Back when I was an actor…

Bonnie Athene 1993

…a million years ago…

a casting director in a workshop I hit used the phrase “one line fever.” I was curious. Seeing as I was new to the LA market and was hoping to get a shot at my first network co-star (which I knew could possibly be a single line or even a single word), I wanted to learn more.

Turns out “one line fever” is this disease actors get wherein they take a simple line of information meant to help the main characters move forward with the story, and they turn it into Shakespeare.

It’s no longer, “Yeah, I don’t know where he went. Last I saw, he was headed in that direction” to a detective (a series regular detective, of course), instead it’s, “Yeah (wow… this is a big deal… there’s something wrong now that you mention it…), I don’t know WHERE he went (certainly someplace sinister… or maybe he’s in danger… there’s some high-stakes shit going on and I had better raise an eyebrow and use some verbal punctuation to be sure everyone knows that *I* know how big a deal this could turn out to be). Last I saw (emphasis on the *I*, because clearly, I am an important enough character to spin off into my own series after delivering this one line with such emotional depth), he was headed in (wait for it… big finish) THAT direction (cue the flinging arm to indicate where, sending the detective running off after him).”

Dismount! That was some big acting, y’all.

Bonnie Athene 1992

Look.

One liners are meant to be thrown away. Your job, as a one-line co-star, is to help move the plot forward by providing exposition for the viewing audience or information to the lead characters, nothing more.

There’s a really easy way to get very clear on this concept, if this is new to you.

Watch Austin Powers. The original. Look for the character named Basil Exposition.

The joke in that name is that *every* film, *every* TV show, *every* webseries episode, *every* play, heck, even *every* commercial has someone whose function is to help OTHER characters have their arcs. To help the script itself have its arc!

In the Austin Powers movies, Basil Exposition has one purpose: Deliver information not just to the characters but to the viewing audience so that everyone is up to speed with crucial plot elements and the story can advance as intended.

Your job — as an actor hoping for that first co-star in a major production — is to start watching every TV show, every film, every everything looking for “Basil Exposition.” Of course, it’ll usually be a bunch o’ Basils, each doing their own one-line or one-scene co-star best, but you can bet they’re out there.

Watch for them. Don’t get caught up in the story; don’t drool over the meaty roles the leads have; spend your study time watching for these Basils. Then note how they’re delivering their lines.

They’re “throwing it away,” every time. They’re serving the story, not shining in their “big moment.”

Often, it takes building up from those one-liners over time (and over tiers) to get to the point where you can milk your every word and really chew the scenery.

So take some time in your acting classes — or, heck, even with your fellow #SMFAninjas who wanna work out in person or via Skype — to drill one-liners. Practice the art of NAILING your one-line co-star auditions by *not* doing much.

Throw it away. It’s an art; it’s an art that can be practiced. Get to it!

Then I’ll see you at the next tier!

🙂


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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5 Comments

  1. Avatar Eric Nenninger March 29, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Love it Bonnie! I’ve always had success with having a life before my line, getting out of the way on the line, and having a life I have to get to after my line. Get in, get out, get on with it. It helps me with not putting so much pressure on those precious 2 lines.

    Reply
  2. Avatar Ivett Gabriella March 29, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Ha-ha-ha.. this was so funny. I totally know what you mean. I probably have been guilty of this too. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Avatar Ashley Fuller March 29, 2016 at 10:44 am

    This is great, Bonnie – and soon helpful!!

    Thank you!!

    Reply
  4. Avatar Quinton Sampson March 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    I’m so guilty of thisssss

    Reply
  5. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie June 19, 2016 at 1:07 am

    Eric — Oh, I love this advice! Yes! Great tips. Thank you for sharing them here. 🙂

    Ivett — I know *I* sure was, Ivett! We probably ALL have been, at some point. 😉

    Ashley — Oh, good! I’m so glad. Yay!

    Quinton — LOL, you crack me up! Heeeeeee! Even the delivery of that comment had “one-line fever” to it. Hee hee! Well done!

    Reply

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