In acting school, you heard of this time and time again — “you need to listen”. That very essential thing. That quality that gets you the job. You have to listen. But not the active or loud listening where someone is nodding or using their eyebrows to accentuate they are listening. This is not listening. This is mugging or indicating and this distances you from being accessible.
Being fake in acting is not what people are after. What we are looking for is reality. We want to see real emotions, real actions, real risk. That is why we watch movies, plays, etc. So that our lives can be entertained by the most exciting days of the character’s life. If you listen, it will elicit genuine emotion.
When actors try and compensate for listening, we lose all connection to that actor. He may be doing this because he thinks he is not interesting enough. You are! He is! As an actor you have to learn to trust this. You have to trust it so much that there will be no tension of any kind in your body. Now, that being said, don’t go to the other extreme and do nothing, make no choices and just whisper the lines back and forth. That is just as bad but in the opposite direction.
Know your character’s perspective and your response will come naturally. Listen and be genuine and a genuine response will come. Being an actor is a difficult job but it is fun and rewarding and learning these invaluable lessons in acting school is a definite asset. If you trust in the camera, the script and so on; the things we see and the things you do will often be more interesting than what you say. Listen and “see” how it’ll make a difference in your next performance.