The Animal Exercise: Method’s Way of Developing a Character

This week, students will be exploring the Animal Exercise, claimed by Robert De Niro* and Ethan Hawke to be “the most useful acting exercise I know.” We’ll use it to get into character for our monologues.

To create a character, you must know the attitude you’re seeking. Choose the characteristic, then pick an animal. Watch some YouTube videos or documentaries of that animal and see if you can answer the following:

  • What is the animal’s posture?
  • Where is the animal more relaxed than I am?
  • Where is it heavy?
  • How does it move? When does it move? Why does it move?
  • How does it move its mouth? Its ears? Its cheeks?
  • How does it lie down, sit, crawl, walk, or roll over?
  • What’s it like to have a tail? Exaggerate this.
  • Are its eyelids heavier or lighter than mine?
  • Can I imagine what it might be thinking? Remember, it doesn’t have a developed brain like yours!
  • What kind of sounds does my animal make?

Gather all this evidence and then, during class we’ll carefully evolve your animal into your new character. It works! And we’re going to dare to be outrageous with it. Enjoy!

* PS Robert De Niro was a crab in the film ’Taxi Driver’.