Acting Tips From A True-Crime Re-Enactor

By: Becky Cardwell

I am an actor. My parents were actors as well, which is undoubtedly how I developed an appreciation for the craft. My father was a successful real estate agent who engaged in role-playing with his secretary, and my mother a housewife/aspiring rug hooker who acted oblivious to my father’s transgressions.

I was discovered at the age of four in the local supermarket, by a pageant mom who, after seeing me perform “I’m a Little Tea Pot” next to my grocer’s freezer section, called me the “Next big thing in animate tea-brewing vessels.”

Still, it wasn’t until a few years later — while I was heaving into an outdoor recycling bin after eating the Spamwich my mother made for my lunch — that a vegan television producer took notice. Impressed by my eco-friendly vomiting skills, he offered me the lead role in his new reality show, called Girl Who Dies After Stranger Slips a Meat-By-Product Into Her Tofurkey Wrap.

From there, I went on to play a vegetarian in the wrong place at the wrong time, then a vegetarian in the right place at the wrong time, eventually landing the coveted role of “Trashy Vegetarian-Turned-Mistress,” brutally murdered by her lover’s meat-eating wife.

Being a re-enactor is a million times harder than being a regular actor. Especially when the person you’re reenacting was an actor. Not only do you have to memorize his natural persona, you also have to get into his acting mind. This means you’re actually getting into two minds. Actually, no…make that three minds — I forgot to include the mind of the character that your actor is acting.

There are no classes that can prepare you for this type of career. You either have the talent or you don’t. That being said, there are certain things you can do to fake like you have the talent.

If I could give aspiring crime re-enactors any advice, it would be as follows:

Show Honesty in Your Work. Ask yourself these questions: Who am I? Where am I? Where am I from? What time is it? What period? If playing a woman, am I on my period?

Once you have these answers, you can then go on to tackle the more difficult questions. Should I sprawl out on the dirt with my eyes rolled back in my head? Or do I want to seem peaceful, like if someone didn’t know any better they might think I was just taking a catnap on the asphalt?

Be Flexible. You might start out in misdemeanor crimes: things like simple assault and battery, drunkenness in public, various traffic violations, etc. While they may not be as exciting as actual homicides, it’s important to remember that true petty crime is a gateway to harsher, more serious true crime.

Hone Your Craft. People think it’s easy to play a dead person. They’re wrong. Just because there is no actual personality in a dead person, that doesn’t make them easier to play. If anything, it makes it tougher. Dead people aren’t around to give you advice on how to play themselves. Nobody truly knows what it’s like to be a dead person, and anyone who says they do is lying. Or dead.

To prepare for these types of roles, I often spend days lying motionless on a park bench, just to get a feel for the deadness of my character.

Be Realistic. Say you’re a short blonde Polish girl in her early twenties. Are you going to audition for the part of a sixty-year-old Garifuna man with a short blonde Polish girl fetish? Hells no! That would be career suicide.

But would you consider gaining thirty pounds and getting a lower fraenum ring to play an Emo who falls in love with a mentally unstable piercing artist? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself.

I remember one audition I had for a woman named Mary. Mary was a deaf Southern Baptist in her late sixties who didn’t drink alcohol because it caused her psoriasis to flare up.

Now, I had never been deaf, nor had I ever gone a day without getting my party on. But I was dedicated. And by the time we went to shoot, not only was I (relatively) sober, I could sign all the lyrics to Bette Midler’s “The Rose”!

Commit to the Role. If you sign up to play a street thug, you may have to endure fake beatings. You need to be open to that.

Stay Positive. There are times when you might not work for months, due to a decrease in violent crime rates. Be patient. Remember, the Law of Duality says that what goes down will eventually rise again.

About Your Portfolio. While you want the casting agents to see you in a crime-related light, you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself. If all of your headshots are of you playing a dead person, they’ll think of you as being one-dimensional. Just because you’re a victim, that doesn’t mean you will end up dead. You might just be brutally stabbed. Or beaten to the point of unconsciousness.

Speaking of pigeonholing, do not fall into this trap. If you’re European, try not to act like one all the time. Or, at least don’t limit your Europeaness to one region. If you’re Romanian, don’t be scared to play someone of Bulgarian descent.

The great thing about being a True-Crime Reenactor is that you don’t have to worry about succumbing to the pressures of Hollywood. You might play the part of a guy who succumbed to these pressures, but if that guy were still alive he probably wouldn’t hang out with you. And really, that’s a good thing.

I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom: Dr. Kevorkian once said that dying is not a crime. He’s right. It’s only when someone makes you die that it becomes a crime. And that’s where we come in.


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