Acting vs. Lying

In fear, we are acting on fiction and in love we are acting on truth – Richard Gerber

Some people call actors “professional liars.” I can understand where that idea comes from, especially when half of Hollywood feels the need to preach to the public about what they should and shouldn’t do with their lives. Acting is a kind of “pretending,” which is a kind of lying, although I think that is a very simplistic way to look at it. Most actors who are “pretending” aren’t very good actors, or at least it’s obvious to me when someone is pretending vs. acting. It feels fake, kind of like listening to a politician. He’s saying all the right things but something just doesn’t sit right.

The big difference between lying and acting is where the pretending is happening. If the actor is “pretending” his emotions, that’s lying, and we can feel it. A person who got caught doing something wrong and is crying horse tears about it on Twitter is pretending, not acting, because the emotions are the lie. In acting, we tell the truth with our emotions. The pretending happens around us. The great acting teacher Sanford Meisner calls it “living truthfully under the imaginary circumstances of the play.”

Truth is in the action. You know how people say, “actions speak louder than words?” That’s because you can only find truth in actions. We don’t live in a world where people can’t tell a lie (like Ricky Gervais’ movie The Invention of Lying), we live in a world where people lie every day for multiple reasons, not all of them malicious. But our actions always give us away.

True acting is one of the most vulnerable states you can be in. You are quite literally exposing your soul to the audience. You are putting your true emotional self on display and showing parts of you that most people hide or shy away from. A good actor is truly connecting with the character they are portraying, without judgement. Allowing yourself to connect with a character who is a murderer a cheat, or an egomaniacal dictator can be frightening, but a good actor will find the truth of those people and share their darkness for a time in order to portray them effectively. It’s not an easy job.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.