Learn how to cry on command
So, how does someone cry on cue? Well, for some people it’s really easy. While for others it can be extremely tough. Essentially, it has to do with tapping into your own emotions.
Several actors on Reddit recently discussed how they cry on cue and it’s pretty damn intense. Here are the 4 best tips for crying on the spot.
Live in the scene
If you’re really living there, and you really care about what you’re going through, the tears will come if you’ve done the work. I hate to say it, but there’s no trick to crying, or at least, real emotional crying. I was in a show once where I felt like I needed to be crying for a scene, and I did everything: yawning, bringing up a past memory (which is a really really bad idea, don’t do it dood), altering my voice to make it sound like I was crying but really wasn’t (also a bad idea don’t do it dood). On the closing night, I got fed up and thought, “Fuck it. I’m just going to do the scene. I’m gonna get super in character and all that, and if I don’t cry, I don’t cry. At least I’ll go out honestly.” And guess what? I bawled my eyes out because instead of focusing on crying and technical elements of acting, I focused on living truthfully in the given circumstances. – DoctorEthereal
Don’t cry. Hold back your emotions
I was always told that it’s always more entertaining to watch a performer hold back their emotions rather than exploding and letting it all out at once. If the monologue or scene requires you to be crying throughout, it’s more interesting to watch you try and hold back those tears as much as possible and only let a little bit out at once. It’s a myth that great performers can cry on demand because it’s such an average display of emotion. I like the metaphor that it’s more fun to watch the lid on a boiling pot of water bounce around bubble up and always appear to fly off but never does. Maybe every once in a while, and a huge rush of emotion will spurt out but it’s always contained. This is also good at helping you build during the scene or monologue. Always give yourself somewhere to go emotionally. If you’re crying and wailing by the middle of the scene, it’s hard to go anywhere with that. In short; it’s more fruitful to live in the emotional journey you go on to get to crying than it is to only see you arrive at that final destination. –carlsonaj
Do whatever works for you
CAVEAT: This is what I’ve found works for me. Other people might have other ways of doing it but I’ve found this works and people who watch me act seem to be effectively convinced and moved which satisfies – at least in part – my primary endeavors as an actor. In the end, everyone has different ways to do things, so whatever best gets the job done for you is the right way to do it. That said…
For breaking down into a sobbing fit… Hopefully, it comes naturally by doing the actions of the scene and really listening and taking things in personally moment to moment, but if it doesn’t and the script demands it from you, well… Sometimes, then, you just gotta fake it (ie, act it.)
Also, for some people, like myself, it’s not that you aren’t feeling the emotions but that you initially don’t know how to let it out because of your inhibitions or it gets too intellectual and you stop yourself. These are basically due to emotional safety guards from your normal life. Irl you don’t want to break down because that’s the emotional equivalent of driving your car off a bridge on purpose. Because of that sometimes just making yourself do it helps tip the scales and it all comes falling out. The more you do it the easier it gets. For this I like to use sense memory to mentally visualize Shia Leboeuf standing over me shouting “JUST DO IT!!!” and the towers come crashing down.
If you’re gonna do this… the other thing is to remember to make sure, even if you’re acting it, everything you do still comes from the moment. By this I mean you still gotta be listening to your partner and be in the scene doing something(which might very well be just surrendering to the given moment). Sometimes I’ll see people break down emotionally but it comes across false because it’s just arbitrary and cliche and not based on the reality of the moment. They reach a certain point in the scene and then they suddenly fling themselves to the ground or bury their face in their armpit and are not listening to whoever it is they were talking to. As an audience, I’ll be like “oh okay… there goes the waterworks!” And then you see them in the very next moment suddenly completely dry eyed and smiley. People irl don’t usually break down or recover like that. Unless maybe they are having a tantrum I guess. Irl they usually are doing something and then, while they are doing it, the emotion overtakes them or trips them up and then they break down. Then when they stop they either stop themselves or something makes them stop and, emotionally, there is a bit of residue like waves receding or when a person gets up from a fall. Their mind or thoughts may suddenly switch based on something they see or hear but there is usually a micro-second of residual emotion as the gears shift. At the very least there needs to be a moment of recognition or surprise before stuff starts to shift. So if you want to act a breakdown convincingly you gotta have all that behavior. Otherwise, it will look false.
On the other hand… If you’re talking about crying like tearing up and stuff with water coming out your eyes, I can’t really make myself do it arbitrarily. I guess some can. But for me, leaky eyes come spontaneously from being in the scene and listening and being open to the other person emotionally. If you listen closely to the other person it affects your heart and if you interpret them through the lens of your circumstances/character you will be affected emotionally in a way that is suitable to both the role as you interpret it and the moment. Tears don’t always mean good acting though. Sometimes it comes off as maudlin or excessive. Make sure to listen and, if your character would try to hide it, then don’t just stand there – dry those eyes. And if you are still so affected you can’t stop the moisture leaking out your ocular sensor ports then… congratulations, kid, you got talent
Access your emotions
Everyone has the ability to cry. Unless you have some kind of medical problem. The key is how to access the emotions that trigger your tears. Try telling a story of the moment you learned something truly tragic. Like the moment you found out your brother was killed, or how your dog got hit by a car. See if that works. Make it real, before you say it, imagine what the room you were in looked like that when it originally happened. You could also imagine when you had to give someone else tragic news. Then go do your scene. Good luck.
And if I am honest a lot of actors don’t cry on cue ….. on film sets it can take a little while for them to build up to it. There is also a ‘tear stick’ which can be purchased from theatrical makeup suppliers, a couple of dabs of this under your eye and you can be sobbing in seconds.