Emotions, How to Control Yours

Controlling Your Emotions

Acting using emotions is something that millions of people across the country aspire to do, and even if you land a small bit part in a stage production it can feel like you’ve just been handed the world. But in order to grow your career and evolve it forwards in exciting ways, it’s important that you master all of the different factors involved in the process.

One area that many newer actors have trouble with is in controlling their emotions. Being able to bring out sadness or rage or tremendous joy at the drop of a hat isn’t easy, but it’s something that the absolute best actors will be able to do. It’s also something that you’ll need to master if you want to nail auditions and bring characters to life in a convincing way.

But how do you do it? How can you cry on command or convince an audience that your character is terrified in a particular scene? Mastering the art of controlling emotions is one of the keys of acting, and it’s something that is very possible to do. There are a few basic things to keep in mind that will help with this.

A photo of cartoon kids emoting

Emotion range

Understanding Emotions

The first step worth taking is to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of emotions and how they’re conveyed. If you want to be able to control your emotions you’ll need to know what they look like and how to adequately express them. So how can you go about it? A few ideas can help.

Observe Others

When you’re out in the real world, start taking a look at the people in public around you. Can you identify how they’re feeling? Are there certain facial qualities or body language that just seems to cry out a particular kind of emotion? Make note of what stands out to you and remember it.

Watch The Pros

Pop in a DVD of your favorite movie and watch the actors. Or run a search on YouTube for a particular scene that you remember having tremendous emotional power. Watch what the actors do in those scenes to bring an emotion to the forefront. What do they do with their hands or arms? Their body? Do they pace wildly or set down, defeated? What about their eyes? Look at all of these things and remember them. Be sure to watch the same actors in the same film at different moments, too. See them as they’re happy, sad, and angry to see the differences in mannerisms.

More Than Words

While you’re doing this, remember that you’re looking not at the words being used, but the actions. Words can tell an audience your feelings, but it’s better to use your face and body to really sell them on the fact that you’re experiencing a particular emotion.

Learn Acting Techniques

There are several acting techniques that can help you achieve the mastery of emoting. Try them all to see what works best for you. Read some books on any of them. Most of the books are really short and revolve around the art of believing yourself to be in the moment.


Now sit down in front of a mirror and run through some of the emotional portrayals. When you think you’re convincing, put on a mask and do it again. This will help you blend words and vocal patterns with your facial expressions to really bring emotions to life.

Remember, Practice makes… improvement because no one’s perfect.

Tom Cruise, Maverick, Ethan Hunt, Jerry Maguire, Les Grossman with different emotions for each character

Tom Cruise and many of his characters: Maverick, Ethan Hunt, Jerry Maguire, Les Grossman

Getting Into Character

For many, bringing out emotions in a character isn’t as much about themselves, but about the character they’re playing. This is where true actors really shine – they sink so far into their roles that they basically experience the emotions as they occur. In doing so they can better bring any emotion to life. Here are a few tips on preparing to portray a character and what they’re going through.

Read The Script Fully

Don’t just read your parts and ignore the rest. Read the entire story to gain a deeper understanding of your character and their motivations – and their place in the story. This also helps you identify the different emotions you’re going to have to bring to life throughout the work.

Understand Your Character

The key is to try to slip into the character. If there isn’t much backstory, create backstory. You need to know your character intimately so you can become them as completely as possible.

Identify Any Problem Scenes

Are there moments in the script where you’re unsure how things are going to go? What exactly your character is thinking? Identify and scenes like this and really think them over in order to develop the right kind of portrayal.

Be The Character

Good actors don’t just portray slightly different versions of themselves. Find a mirror and create your character. Are there certain body movements, postures, vocal tics or speech patterns that you want to use? When you start creating little things like this you create a character that you can inhabit. It also makes it easier to bring out emotions.

Feel The Experiences

Once you’re able to slip into character, inhabit that for a few moments. Spend some time walking around on set or backstage as the character would in order to really get into the moment. Build up their feelings in a scene as best you can. The key is convincing yourself that you ARE the character, and when you’re able to do this you can more easily bring out their emotions in a significant way.


This is the real key here. Actors need to be willing to fully commit to what they’re doing with a character. This means casting out fears of what others on set will think of your portrayal. You need to be fully committed to bringing a character to life if you want to really succeed at acting. Don’t worry about the perception of others – do what you feel works best.

If you’re having trouble, always remember that practicing at home in front of a mirror, or video taping yourself, can have a big impact on your chances of successfully controlling and conveying emotions. Bringing a character to life means being able to show the audience what they’re feeling without ever uttering a word. The basics are laid out above – now you need to take those steps and find what works for you, then use the information to create a character performance that people will remember.