Today’s actions acting lesson will help you use ACTIONS, or verbs, to quickly and authentically express your character’s journey. In acting we say, “Listen to your truth barometer.” This refers to that feeling you get in your heart or your gut that tells you if you’re being authentic and honest, or if you’re over acting or not giving enough passion in your performance. The truth barometer normally comes in the form of a feeling or a thought to your brain that says, “Woof, that wasn’t very good.” It’s easy to ignore that and say, oh well, I’ll do better next time, but as actors we must listen to this little voice and instead say, ok, let’s fix this NOW. Incorporating Actions into your acting work is a great way to develop authentic performance impulses that will help you own and refine your truthe barometer.


Check out this 1.5 minute SIZZLE REEL for a preview of today’s lesson!

(View the full tutorial below!)

Sometimes actors experience diffuculty opening up emotionally, or perhaps they simply haven’t HAD certain experiences in their lives to pull from. In these cases, certain method acting techniques can be difficult to accomplish if an actor does not have those particular emotions readily available tools in their “acting toolbelt.” Sometimes actors have a hard time connecting to physicality or bringing energy to their piece. Sometimes the actor’s work is at a standstill and just needs some extra “oomph.” In these cases, I love the Actions Acting Lesson will help you connect to your work, by helping you think outside the box. 



An action, or a verb, is something you can DO. In the case of today’s actions acting lesson, we’ll use transitive actions, meaning something you can do TO another person. Going one step further, we want our action to motivate CHANGE in our scene partner. We want to change the person’s state of being, or their mental state. We have something we need to accomplish. It’s not always easy to emote, or to dig up a personal experience from way back when. But If I have a goal “to knock some sense into you,” I know how to accomplish that. I know how to kick. I know how to mock. I know how to shake.  If I have a goal “to knock some sense into you” I know how to accomplish that.


Brainstorming Action Categories helps us identify a collection of actions to use in our acting homework. There are 3 Action Categories that we’ll work with today

1. Physical
Examples: to kick, to kiss, to squeeze, to push, to pull, to carress, to punch, to shake, to flick, to poke, to tickle, etc.

2. Literal
Examples: to mock, to uplift, to celebrate, to intimidate, to manipulate, to berate, to admonish, to encourage

3. Figurative
Examples: to show you who’s boxx, to pull the wool over your eyes, to sweep you off your feet

There are some acting lessons that will include non-transitive verbs (verbs that do not have to be done TO someone), Sonya Cooke’s method teaches that transitive verbs are stronger, and I have to agree. Though they sometimes take some more thought and homework to refine, they will specify your acting choices, which make them stronger and more expressive.

An example Sonya uses of a non-transitive verb is “to dance”. I CAN dance, it IS a verb, but can I “dance you?” No, I can’t. I can dance WITH you, but I can’t dance YOU. When I encounter an action like this, I ask, What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the goal? Am I trying to loosen you up? Then I might use the action “to tickle.” Am I trying to get you close to me? I might use the action “to pull”. Get more specific! If I am trying to get you close to me, and I use the verb/action “to pull”, I may want to add an object to make my imagery and my task more organic. I may “pull you by the neck tie,” which will add different colors to the acting than simply, “to pull.” I may want to use “to pinch”, but “to pinch you by the cute little cheeks” is MUCH more specific and invokes a different mood and emotional response.

ACTIONS ACTING LESSON ASSIGNMENT: Starting with the lists above, brainstorm and add 20 more verbs/actions to each list. It’s fun, and you’ll have a great tool to use in your acting work!

Comment below if you have a question about an action and I will give you some feedback!


Try this: Your line is “Thank you.” 

Have a friend feed you random verbs/actions from your list. As your friend gives you an action, without thinking about it, say your line (“Thank you”) using the action as your goal. You’ll say “Thank you,” but your goal may be “to smack your face”. This may seem counter intuitive to the line, but sometimes we don’t always mean what we say. Sometimes there is much more meaning beneath the words we ACTUALLY say (in acting lessons we call this “subtext.”) Use as many actions as you can. Mix it up. And DON’T THINK TOO HARD ABOUT IT, just DO!


The next part of today’s acting lesson is about applying the actions to the text. Print out your lyrics or your monologue and start writing actions on top of the words. You can start with a whole sentence or a phrase, but you’ll eventually want to apply many actions to one sentence, if appropriate. In my example in the video, I use one action per each “line” or phrase of the song. Your impulse may be to try something obvious, but I encourage you to try actions that are random–you might be surprised to find that an action that has nothing to do with your scene may evoke an expression that works!

This actions acting lesson exercise is meant to be used together WITH other acting lessons and homework, such as embodying the character, or using “sense memory” work from personal experience. This lesson is not to say that you should not do this other work. It’s simply an additional tool to help you connect to physicality or emotions that you may be having trouble with.

Here’s the full training! I demonstrate the two exercises above (Thank you, and text application) to give you a better idea of how this works. It will make sense when you watch it, so if you don’t have time now, bookmark this and watch it asap. Enjoy!

I’d love to see your versions of the “Thank you” exercise! Post and tag me and I’ll give you free feedback! 

Also let me know if you have any struggles, or if you have requests! I’d love to teach you what you want to learn!


Michelle Hernandez

Michelle Hernandez

Coach, Owner of OC ProVoice

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