© KOKOSKA Co. 2019

EMBODYING & EXITING

May 10, 2019

David Harbour (Stranger Things) and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) discuss the emotional and psychic pros & cons of embodying and exiting on-screen characters. Harbour, who draws from American acting methods such as "sense memory" (Lee Strasberg), states that shooting Season 1 of Stranger Things was both the greatest and worst time of his life. In the show, he plays a police chief in charge of finding a missing child while still struggling with -- and actively numbing out -- the loss of his own child. In his preparation, the actor consciously chose to sacrifice his short-term well-being (in the form of deliberate isolation, etc.) in favour of the possibility of creating a character that would resonate deeply with audiences. By most accounts, Harbour turned this possibility into a reality in his portrayal of Chief Jim Hopper. Though, it is the actor's character exit and self re-integration (the strategies for which are significantly less explored in theatre schools and social media) that comprise perhaps the most interesting portion of the interview (skip to 16:22 of the attached link to hear this part of the conversation). Harbour first speaks of the two scary-sounding days in took him to transition back to real life after shooting wrapped on Season 1 -- time which he refers to as "the darkest time in my life." He follows this by beautifully articulating the often misunderstood interest that many people have with the acting process: "Consciously, I get to walk into tragedy and I get to, like, live there and see how that feels." If we can consider acting as the art of empathy, which many do, and we can appreciate deep emotional work on screen and stage, then how might we draw upon our psychotherapeutic understanding(s) of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health and self-care to build a deliberate post-performance process for actors to safely and effectively exit a character?

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