The main example, which I ripped off of "Inside the Actor's Studio" (but don't remember who said it first), is:
- imagine a scenario where a character enters a room/place and gets ready to go to sleep.
- the steps involved in doing so could be: entering room, turning lights on, putting keys or other belongings somewhere, brushing teeth, undressing, going to bed
Now. Those acting choices and whatever the character is doing in order to go through those steps will be different depending on where the character is.
If the character (a man for instance) is at his own place he will be familiar with his surroundings, so when he enters his house/apartment/whatever and switches on the light, he won't have to look and search for the switch, he probably won't even look in the direction of the switch while he flips it, because it's a habit. All the bathroom interaction, etc. etc. will be based on familiarity and routine.
But. If the guy is staying at a hotel (first time there), the same steps (entering, lights, keys, etc.) will have different acting choices because he is not familiar with the place. He will have to look for the switch, for other rooms, etc. etc.
So the same action will be different depending on the environment and the character's relationship to that environment.
Why do I bring this up now? I was reading an interview about John C. Reilly and his new movie "Carnage" at hollywoodreporter.com and one of the questions was "What did you learn about filmmaking from Roman?" (Roman Polanski is the director)
I found his answer very interesting and it reminded me of that Inside the Actor's Studio thing.
During rehearsals, I'd have this book in my hand, and I have to set this book down in order to do the next bit of acting, and he would say: "Why would you put the book down? You don't know that you're going to pick up the bottle yet. You're doing that because you know you need your hands free, but that doesn't make sense."
Totally true and a good reminder to question the origin of your acting choices!