary.
Interviewees were prodded further about this relationship, particularly regarding where the “character” comes from. Letitia Lange describes how she “becomes” the character:
David Coral takes this idea deeper in his discussion of how he refers to the character in the 3rd person while offstage, but that while he is on stage he “is” the character:
Finally, Jacob Mills describes how the act of putting on his clown’s nose puts him into a state where he is listening to the onstage activity through the ears of the character:
The common thread is that the actors say that they “become” the character. Even though Mills and Coral seem to differ, they both refer to their characters in the third person until they “put them on”. This is an important point as it informs the responses to the next set of questions presented in the interviews.
Survey question #121 asked if the respondent had ever felt that the emotions the character felt were the actor’s own. As shown on the chart, the overwhelming response for the combined population was “yes” (71.65%).
The most common response from those that answered “yes” is that this happens when the emotions of a given moment closely parallel something in the actors’ own life:
If a particular stage situation recalls a situation from my own life. (Respondent #466733)
In very similar situations the character and i have had. (Respondent #489405)
Yes, if the situation in the play closely parallels a personal situation. (Respondent #461861)
We are separate. We have separate stories.
The words are not my own, they are the character's. Why should the emotions be my own? On those occasions when I HAVE felt that way, it usually wasn't a good performance. The audience didn't see the character, they saw me getting choked up (or laughing, or whatever).
The “no” responders are indicating a distinct separation between themselves and their character. However, there are also comments that discuss this separation where the respondents answered the survey question in the affirmative.
The EMOTIONS may be the same but the SITUATION is never the same. My life is NEVER the character's life.
Well, I have felt great commonality with the emotional life of the character, but I try and differentiate myself from the character, because while I mean to be transformational in my work I have an emotional life of my own.
Due to the variance in the responses, the same question was asked in the interviews. It was hoped that by providing more time and space for a response, it would give the actors the opportunity to delve much deeper into the notion of whether the emotions of the character were “their own”.
In the following, twelve actors discuss the question of whether the emotion felt by the character during a performance was their own. As a preface to this discussion, the table shows how each interviewee answered this same question on the survey, along with any comments they made.
#121 - Have you ever felt the character’s emotions were your own?
What are of interest to the researcher are the apparent contradictions and qualifications that sometimes appear between the survey response and the interview response. Peggy O’Connell had a very difficult time answering. She said “no” on the questionnaire, but was unable to fully articulate a response in the interview, finally asking “has anyone known how to answer it?” Sarah Gibson, paid, non-union, and Letitia Lange both chose “yes”, but offered different reasons. Gibson says that “it’s a great time to work out whatever you’re still working on from your personal life…you know, …that’s still an open wound so this’ll give me a chance to air it out a little bit without bothering anybody if you can use it in the show.” Lange says “I think if they’re not your emotions, they’re not real…I think it’s so much more effective if you’re really feeling it.” Jacob Mills, who did not answer the question on the survey, says in the interview “any of the sensitivities that the characters have are all things that come from inside of me, things that I probably do feel at times.”
Steve Hevenstone said ‘no” on the questionnaire but “yes” in the interview and went on to say “I honestly believe that a performer that says otherwise is not telling the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they’re liars, they truly believe they are not their own…my emotions drive the character, my experiences.” Jane Bass, paid non-union, said ‘yes” on the survey but “no” in the interview. She calls them “similar” but not her own: “I wouldn’t be having them if I weren’t in that character in that moment; although they are very similar to ones I may have had and might have in the future.” This is echoed by Barbara Kingsley who, despite saying “no” on the survey, says “I don’t know that it’s possible to create a whole human being if you don’t borrow something from some of your own base… for me not to borrow from my own emotions, it’s the only thing I know about creating a human being.” This is further supported by Sandy Bucholz, paid, non-union, who says “yes”, “When I start with something that is real in myself, that sliver that is me, then all those emotions condensed or in miniature are there. So they are my emotions, I just borrow them.” Wesley Broulik, paid non-union currently a 3rd year MFA, who also answered “yes”, gives a more specific example of how the idea of “borrowing” works. He thinks that the emotions “always have to be yours”, which is why he responded “yes” on the questionnaire, he then gives an example:
So there is a definite view among the interviewees that the emotions are their own, regardless of whether they answered “yes” or “no” to the survey question. What seems to be happening is that they are making the distinction that any emotions created are being used in the service of the character. They are felt, but felt by the character. This idea is supported by others. David Coral said “no” on the survey and reiterates this in the interview, but he does say “the emotions are mine”:
Where Coral makes the distinction is in defining the separation between himself and the character. Tim Gadzinski says in the interview that it has “happened” to him – that the emotions he felt were his own - but that these emotions are a “by-product” of the action and not the goal of the work – the goal is finishing the “task”. He does qualify this by saying “if it’s a real emotion they are tied to you”. Michael Healy, once a paid union actor, now no longer acting, offers a kind of summation when he says “let’s face it all we have is our own past, so I have emotions that might connect with what I think the writer has created in a certain scene...I have something in my background that I think connects.”
