Act Like a Dog

Act Like a Dog

By Risa Bramon Garcia

There’s a dog on our show SEAL TEAM on CBS. Her name is Dita. She’s remarkable. She’s in top shape, senses focused and sharp. She’s excited and committed to be there. She loves what she does. She’s right there, all in. It’s extraordinary to see how completely invested she is in every moment, even when she’s doing nothing. She’s fully present. And when we watch any scene she inhabits, our eye goes to Dita. We’re riveted.

See, nobody told her that she’s acting. She’s trained, don’t get us wrong. She trains all day long. But her performance is in the act of achieving something, not getting an audience to like or applaud her. Nobody told her she should watch herself or perform for the camera, or be a “good” actor. Sure, she has no lines so in some ways her job seems easier. But when she’s working, she’s deeply engaged. Nothing matters but her actions; she has a significant job to do, a task to complete. An imperative in the scene. Get inside the building. Sniff out the explosives. Warn the folks in danger. Protect her team. That supersedes all.

The dog puts the needs in the story first. She is living in “the world of the play,” her given circumstances. She feels the urgency and she is active. She goes about getting what she wants, what is necessary, and she is fully committed to that. She’s keenly attentive, listening, all senses alert. It feels like she’s emotionally engaged, because this (whatever this is at that time) is urgently important to her. She cannot fail. And because, to her, the lives of everyone else in the scene are at stake, Dita is there to serve the people around her and the needs of their story. She is heroic. So… we, as her audience, root for her. She’s absorbed, she’s invested- and so we are.

And sure- we all have a soft spot for animals in the movies. We all grew up with some version of Lassie or Flipper (dating myself), Scooby-Doo, Toto, Bagheera, Wilbur, and so on. What we love about them is that their intent is pure, their actions are selfless and huge (most of the time), they’re not self-conscious, and they’re focused on winning. There is a vulnerability in this behavior- they’re putting themselves fully into their actions. We root for their success with all our hearts.

What keeps you from being in the work this way all the time?

In our classes at The BGB Studio, we find that when actors get out of their own way, when resistance (showing up in judgement, fear, blame, anxiety, self-consciousness) is acknowledged, when ego is managed, when being right in that sweet spot of presence and connection is far more powerful than performing, they bring Dita’s same genuine, alert engagement to any scene or relationship.

They’re true to their impulses, they’re actively listening, they’re at ease in their bodies, they’re wildly pursuing their want, they’re fully present and available to whatever happens, they’re focused on the object of their intent (the other). They’re operating very much like Dita. And we- watching- are inherently affected by it. We see their humanity and love them- the way we fall in love when our favorite animal heroes who reveal and pursue their intentions with all their might. That kind of presence, that force, that vulnerability, is what we crave. It’s what moves us. Animal or human, it’s what connects us all. It’s what the work is really supposed to be. Acting like Dita.

Come “act like a dog!” Join us in class today.

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