What was James Gandolfini’s secret? Focusing his anger using the Meisner technique.




I am always interested in how an actor finds his “real” moment to convey “real” emotions.


When I read that James Gandolfini focuses his anger using Meisner technique, I smiled. How do you conquer an emotionally charged scene?


There is a fine line between showing real anger and forced anger. When crafting a scene and your character is angry in response to what is happening, daydream in preparation to help define the exact level of anger that is required for the scene and your character. Perhaps your character has a way of displaying anger that allows them to smile while yelling or when they are angry they cry at the same time. There are many variations on how to show anger. To imagine what type of anger is required, prepare a trigger that will help bring an emotionally charged scene to its fullest potential.


To become a good actor, preparation and knowing yourself thoroughly is paramount. If you do not know your own depths of emotion, then it will be difficult to craft an emotional scene for your character. Anger can be one of the hardest emotions to accomplish in a scene. If the anger is forced within your character it will be unbelievable to the audience.


“Mr. Gandolfini, who had studied the Meisner technique of acting for two years, said that he used it to focus his anger and incorporate it into his performances. In an interview for the television series ‘Inside the Actors Studio,’ Mr. Gandolfini said he would deliberately hit himself on the head or stay up all night to evoke the desired reaction. If you are tired, every single thing that somebody does makes you mad, Mr. Gandolfini said in the interview.”–Terry Knickerbocker


What if your scene partner isn’t giving you enough to make your character angry? The logic of where they are coming from doesn’t matter,  the logic of your personal preparation will help to continue the flow of emotional continuity for the scene. The scene will work if you consistently listen and respond in the moment.

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