These contradictions and qualifications were examined further during the interview process in order to prod the respondents to further explore their own ideas about the nature of their relation to their role and emotions that are part of the performance. The next interview question was drawn directly from their responses to survey question #s 94, 95, and 96 as well as #68. Each interviewee was asked to better articulate their responses to those questions after having been reminded of their original answers. Each question was tailored to the individual so that they could better explain themselves – they were reminded of their responses. The chart shows the names of some selected respondents and their answers to the four questions.
On the chart, there are only 2 respondents who say that the emotions portrayed onstage only need to look real (Dwight Larsen, no longer acting, and Sarah Gibson), but they also say that they are not angry when the character is angry, which puts them in the majority of opinions. Then the two of them split on their opinion about whose anger it is – Gibson says “my own” and Larsen says “the character “. They also split on the question of whether they are angry when the character is. When looking at the rest of the responses, we see that most on the chart feel that the emotions need to be “real” and that they do not have to be “feeling” the emotion. They also say that any emotions felt are the character’s and that they are angry at the same moment the character is. This sample is fairly representative of the statistical population that was described earlier.
As we examine the comments from the interviews, it becomes quite clear that despite some perceived differences in the questionnaire responses, these are quite small. It seems to come down to whether the respondent believes that the emotions used issue from their own experience, that is, they are “remembered” or are merely versions of those emotions being “tweaked” in various ways to achieve the task of the scene. This is a very subtle distinction. In this first comment, Sarah Gibson, who says emotions only need to look real, demonstrates subtleties of this distinction:
Gibson seems to be advocating substitution, where she uses a similar emotion from her past to make it look like she is experiencing that emotion to the audience. This is echoed by Barbara Kingsley and Fiona Leonard, a paid, non-union actor. Kingsley uses the term “borrow”, and here she describes something similar to Gibson:
Sandy Bucholz falls into a similar category as she also talks of using her own experiences to fuel the performance:
Emma Pallant seems to be in agreement, but rather than thinking in terms of tools, she approaches the character through her imagination. Using the role of Imogen in Cymbeline she explains this:
On the other end of the scale is Dwight Larsen who wants to avoid “feeling” the emotions of a scene. This seems to be more out a concern for safety than anything else:
Rivka Levin, paid, non-union, says something similar when she discusses this, but she still thinks that she “feels” the emotions of a scene:
If we look at how the respondents discuss whether the emotion is their own or not, we again see some interesting opinions. Michael Healy, who did say in the survey that he is angry when the character is angry, says:
Jane Bass and Craig Johnson, paid, non-union, both feel that the emotions are their own and say so quite succinctly:
Kate Eifrig picks up on the idea of the split which Craig Johnson denies. Where he simply says that the emotions are his “in service of the play”, Eifrig tries to define it:
Nelson tries to pinpoint where the connection between the actor and the character resides. She was asked if when she puts a character together whether the emotions are the character’s or her own and if she sees a definite separation. She narrows it down to the “exact moment”:
Again, as previously described, there are seeming contradictions. The interviewees seem to be in agreement with each other despite their questionnaire responses. In very basic terms, the overall consensus seems to be that the emotions the character feels are real in the sense that they are not “fake” emotions; the actors do not think they are pretending. The feelings come from the actor and are felt by the actor. However, these feelings are attributed to the character, which is experiencing the emotion in the moment caused by the circumstance created by the playwright. This seems to further indicate that the actors of this population are of the opinion that there is a separation between themselves and the characters they portray on stage. When they say that they “become the character” they qualify this by stating that there is no other thing from which to draw a characterization than from themselves. They “are” the character, but they, themselves, are not necessarily “feeling” the emotions – that is, they are not affected by the emotion in the way they might be if they were really in the situation that exists on stage. They also seem to be somewhat split on the notion of the emotions and whether they are “real” or not. When they talk about substituting something in their own lives, is the emotion still “real”? That is, do the actors think there is a difference between “real”, “everyday” emotions and those that are experienced on stage? Do the circumstances of the emotion make a difference? The next question attempted to delve further into this.
