Wherever you look, there’s a character – in line with you at the supermarket, cashing in checks at the bank, jogging past you on the bridge…endless characters, endless opportunities as an actor. It’s all essentially research, and such rich unique research with each glance…if you allow yourself to take it all in.
It’s funny, because in Greece, one of the big past-times is to literally sit and have a coffee outside with your friends while watching all the people walk by – granted, they are not really doing research from an artistic standpoint but rather being social (which is very important to do daily and be seen out) while also gossiping/criticizing to their friends at the same time about what they see. Actually, it can be rather mean and horrible to eavesdrop to what some of the Greeks say (usually women with their usual all-female crowd and usually in reference to a tourist/out-of-towner, but if in reference to a fellow Greek townie walking by….woah!!). Technically, what they are doing is people-watching. Every single day. Walking to the supermarket or gym past the Greek cafés in Astoria is quite the hoot I can tell you!
When I am in Greece I do this too. It’s oddly like a ritual – get up, go to the beach, tan like crazy while hung-over (anyone who knows me well knows I am a serious tanner who might I add times each side with an alarm before flipping over…whatever…I get a good tan!!) So after the tanning it’s like this odd time of the day around 5pm and we eat late in Greece so there’s sort of a “break” between then and dinner which is like at 9/10pm. So, usually what happens is we go to a café and get a frappe (amazing iced coffee) or mocha milkshakes or waffles and ice cream or all of it!! And, maybe check our emails as the best Wi-Fi on the island I live on is at these cafés. And, in between the email checking, the sipping and eating, lo and behold there is soooo much to see and comment on with all the people walking by!!
I am a huge people-watcher. Coffee/cafés, sitting down and people – that’s all it takes to make me happy (hmmmm…this combination in Greece outside in the gorgeous weather – that’s more like it!!). So I am Greek and since this is a “Greek Thing” then yes I admit I do occasionally make faces or laugh or make comments about some people who walk by – but not in a bad way, just in a fascinated way – in what I like to credit my other BA degree in Psychology way – I like to study people, characters, personalities and especially people’s choices. It’s actually why I double majored with Theatre and also did a Psychology degree – because it fascinates me, and of course I think is fundamental for acting.
I say Greece, but really people-watching happens everywhere all the time! I do give the Greeks the award as it’s almost built into their daily schedule but I see everyone doing it – NYC is a fast moving city so it’s hard to get the time to actually make a day out of it here but on the subway it certainly happens. When the weather gets nice, there is more of a chance to partake but really it’s all around you all the time if you can just get out of your head, stress, thoughts and look up for a second and see what’s right there in front of you – your next role on stage, on film, with voiceover, even ideas or suggestion for direction, for dialects. And, it’s free (coffee and snacks not included).
The best part of it is as an actor is that this is all research that can be justified as time well spent drinking coffee and lounging doing what appears to be nothing! It’s the best time-out you can take as an actor for you and with your wallet. This is actually a good lesson for myself too because I am always so super busy when I’m in NYC that I too forget to look up and take a breather (and be Greek!). I used to keep a book where I wrote down all that I saw for future reference to draw on – nerdy, I know, but it seriously came in quite handy. No one person is alike, so there was a lot to remember.
I believe the best actor has to be like a sponge – so coffees all around and on me – go soak up the city (and bill me later)!!