The Wheel of Emotion

Posted on 1 March 2016

Acting is the most personal of our crafts. The makeup of a human being – his physical, mental and emotional habits – influence his acting to a much greater extent than commonly recognized”


Lee Strasberg



Emotions make up the core components of the method actors instrument.


If you cannot access or identify with your emotions, no tools or level of technique will make you a great method actor. In fact, a great actor must be able to tap into emotions above and beyond their experience level. They must be able to express themselves and their character in a way that will often take them far out of their comfort zone.


In the actor’s attempt to show the human condition, warts and all, he or she must be able to get to grips with the complete wheel of human emotion.



The Wheel Of Emotion



An actor needs to be able to experience and express at a level that most people cannot do or would not be comfortable with

The Ultimate Guide To Method Acting


As a method actor trying to tap into the emotions of your character, there will be some emotions that you can access easily, while others will less familiar to you. It all depends on your past, your conditioning and your individual habits.


Tuning the key components of your method-acting instrument is about becoming more in-balance with the cross section of emotions, or a perfectly round Wheel of Emotion.


For each emotion on the diagram above, rate yourself out of ten. If you find an emotion easy to express, rate it a ten and draw a line at the appropriate level. At the opposite end, if you think an emotion is totally without the realms of your expression, give it a one.


Do this for each emotion, drawing a line at the correct level for each one. How rounded is your wheel of emotion? If it was the wheel of a car, would the car run smoothly, or would it be a bumpy ride?


Don’t worry if it is all over the place. That is to be expected early on in the process. Part of becoming an accomplished method actor is gradually smoothing out your wheel of emotion over time through practice.



How Can I Practice Emotions?



Acting can literally save your life


The Ultimate Guide To Method Acting



In modern society, we are very good at bottling up our emotions, often to the detriment of our health. A study by Harvard University, in fact, found that premature death from all causes increases by 35% among those who fail to express their emotions.


Using the Wheel of Emotion, actors can identify the emotions that they keep locked up, and work on letting them out. It can be a long, uncomfortable and challenging process, but you will emerge more accomplished as an actor, and a more rounded human being, by the end.


Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing students go from emotion suppressers to emotion expressers

The Ultimate Guide To Method Acting


If you would like to know more about the Wheel of Emotion, why not pick up a copy of my new book. If you are looking for more formal training in method acting techniques, we have a range of classes. I’m sure we can find the right one for you!


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