Since moving into acting full-time, I've taken more careful stock of the shows and movies that I love. I have spent the last year analyzing, trying to find a common thread between the shows and actors that captivate me. The most common theme comes from actors who convey more with their facial expressions than with their words.
I'm working my way through AMC's The Walking Dead again, and in re-watching the show, I feel strongly that Jon Bernthal's performance as Shane was severely overlooked. Granted, he's the "bad guy" riding the fence, losing love, betraying friends, etc. and that story got a lot of attention, but Bernthal himself pulled off some of the best non-verbal acting I have ever seen and no one talks about it.
Several times, during season two, I find myself reaching excitedly for the remote to skip back and watch a look or reaction like the one pictured above. By dipping his head, lowering his voice, changing his gaze, Bernthal clearly convey's that Shane is not just angry, he's dangerous. It's brilliant.
My favorite moment of the season, intensified by beautiful direction and framing is so underrated that I could not find an image on the internet at all. Check out Season Two "Pretty Much Dead Already". When Bernthal shoots the zombie being restrained by Hershel, every single person in the frame is acting with intensity that has nothing to do with words.
In fact, Bernthal's face isn't even in the frame that I watched three times in a row. It's just his body. But he delivers the headshot with such authority, his shoulders square, without breaking stance, that his presence is still the strongest on the screen. It's just so badass, and not a word is spoken.
This is the common theme and the level of acting I aspire to.
I want to take people's breath away without saying a word.
Charlie Hunnam is another actor who floors me with what he can say without words. Yes, he's beautiful, and Jackson Teller was well-scripted, but my favorite moments in Sons of Anarchy are the moments Hunnam is allowed time and space to react. "Balm" (an incredibly difficult episode to watch, fair warning) is one of my favorites because we watch Hunnam (as Jax) goes from shocked-to the broken son-to the outlaw. And he never says a word.
As actors, we focus so much on the words, and great words can get you pretty far. A dynamic monologue can do a lot of the work, but more than anything, this is the skill I work on in the mirror. Not just what I am saying, but what I am conveying.
Pay attention to the moments that make you want to hit rewind, and good luck out there.
*Note: I am not an affiliate for IMDb or Amazon Video. I just believe in crediting work and watching entertainment legally.*