The interview discussion of how an actor relates to the character and the role emotion plays in that relationship can be seen as a kind of progression. Each question asked in sequence aimed to help the actors better illustrate their views on the relationship between these highly complex concepts. For the final question of the series, the actors were asked to discuss whether they believed that the emotions portrayed onstage were different from those experienced in everyday life. This is because it was expected that there would be distinctions made between what the actors might deem “real” emotions and “stage” emotions. The question was worded as follows:
When you are on stage and fully engaged in the work and to the audience it appears that you are in a particular state like jealousy or anger, would you say that this state is the same or different from a similar state experienced in your everyday life?
The responses were quite interesting. Despite there being a fairly even split between the interviewees that said “similar” and those that said “different”, their explanations of this were actually quite similar. Those that said that emotions on stage were different tended to say this was because the circumstances of the story were not necessarily something they had ever experienced or that the stakes were not as high on stage as in “real” life. This meant that emotional responses would be different. Interestingly, they often qualified this point by explaining that they still had to pull from their own experiences in order to understand or portray an emotional event. Letitia Lange said the two are different “because no matter how involved you get, you always know people are watching”. She explains that because there is an audience and the actor needs to be aware of blocking and props and such, the experience of the emotions is different. Joel Raney, a non-paid actor, says the experience is different because the emotions on stage come from the circumstances and the actions of the other actors on stage. The actual “anger” he might feel is similar, but where it comes from, “the trigger”, is different. Sarah Goldingay agrees, saying that “it’s not my story…it’s the character’s”. Barbara Kingsley explains that “yes they are mine, but they are only mine as interpreted”. Her view is that the emotional state is created from the research she does about the person she is playing: “I have to historically inform myself”. She then takes an explanation of a particular state the character might need to feel and then re-creates that in rehearsal. Once she rehearses it enough times, it becomes an “organic” part of her. Therefore the correct emotion comes out when the circumstances present themselves on stage. David Coral says that the experience is different because “it’s the character’s, not mine”, because, for instance, the difference between how he, David Coral, gets angry and how the character gets angry are completely different. Coral uses the example of a character named John:
In his view, then, the experiences are different. He does make the qualification that the emotions are experienced by himself, just that they are not David Coral’s; they are the character’s. Emma Pallant echoes this by describing herself as not very emotional in her daily life, but once on stage she feels “a kind of physical freedom to show that stuff writ large”. For her the emotions, while real, are different because they are “for show”. Tim Gadzinski makes the point that the emotions are real, but because the stakes on stage are not as high as they are in “real life”, they are ultimately different. Using the example of a child dying on stage versus “for real”, the actor might occasionally feel sad enough during a performance to feel that “something has been ripped away from them”, but if that child was really dead, it would be far more intense from an emotional stand-point – “it’s reality as opposed to playing reality”.
Those actors that said the emotions were similar to those experienced in everyday life tended to say that because they had experienced a particular emotion over an event similar to the one on stage, the emotions created were, therefore, similar. Kate Eifrig says that while the expression might be different between herself and the character, the emotions are just as genuine, therefore they are the same. As Eifrig puts it:
Michael Healy says that the emotional states are the same but that on stage, depending on how far the audience is away from the stage, the emotions might then get “tweaked” or “adjusted” to be understood by the audience. Essentially, the emotions are made “sharper” in order to be read from a distance. Sandy Bucholz states that the emotional states are the same but “what causes it, the spark” is different. Kathryn LeBlanc explains that it changes depending on the circumstances. When she is doing an exercise in class, “what you see is what you get”. If the character is jealous, she, Kathryn is jealous at that moment. However, when she is performing in a show on stage for a paying audience the awareness of her other tasks (blocking, props, etc.) comes to the fore and the experience changes. She puts this down to “awareness”. Mark Rosenwinkel is of a similar mind. He says that the experience of the emotions is the same as in “real life”, but that on some level his awareness of the audience must be having an effect even though he “is feeling those same emotions as I do in everyday life”.
Two actors, Wesley Broulik and Jacob Mills, offer a kind of distillation of the situation. Broulik, who says the experience is different, notes that as long as he is reacting to what he is given, it does not matter if the emotion is “real”. He says that what is important is that the audience sees “what you are going to do about it”. The state is not what is important; it is the reaction that is vital: “because in real life you can be paralyzed and mope about it for days”, and you can’t do that on stage “because the audience would go…they maybe want to see you react but then there’s the ultimate question of ‘alright you’re paralyzed, now what are you going to do about it?’” Jacob Mills says that the states are similar, but in a minimal way. He discusses the issue in terms of mask work. “When you have a mask on, your body is doing the thinking instead of your mind, so your mind isn’t going ‘oh I’m gonna have to cry’, your body is portraying that emotion…it’s your body that’s thinking instead of your mind” The emotional state is “real”, but it is experienced through the body and is therefore not quite the same because in “real life”, Mills feels that the mind registers an event, reacts to it in an emotional way, and then the body eventually follows.
As the quotes reveal, despite taking one side or the other, the actors in this population appear to agree with each other. The emotions they experience on stage are the real emotions they might feel in everyday life, but they are not necessarily viewed as the “same” emotions. The differences can be viewed as either stemming from the fact that the actors are being watched, that the stakes are different, or that it is the character feeling the emotion and not the actor. Regardless of how the actors in the study qualified their responses, there does appear to be some common understanding.
If we attempt to tie together the various questions and responses gathered in this study in regards to how actors view the relation they have to the role they are playing, it becomes quite clear that for this population, there is a separation between the actor “self” and the character “self”. During the interviews this came out in many ways. As described above it might have been that the “emotions are not mine, they are the character’s” as David Coral put it, or that the “emotions are mine but they aren’t really being felt” to quote Kate Eifrig. There is further confirmation of this idea.
In the course of the discussions, the actors were asked directly if they felt that there was a separation between themselves and the role they were playing and they were also asked if the emotions from the scene they were performing “came offstage” with them. The answers were almost universally “yes” to the first and “no” to the second. Letitia Lange said that the emotions “don’t belong to me” and that “you can’t bring it home”. Wesley Broulik states that “it’s my anger, but it’s not my anger”. As noted previously, David Coral refers to the character onstage in the third person when he exits the stage. When he gets to the wings he “leaves it onstage”. Craig Johnson explains that the “emotions are mine in service of the play”, but when he gets off stage, “it stops”. Christine Nelson describes her relation as not being “able to separate it, but it’s not completely me either”. Peggy O’Connell speaks of being “very emotional, but separated” from her characters and that she always “leaves it onstage”. Kate Eifrig discusses the relationship as there being a kind of “spirit or ghost present”. Regarding emotions she says: “they’re not mine, but I feel them”, and when she exits the stage there is “a palpable residue” of the emotions she’s been experiencing that is physical rather than psychological. Mark Hahn, a non-paid actor, says of his characters: “I’m not going through what they are”. Tim Gadzinski says “it’s you, but a different version of you, that’s why you can leave it onstage”. In many cases, the interviewees discussed the character as another physical being. As David Coral stated several times “that’s not me, that’s the character”.
A final perspective from which we can examine the separation between actor and character came as the final question in the interviews. This question was taken directly from the survey. #54 asked:
When playing a character falling in love, it is important to fall in love with the other actor so that it is real.
The results were very much one-sided. As the graph, right, reveals, more than 79% of the 324 respondents answered “Of course not”.
The comments written on the questionnaires were often quite vehement. Of the many respondents that chose “1 – Of Course Not”, Respondent #456855 said “That’s silly” and #456793 said “yikes, what an abyss into which to fall”, and #457068 said “ridiculous”. In the more thoughtful responses, the comments tended to be similar to this response:
You can fall in love with the other character without having to fall in love with the other actor. (Respondent #463773)
A response with more explanation comes from #862285:
You don't fall in love with the actor, your character falls in love with the other character. On stage, if you are in the moment and 'being' then the feelings in the midst will seem very real. Outside the scene, stage, theater, you go back to being you and back to your loved ones at home. (Respondent #862285)
Again, we see a very distinct belief that the character is separate from the actor. The comments from the respondents that chose “5 – Always” are quite revealing as they are not necessarily advocating “falling in love”.
I don't 'fall in love' with the other actor, but I find 'things I love' about the other person. I picture what it is about that person that someone could fall in love with...I leave myself open to physicalize the relationship--either accepting touch, or initiating it. I find what in that person reminds me of someone I have loved. I feel ultimately, it's about allowing a level of vulnerability that one has only with a loved one. (Respondent #474239)
Two other respondents that chose “5” made similar comments:
In the context of the play, yes. I don't actually fall in love with the actor, but my character falls in love with the other character each night. (Respondent #473049)
In the virtual moment onstage absolutely. In actuality no. (Respondent #3526771 UK)
What we see here is that despite a few respondents stating that it is important to fall in love with the other actor if the characters are supposed to fall in love, there is still this view that it is the characters and not the actors that fall in love. The difference seems to be in the interpretation of the question. Respondent #457395 sees a particular distinction, despite having marked “4 – It Can Help”:
I think it's more important to fall in love with the character. I loved the character that was my last love interest on stage and I had a bit of a crush on the Actor. The character was supposed to be horrible and no one could understand why my character loved him but I completely got it. But it's impractical to say that you have to fall in love with the other actor. Acting is make believe after all. (Respondent #457395)
Finally, there is this simple explanation from someone who marked “1”:
You can find things to fall in love with about the actor. You can love them in the moment on stage and yet not be in love with them as an actor. (Respondent #503406)
In the interviews, the question regarding falling in love was asked again in order to get more specific opinions from the actors regarding this notion. Each actor was asked the question and reminded of their response on the questionnaire. What was of great interest to me was having the opportunity to speak with someone who chose “5 -Always” on the questionnaire. In fact, anyone who chose 3 or higher was of interest because one is forced to wonder how the actor feels that they can actually fall in love with the other actor and avoid the many pitfalls that might come with that as the comments on the survey alluded. It also calls into question the notion of there being a separation between the actor and the character. If the actor believes that s/he must fall in love with the other actor in the scene, then that would indicate that there is no separation for some actors if they are actually “falling in love”. Is it possible that the respondents that chose the higher numbers on the scale had a different idea about what it is to “fall in love”? Once the interviews commenced, the answers from both the actors that said “Of course not” and the actors that said “Maybe” or “Always” were, like so many of their responses, highly revealing and not quite as different from one another as it might have been supposed.
The most common response from the interviewees was that in order to play falling in love, it was best to find a specific part of one’s scene partner to fall in love with. For example, Cynthia Urich, paid, union actor and one of the few who marked “5 - Always” on the questionnaire, uses the example of the interviewer’s facial hair which reminds her of an ex-love that evokes a special feeling in her:
This seems to contradict her questionnaire response. However, in her opinion she is falling in love at the moment it occurs on stage. Barbara Kingsley, who marked “1 – Of Course Not”, describes how the mouth of her scene partner is something she finds attractive and therefore, when in a scene with that actor that is loving, she can focus on the mouth to create the feeling of love, whereas in a later scene, she must not look at the mouth because that is the mouth of the one who betrayed her – to look at it would make her too vulnerable to follow-through with the scene:
Here we see two similar responses even though on the questionnaire they were at completely opposite ends of the scale. Both find something about the other actor with which they can “fall in love”. Letitia Lange supports these responses (she also marked “1”) saying that she needs “to find something about the other actor” that she can love.
These responses are interesting because they speak of substitution: a term that Peggy O’Connell uses specifically saying “well, you substitute”. The actors describe substituting something from their own lives in order to help them create an emotional response. This would seem to be in line with the notion that the actors in the overall population tend towards the fully engaged end of the character relation spectrum as the questionnaire responses demonstrate. This does not, however, refute the idea that the actors in this population see the character as a separate entity.
There is also the element that Craig Johnson brings up which is “playing the moment, whatever the moment is”, which is something that he relates to “truthfulness”. This is the idea that if you, the actor, respond to the circumstance of the moment truthfully, the audience will witness the truth of that moment. In his opinion, at the moment the character would profess love, he Craig, would be feeling that love for the other character. However, as soon as the scene is over, the love he was feeling goes away. The circumstance is no longer there, so the feeling is no longer there. This is why he marked “1- Of Course Not” on the questionnaire. Kate Eifrig picks up on this by stating “The characters can be in love…is it real, is it genuine? Yes, for your character”. This is further supported by Michael Healy who talks about playing in the circumstances. He also mentions “pretending sincerely” which he describes as behaving in a way which convinces the audience that, in this case, the two actors are in love. David Coral takes this a bit further by saying:
Tim Gadzinski sums it up this way: “It is real in that play, it is real in that separate world that is the theatre…it’s real in that little sphere of existence”. As the questionnaire comments and the interviews make quite clear, in the opinion of the respondents, it is the characters that fall in love, not the actors.
Only on accident - the character was very similar to me in personality and going through some of the same things. (Respondent #650859)
In situations where the character is experiencing something VERY similar to what I myself have experienced, or if the character and I are very similar people, my own emotions in the scene are often as real as the character's. (Respondent #1326546)
I can always turn it off. That means they are not real.
When I am on stage, the character is myself. When I am off stage, the character is completely separate
The emotion can be REAL without belonging to me.
if something specific has happened to me that the character is going through. But this is dangerous! you need control on stage. you have to be able to control the flow of the play. you can't just stop and do an actor therapy session.