Green Shirt Studio

How to Act with a Scene Partner You Don’t Like

How to Act with a Scene Partner You Don’t Like

As an actor, you’re often forced to be in scenes with people who you don’t like for whatever reason, or who you just don’t think is a very good actor. Maybe you don’t like how he or she smells, maybe you’ve had an argument or personal issue with each other, or maybe you just don’t think your scene partner is giving you much to work with in their approach to the scene.

Of course, if you are forced to work with a scene partner who is being abusive towards you, manipulative or unsafe, you can and should speak up about the situation. But in most instances, if you’re paired up with someone you just don’t like working with, usually you don’t have much choice in the matter.

So what can you do about it? First, Andrew Gallant, co-founder of Green Shirt Studio, says you should know that you can do a good scene with anyone. “Every scene partner is a good scene partner in that they are a human being who is alive and who is across from you,” he says.

Here are a few of Gallant’s tips on how you can turn any scene into a good experience, no matter who your scene partner is.

  1. Don’t let yourself off the hook
    Gallant says many actors complain about other actors that they have to work with as an unconscious way of putting up a wall against people to avoid being emotionally vulnerable. If you find yourself being judgmental about someone else, especially if you don’t think they’re giving you much to work with in the scene, Gallant says it’s your job to try to go deeper. “If you go deeper, that actually encourages the other person to go deeper as well,” he says.
  2. Put your feelings into the scene
    If you’re angry with your scene partner, don’t just bottle those feelings up and then stew on them later in the dressing room. Instead, Gallant says use those emotions to fuel your scene. “Put those impulses into the moment and into the scene with your partner,” he says.
  3. Drop your expectations
    Often, Gallant says when you get frustrated at your scene partners, you’re often really angry about the fact that your partner isn’t doing the scene in the way you think it should go. Gallant recommends dropping your expectations about how the scene is “supposed” to sound and try to be more open-minded about different interpretations.
  4. Listen to the text
    If your scene partner isn’t putting the subtext into the scene that you want, you can focus on text itself to react to. This is often true in auditions, where readers are told to read the script with little emotion, and it’s your job to have your own emotional reactions anyway.
  5. Don’t judge a book by its cover
    Gallant says often we tend to size people up quickly, judging them before we really give them a chance. But Gallant says an actor’s job is to be empathetic and vulnerable, and realize that everyone is more complex than we realize.Gallant says he remembers when he was taking a Meisner class with someone he didn’t like so much that he was looking forward to being in a scene with this person so he could yell at him. But when Gallant finally got to be in a scene with him, his partner’s face was so vulnerable and touching that Gallant changed his mind about him, and by the end of the scene, the two were hugging each other. “I learned a lesson in that moment that the ideas we have about people aren’t true,” he says. “The reality is we don’t have anybody figured out.”
  6. Ask them out for coffee
    If you find yourself feeling judgmental about someone you have to work with, Gallant suggests trying to get to know them better outside of class or rehearsal by asking them out for coffee or a drink. Often, you’ll find there is something about them that you can connect with.

Have any other ideas about how to deal with a scene partner you don’t like? Share them with us in the comments below.