Animal Work for Roles

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Fascination and Impact of Animal Work in Acting


Acting is a multifaceted art form that often involves intensive research and preparation to portray characters authentically. One unconventional yet intriguing method that actors have employed to enhance their performances is animal work. By studying and emulating animal behavior, actors can imbue their characters with a unique and captivating realism. In this article, we will explore why animal work can be an interesting and effective tool for actors in characterization, and we will delve into notable examples of actors and actresses who have used animal work for their roles.

Understanding Animal Behavior:

Animals possess a wide range of characteristics and instincts that humans can learn from and tap into when developing a character. By studying animal behavior, actors gain an understanding of body language, physicality, and emotional responses that they can then incorporate into their portrayal. Observing how animals communicate, react to stimuli, and navigate their environment offers actors fresh perspectives and a means to deepen their connection with their characters.

Enhancing Physicality and Expressiveness:

Actors often engage in animal work to expand their physicality and make their performances more dynamic. By emulating the movements, postures, and gestures of various animals, they can infuse their characters with distinct traits, enhancing their authenticity and bringing their roles to life. Exploring the physicality of animals opens up a broader range of expressions and helps actors tap into a different scope of emotions.

Exposing Inner Instincts and Emotions:

Animal work can also help actors unlock hidden layers of their characters’ emotions and instincts. Animals often exhibit uninhibited behaviors based on primal instincts, providing actors with a chance to explore uncensored emotional responses. By tapping into these primal instincts, actors can discover new avenues for emotional depth and vulnerability in their performances, helping them create well-rounded and relatable characters


Animal work in acting opens up a world of possibilities for actors, providing them with tools to deepen their performances through enhanced physicality, emotional depth, and authenticity. By observing and emulating animal behavior, actors can tap into new realms of characterization, making their roles more enthralling and relatable. The examples of Mark Rylance – JERUSALEM, Robert De Niro – TAXI DRIVER, Anne Bancroft – THE GRADUATE , THE Dustin Hoffman – GRADUATE & DEATH OF A SALESMAN, Anthony Hopkins – PRAVDA & THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Tom Cruise – MAGNOLIA, Joaquin Phoenix – THE MASTER, Marlon Brando – THE GODFATHER & STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Toshiro Mifune – YOJIMBO & SEVEN SAMURAI, Andy Serkis, Heather Ledger, and Cate Blanchett offer a glimpse into the ways actors have successfully employed animal work to create memorable and captivating performances. Ultimately, animal work serves as a powerful means for actors to perfect their craft and bring their characters to life with exceptional realism.


Examples: Physical Characterization – Character Actors/Actresses | ARTICLES Actresses using animals as inspiration for characters: Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron