Selling Your Character & Method-Acting


So the idea for this blog post came from a tweet I was going to send to a professional wrestler, specifically ‘Matt Hardy’, but I then saw a link between the method-acting that is prevalent in the film industry, and the character/gimmicks that are portrayed in the professional wrestling industry. Therefore, I opted to write an article about it instead.


For a few years Matt Hardy has been invested in a new character/gimmick which is a major departure from the previous characters he has played. Matt has been very successful with this particular character and I think that predominantly comes down to his commitment to the role and not ‘breaking kayfabe’ (an industry term for not breaking character). Professional wrestlers are, in addition to being athletes, actors who are portraying various characters.


Professional Wrestlers


Professional wrestling is a mixture of many different styles, with some performers choosing to invest solely in the performance aspects and storytelling that occurs within matches, whilst others may invest more into characters that they are trying to ‘get over’ (meaning to make popular with audiences and generate applause) or ‘get heat’ for (attract hatred toward).


In this sense, professional wrestlers portraying specific gimmicks (e.g. The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Bray Wyatt etc) are method-acting, because they are taking on personas and in some cases (such as the aforementioned Matt Hardy), are so committed that they do not deviate from the character even when they are off-camera or away from audiences.


When wrestlers change from babyfaces to heels (turn from heroes to villains), the dedication to this new attitude will often dictate how seriously fans take the change. For instance, when Chris Jericho recently wrestled in NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling) and attended a post-match press conference following his match with Kenny Omega, he continued to portray his heel-persona, even though he could have simply answered the questions of the journalists in a regular manner.


Hollywood


The degree to which an actor sells their character to you, and the extent to which you (the viewer) buy into this character, and forget that it is not real - in my opinion - demonstrates how successful the actor has been in portraying the character. In Hollywood, actors portray many different characters, and if the actors are particularly distinct (in terms of their physical appearance and/or voices, mannerisms etc) this may have an effect on how easy or difficult it is for the actor to sell the character, and convince the viewer. Off the top of my head, actors who are particular good at this that come to mind include: Tom Hardy, Daniel Day Lewis, Christian Bale, Ashton Kutcher and Johnny Depp to name a few. There are plenty more, but I have noticed that in the collected works of the aforementioned actors, there is a consistency in terms of the ability to pull off disparate characters.


To conclude, I feel that professional wrestlers are excellent method-actors, and it comes as no surprise that we have seen various wrestlers transition from wrestling full-time to acting full-time successfully.

- Christian Reeve

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