“If you cannot find the truth right where you are,
where else do you expect to find it?” Dogen
A similar Zen expression goes “The only Zen you will find at the mountaintop is the Zen you bring there.” Zen and acting are both an exploration of self. You do not have to look beyond the skin you inhabit to find everything you are looking for. Understanding comes from within you and so you must be the subject of every character investigation.
Every character, no matter how different from yourself, is easy to find. Just hold a mirror up to yourself.
Imaging – Write down a character description for three very different characters. Commit these descriptions to memory. Stand in front of a mirror and stare into your own eyes. Start to describe the first character. Try to see in your own eyes the essence of that character. Look only at your eyes. Describe the character out loud in the first person, using phrases like, “I am an alcoholic.” Try to see him in your eyes. Keep repeating the description until you feel that person. Say another description. Widen your vision to include your whole face. See that character in your face and then your body. When you feel one with the first character, close your eyes and let that character go. When you open your eyes again, see yourself. If you feel up for it, move on to the second character and then the third.
After completing this exercise, you will see that any character can be created by looking within. That is where you should begin every characterization.