Go to the movies. As often as you can. And puh-leeze don’t limit yourself to one genre of film (action, dumb buddy, horror, romance, whatever). Expand your horizons with a variety of types of films, even if you can’t stand some of them. You will be absorbing and thus learning (we hope) different styles of acting, all of which obviously landed the actors involved on the big screen.
Watch television and we don’t mean reality shows. If you wanted to be part of that nonsense, you wouldn’t need to devote yourself to learning how to act, now would you?! We mean primetime dramas, comedies, old films, Movies Of The Week (MOWs), ANYTHING created for HBO or Showtime. Observe the various acting techniques and absorb.
(All actors in Hollywood are instructed by their agents – at least the smart, caring ones – to watch at least one episode of every new show that airs on TV, every season. Why? Because each and every show has its own particular style and mood and if you call yourself an actor, you’d better damned well know the difference between the various programs. If, for example, you think that the acting styles of “Boston Legal” are the same as those of “Law & Order”, you’re going to be in big trouble when you have to audition for one or the other of them.)
Read. Anything and everything you can get your hands on. An informed actor is an interesting actor. And read out loud every day, even if it’s the ads from Sport Illustrated while you’re sitting on the john. It will improve your cold reading skills.
Memorize. You must keep your brain in top shape for memorizing and doing it quickly. The easiest things to memorize are probably poems or the lyrics to songs. Try to memorize something new at least every week, if not more often. Once you get the hang of memorizing rhythmic, rhyming pieces, graduate to prose: Passages from books, magazines, newspapers – it really doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you can test yourself for accuracy (use a friend or a recording device to check yourself). If it in any way simulates the dialogue from a role you may one day perform, that’s what you want.
(Needless to say, the older you are, the more difficult memorization becomes, but hey! it’s good for you, so do it!)
Observe your fellow human beings. They will be your “role models” (pun intended) when you need to create new characters. Observe their facial expressions, their body language, their speech patterns. Trust us: This will make you a better, more versatile actor, even if you never consciously use any of it.
These are some basic things you can do both before and after your Hollywood life begins that can serve to better both your acting chops and your life in general.