As a writer/director I have some very big news for actors. I’m about to take all the pressure off you to cry in an audition. What we, who are hiring and working with actors really want and are really after, is not necessarily tears, but honest emotion.
I have written a novel and many produced screenplays. In a novel you can describe a characters innermost feelings, you never have to say they cry, and in most cases, real people hold back their tears, which is much more interesting. But in a screenplay you must describe things from the outside. As a screenplay writer I am writing so that the READER understands what’s going on. You will rarely read detailed descriptions of a character’s innermost feelings in a script. As the writer, I am setting the blueprint, not crawling inside each character’s heart and describing what it feels. Actually, I do crawl inside each character’s heart and then describe their behavior rather than their emotions. Emotion is the actor’s job. The actor has to do his or her job of bringing that character to life.
So, even though I am the one who wrote “a tear rolls down her cheek”, I don’t necessarily expect to see that. What I do expect to see is an actor understanding the emotion and taking that character to a very deep level of reality in that scene. To be perfectly frank, I don’t even like it when actors cry in an audition. Sometimes it’s very boring and one-dimensional because the scene becomes about crying, and other times it is just very uncomfortable. I’m not telling you it’s wrong to do it if it comes naturally out of the scene, then it’s great; but it’s difficult to watch when the emphasis is on tears.
So let me make this perfectly clear. When the writer says, “a tear rolls down her cheek”, it is so that the READER understands the emotion of the scene. As actors, just live the scene for us. You might even laugh in that “tearful” moment in a particular way that is even more moving. Just live it, and show us how it’s supposed to go!