Arts & Entertainment

Creating Characters

Steve Martin

Lesson time 10:39 min

Steve shares the processes he's used to create some of his most memorable characters and bring them to life on screen, based on his experience acting in over 50 films from Father of the Bride to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

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

Topics include: First, Just Be a Person • You Can Carry Simultaneous Emotions • Explore the Many Faces of Emotions • Channel Your Own Weirdness • Follow Quirks to Characters


I remember when I first started to do movies, and I thought, well I've been on a stage a million times, this is going to be no problem. Then I get on the set, and I think, oh, I'm supposed to sit in a chair and I have a glass. How do you put down a glass? Do you go like this, and then sit down, or do you sit and go like-- I was really lost. I thought, I don't know how to put down a glass. And I started listening, watching other actors work, and I talked with an important director in my life, Herbert Ross, and he gave me some really good pointers. And then, eventually, I just absorbed it, and when they said action, there was no change of nerves. I said, oh just be a person, and then, you can be that character too, but now, I have no problem putting down a glass in a scene, or sitting down. How do you sit down? I was really that lost. [MUSIC PLAYING] That's another thing I learned about acting, and it also is informative about comedy. I talked to Dustin Hoffman, like 20 years ago, he told me a story, we were talking about wives and things. He said, oh, I made a big mistake with my wife and she got so mad. I said, what was it? Well, we were in a restaurant, like a bar, and we were breaking up, and she was there, and she was crying. She was crying, and crying, crying and talking, and upset, and then the waiter came over, and she'd cry and she says, oh I'll have a coffee, or a latte, and some French fries. And he looked and he said-- like an actor would, he said, oh, what a great moment. She got so mad, why you son of a bitch, which you understand. But I learned something about acting in that moment, that you can carry contradictory emotions around with you. You can do that in comedy, when you're doing a comedy film, or probably stand-up too. It's not all one thing. It's not all one direction. You can change it up, radicalize it, be normal, and carry simultaneous emotions going along. [MUSIC PLAYING] I remember one moment where I learned a lot. It was not really a pleasant moment, but for us, whom I liked a lot, but he could also be very difficult, and usually on a movie-- I did several movies with him, he would pick on someone, for reasons I don't understand. I was doing a scene with Joan Cusack, and he was being a little insulting to her. And the scene was, she's an angry-- he's angry, and she's doing the scene, and she's yelling, and she's angry. And so the lunch break comes. I say, Herb, what are you so tough on her for? She's doing great. She's supposed to be angry, and she's angry, and she's yelling and she's angry. And he said, well, anger has 1,000 faces. Oh, that's true, because how often in life do we yell? For me, I almost never. Do I get angry? Sure, but it comes out some other way. It can come out in silence, it can come out with laughter, there are literally 1,000 ways to be angry. And at tha...

About the Instructor

One of Steve’s first gigs was at the drive-in movies. When the audience liked a joke, they honked. In this comedy class, Steve shares insights from performing for cars and humans over a 50-year career spanning sold-out arenas and blockbuster films. Learn how to find your voice, gather material, develop an act, and take your comedy writing to the next level.

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Steve Martin

Steve Martin teaches you everything from finding your comedic voice to nailing your act.

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