Internal vs. External Acting / Stimulation vs. Simulation

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Internal vs. External Acting – Stimulation vs. Simulation

First off, let’s start by examining the meaning of internal, external, stimulation, and simulation. It may seem obvious enough, but these four concepts are central in evaluating good acting from mediocre acting or worse, much worse… Though it may also seem obvious that good acting, like great beauty, has to come from inside to make the external shine, we’ve all seen bad acting enough to know that not all acting training is on the same page.

Basically, internal means from the inside. External means from the outside. Stimulation means an act that encourages a given response. Simulation means an act that imitates the appearance of a given response.

Now, let’s look at these concepts more closely to see how they apply to acting and acting methods.

The external is all about surfaces. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – the external is a given and a necessity for the actor. An actor showing up for a casting call, for example, automatically brings their external, visible selves. Strangers on the street are seen externally for the most part. It’ll take some kind of stimulation – an accident, a tantrum, a fight – to make the internal come out. Method acting aims for stimulating the internal to come out also.

With external acting, what you get is voice inflections, mannerisms, sad/happy faces, presence if the actor is charismatic enough, and other tools of projection. Don’t get me wrong – all these things are important for an actor. But not at the expense of the internal, the emotional truth from within. The external craft is there to support the internal characterization. They are not intended to cover up for – ‘simulate’ – something real. All good drama schools and acting classes know this.

By internal, we may think of the inside as opposed to the outside of a book. The outside is the cover, right? Usually it is an illustrative surface that covers the content. Take that analogy a little further and you get an act that ‘covers’ for something that may or may not be there.

Great acting is about tapping into internal resources, which we all have, and using it to the fullest. Acting from inside leads to believable characters simply because the emotions are real. That shows – how could it not? Humans are very good at spotting emotional truth – they can be fooled, but only when they allow themselves to be.

The most moving performances, the ones that really touch you, involve actors who bring themselves – their emotions, their experiences, their physicality – to the role.

Method acting stimulates the process by insisting on truthfulness from every angle.

Simulation in acting is a sham, a pretense, a shortcut that will only lead to mediocre performances at best. Stimulation, on the other hand, comes with hard work and years of great acting lessons to perfect. The approach of method acting classes turns out to be one of the most, if not the most, successful approaches for insisting on internally-driven acting brought to the outside. (Marlon Brandon, Harvey Keitel, Denzel Washington, Ellyn Burstyn, Al Pacino, Sean Penn – the list goes on and on – were trained in The Method.)

When it comes to solid method acting classes in London, I am renowned for providing top level instruction. By stimulating your inner tools, not simulating them.

“Brian is a Acting Coach with over 18 years experience in the industry and is The Leading Expert on Method Acting in the UK. He has taught actors appearing in London’s West End shows to high profile films. Brian recently appeared on the BBC2 programme ‘Murder Most Famous’ teaching TV Actors; Sherrie Hewson (Coronation Street/
Emmerdale) and Angela Griffin (Coronation Street/ Holby City) Method Acting techniques. “

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