Arts & Entertainment

Physical Characterization

Samuel L. Jackson

Lesson time 12:32 min

Sam dives deep into the myriad ways actors can use their bodies to reflect their characters’ personalities. Learn how to use posture, gait, voice, and physical appearance to add complexity to your characters.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Use Physical Characteristics to Make Your Character Different • Think About Dress As an Expression of Character • Become Proficient in Your Character's • Change Yourself As Much As You Can


When you're creating characters, I mean aside from all that background crap that I'd, you know, throw in there that nobody knows about or cares about, there are things that you want to make a character different in some way aside from doing something to your face. My agent and managers had a real problem with me for a couple of years because I like to scar myself, and they were like, stop putting scars on your face. We like the way you look. You know and in the beginning when I first started doing movies I think early on in my career Laurence Olivier died. So Laurence Olivier died and I was sitting at home and his obituary came on. When they were talking about him and they put his face up on the screen, and as they talked about him they morphed through all these different characters that he'd done on screen. And I was sitting there going wow, look at that. So that was the beginning of me and my hair, my hair career. You know my wig making. Doing all the different hair styles and ways that I could change my look through hair. And the other way you change yourself is through the physical movement of a character. How they move in terms of how they feel about themselves or do they have any infirmities or we've all known people who have different gates and all kinds of things. When I did 187 and I was playing a school teacher because I had been around school teachers all my life. All I had to do was kind of amalgamate the school teachers that I knew and create this teacher who had a fear of students after he'd been stabbed in school. Being an upright nerdy kind of guy I decided to make him slew foot. And he walked upright in a specific way with his feet like that. And he wobbled when he walked. With his glasses, and he pushed his glasses up on his face a lot. So that was him. In Time to Kill, that was my grandfather and his brothers. These old, country dudes that work the land, work a hard job, pigeon toed, kind of stooped, arms loose, loping kind of swaying from side to side. You know, kind of a hangdog look. Always, always got that analyzation face on when they look at you. Brow wrinkled because they listening to you, but thinking something. You know there's that guy. Wow. Shaft. Shaft because Shaft attacks the world so fists clenched a lot. Walking upright, chest out, aggressive, leaning forward, into the wind, into every thing that's coming at him. Elijah in Unbreakable had a specific disease that-- I talked to people who had that disease. And I talk to parents with kids who had it. It's really crazy and kind of insane disease that you know, they have to, they have to think about the kind of covers that they sleep under because if you pull you pull the covers up when you turn over you can break your ankle. You know, you can just snap your ankle when you turn over and pull the cover too tight or whatever. Or two people...

About the Instructor

As a kid, Samuel L. Jackson stuttered so badly that he stopped talking for almost a year. Today he’s one of the world’s most successful actors, with roles in over 100 films, including Pulp Fiction and The Avengers. In his online acting class, the Oscar-nominated star shares how he creates memorable characters, powerful performances, and a long-lasting career. Learn to master auditions, analyze scripts, and find the truth in every role you play.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Samuel L. Jackson

One of the most successful actors of our generation teaches you how to elevate your acting.

Explore the Class
Sign Up