There is a considerable difference between good acting and great acting.
We’ve already talked about some aspects of bad or immature acting.
The next step is good acting. After seeing a good actor the audience will say something like, “Wow, that was a good actor.”
Good acting is still about the actor. They have refined their “bits” and own them but there is still a feeling that they are singing a song someone else has written instead of creating their own tune.
Good actors have done a lot of work on their acting but there is something they haven’t learned that is holding them back. That something will vary from actor to actor but it usually isn’t a lack of effort or dedication.
A good actor is still presenting a performance instead of being the character.
A good actor has yet to learn what the great actor knows.
What does the great actor know? It’s hard to say. Many of them have learned to be still and listen.
I don’t like to use film and screen examples because the stage is a much different craft. However, finding a stage example that most people have seen is difficult.
That being said, the point is an actor listening.
In The Godfather Part Two, Kay (Dianne Keaton) tells Michael (Al Pacino) that she didn’t have a miscarriage but instead aborted their child. Michael listens to her as she admits killing his son.
Michael just listens. He doesn’t grimace, he doesn’t look angry, he doesn’t play any “bits” and therein lies the terror. The non reaction is chilling and the explosion that follows is more dramatic because there is no warning.
A good actor might have been tempted to respond immediately. A great actor makes a different choice and creates a moment that makes our hair stand on end.
As the curtain falls on a show, if the acting was great we don’t say it’s great. Instead, we feel as though we’re going to miss our new friends. Or maybe we feel like waiting around to give the villain a piece of our mind.
With great acting, you don’t see the actor, you see the character.