Monday, April 30, 2012

How Does an Actor Develop Charisma?

More important than talent for an actor to become a success is his or her personal charm or charisma, as it is called.  What is this thing that is more important than talent?

Charisma has three components according to an article I read recently, and I will add a fourth..  First there is 'presence'. That is the quality that draws all eyes to a person when they enter a room.  Presence is created by one's look, posture, voice, and focus. People with charm are composed and not distracted. They include everyone in the room in their eye contact, and make them all friends.  The second component of charisma is confidence.  Not braggadocio, nor strutting and posing, but honest command of the situation. If an actor is auditioning, his charisma should let the auditors know that he not only can handle the role, but that he is the best selection for the role. The third component is warmth. The person with charisma is genuinely interested in others and emphathizes with their situations. Finally, the actor with charisma has great energy in what he does.  He is not a bulldozer set loose with no driver, but he is vital in all he does and says.

While many people are born with charisma, some do develop it later in life, after they have become successful and more confident.  I tend to believe that charisma is a component of an actor's talent. It is unlikely that an actor is ever going to be successful without presence, confidence, warmth, and energy. If you want to be an actor and you don't have charisma, you need to start working on it. The most important thing about this charm is that it is not "put on" for the occasion, but it is truly a part of who you are in all occasions.

Charisma can be improved by people learning to control their body language and not fidget or have distracting mannerisms.  Additionally, actors do not want to give away any weaknesses through their body language. They can learn a lot from professional poker players who work very hard not to have "tells" or bodily signals that give away the strength or weakness of their hands.  People with charisma are not impatient, nervous or insecure.  They think before they speak and are never in a rush to answer a question or finish the job at hand.  I think of President G. W. Bush, who was reading to school children when he was told of the 9-11 attacks.  His composure did not falter and he finished the story before leaving the school in a likewise composed and not hurried fashion. Like him or not, that was great charisma.

To have real charm, you have to make others feel good about themselves. The components of charisma make people who meet you feel important and part of what is going on.  Therefore, I suggest that those who want better charisma should read the  lists of positive actor personality traits listen in my book The Tao of Acting.  One list is from True and False by David Mamet and the other is a list of professional behaviors from Rehearsal by Miriam Franklin. Nothing could be more important for the aspiring actor to set as a goal than to make these traits part of his personality. Memorize those lists and make them a part of who you are.


  1. Contact me at to ask questons about the posts in this blog. Thanks, and God bless, Doc

  2. Hi Doc! Another great blog entry:) Do you feel that not being "impatient, nervous or insecure" are things people can actually 'learn' to do? Through acting school or otherwise?

  3. Well, being impatient is really hard to break, but it is not the same as being driven to become a success. By nature many actors are insecure, but an actor who loves acting is never nervous about having an opportunity to act, which is what an audition is. Gotta love acting. That is #1.