by Diana Black
Hint: It’s the theme of this particular article. And that is simply this:
“Compelling Characters Make a ‘Real’ World.”
By which I mean:
A great story idea, well-written script, skilful cast and crew with an intelligent Director and Showrunner at the helm – surely the recipe for a winning TV Series, but what ‘essential ingredient’ compels us to ‘tune in’ religiously?
Lulu: “Honey, so sorry, can’t make it tonight… no, it’s not my, ‘I’m washing my hair’ night … I’m just busy…. No, you’re wonderful but…”
Is it the hooks and plot twists, the lighting, sound, mis-en-scene? What makes the fantasy drama, Game of Thrones (David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, HBO 201 –) now going into its 7th Season apparently SOOO interesting and compelling to watch? And this is across the board – no longer the purview of adolescent, voyeuristic nerds.
Well, according to A.G. Walton – a contributor to Forbes, who in turn is commenting on the findings of Josue’ Cardona of “GeekTherapy.com”, it’s a range of elements that include the following attributes: intellectually challenging and multiple plots; unpredictable twists;; an intricate and elaborate story world, and dramatic events that border on the visceral.
But what of character? In this epic panoply of political manipulation; one which would be right up there with Rome under Caesar, it is according to Walton, the creation, destruction and resurrection of archetypes. So what is an archetype and why, having been ‘done to death’ long before Shakespeare took up a quill, are they still so useful?
Aspiring screenwriters of teleplays may think long and hard before referencing them – the Queen, the Trickster, disgruntled Prince, foul-mouthed washerwoman etc. But they work, precisely because they’re ‘character’ in a neat package. We instantly ‘get’ them. They come into ‘our space’ with their over-night bag stuffed with accoutrements that we instantly recognize – greedy, debauched, vile, manipulative, pure, sweet etc.
Is that it, then? All there is to the Game of Thrones characters? Are they merely just a bunch of one-dimensional archetypes? No – in our jaded world of hardened, cynical ‘little box watchers’– it requires more than that; as the revolving door of short-lived TV shows attest.
The secrets to these guys is that they not only shamelessly embrace their archetypal nature – to the hilt, they each have a level of complexity that make them seem real AND accordingly hated, feared, loved, reviled etc. We’re left seriously wondering what word or deed they’re going to express next. ‘Warts and all’ they reflect us mere mortals – who will no doubt have to deal with the same, albeit modern-day equivalent conundrums, issues and angst, tomorrow or next week, come Tuesday.
And the moral of the story is….drum roll…invest like hell in your character/s if you expect your actors to lift them off the page. As an actor, the quickest, surest path to having those words and deeds appear perfectly natural and justified is to get under the skin of the character; to become that character – for better or worse. The old adage still and will forever apply, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Diana Black is an Australian actress and writer currently taking Larry Brody’s Master Class.