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Master Dialect to Master the Industry

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You’re super excited for your next acting role!  You really feel this one could huge.  It’s a fairly significant role in a larger-than-life project.  The only problem is, you’re not sure you can nail your character’s accent the full 90 minutes.

There are enough challenges that come with slipping on someone else’s shoes and creating a believable character, regardless of the type of project an actor takes on.  While memorizing lines, the actor has to consider at all times what the character would do, think, feel – how they would carry themselves, their body language.  Add an accent or a certain dialect to the mix, and this further complicates things.  Not only does the actor have to do all of the above, but they have to consider how their character speaks – what words they would choose and when, and how they would pronounce them.

The actor has to “pick and choose how he approaches certain words or phrases,” says Tituss Burgess, who played Sebastian the crab in Disney’s Broadway production of The Little Mermaid, “keeping in mind that audience comprehension takes precedence over authenticity. The character’s class and education—even if he’s a crab—also affect the way he speaks.”

It’s amazing to listen to actors portraying a character with a completely different accent than they have in their natural speech off-screen.  Sometimes, if you flip through the channels and catch a big-name Hollywooder giving an interview, it can catch you off guard.  She has a British accent?  Since when?

Some actors really have a knack for this sort of thing.  Amy Walker, for example, is an actress who has mastered 21 accents and dialects, and she is completely self-taught. “It’s really an organic process, and there is no one way I approach each accent,” she says.

So, how can you nail the accent and create the most believable character possible?  The answer is simple – well, actually, far from – it’s up to you!  Listen to similar accents in audiobooks or on film, study them in your favorite television shows.  You can even sit down and physically converse with someone who has the accent you’re hoping to master – assuming you can find such an individual.  Vocal coaches are available to help if you’re really struggling.  The options are endless.

It’s one thing to memorize a particular dialect or a couple of lines you need to recite at an audition and quite another to get it down pat for the duration of the project.  If you choose to take on the challenge, do your homework, and remember, if you can pull it off, versatility looks great on a resume!

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