Stretch yourself. It’s an easy thing to say or ask people to do. Doing it on the other hand is a completely different thing. If you’ve read many of my previous blogs, you will know that I am passionate about getting out of your comfort zone. Just the decision to try something new is invigorating and programs your brain to see opportunity rather stay in the same place and have your creativity stifled.
For many years, I told myself that I would not learn a general US accent. My external explanation was this: why would I try do an accent that thousands of voice actors who are from the US can do with ease? Makes sense, right? But as we start to open ourselves to getting out of our comfort zones, we start to see that there are usually underlying reasons as to why we stay where we are. For me, when I really stepped back and analyzed it, I was scared that I would terrible. That I would fail. That people would laugh and ridicule me for even trying.
How sad is it that some of us prevent ourselves doing things through fear of what others would think? If you allow this thought process to creep in, it can be so constricting from an actor’s standpoint. Now, there are many people who may be reading this who can’t comprehend what I am talking about. They either learned or have an innate perspective that allows them to approach each role or script with freedom. And instead of envy those people, we should use them as an example of what can be created when you just give yourself to the art. There is nothing more satisfying than watching or listening to someone perform when they come from a place of freedom. They suck you in a take you places you couldn’t possibly imagine.
So, how can you free yourself from the constraints of your comfort zone? From an acting point of view, there are many options. Improv is at the top of the list. Many people see improv as a “comedy only” activity and for those who feel they don’t have a good sense of humour, they avoid it like the plague. This is so far from the truth. Improv is essential for getting out of your acting comfort zone. It trains you to accept uncomfortable situations and to find out how you react to them in a safe environment. You won’t be judged. You will be freed by the other performers in the group. At first, you may hold back and struggle, but as with everything, the more you practice and put yourself out there, the better performer you will become. Improv is more about practicing being out of your comfort zone than coming up with quick comedic one liners.
It’s OK to be an introvert. Many, many of us in the voiceover world and the stage and film acting world are. I am not suggesting that you change your whole personality. This is just a change to how you perform. How to become freer with your choices. How to go places that you previously wouldn’t dreamed of because you were afraid. When you give yourself the permission to do that, the possibilities in your reads will be endless.
So do a search on social media for a recommended improv group. And more importantly, sign up. You will have fun, meet some great people and learn a lot about yourself. And it shows another middle finger to that nemesis that is the comfort zone!
Craig Williams is a British Voice Over Actor based in Houston, Texas.