3. What draws you to a particular character?
First and foremost… is he (or who knows… maybe she) age appropriate? (laughs) Although this hobby is open to everyone, I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of participants are under 40. While it’s absolutely possible for someone in their 20s to portray an older character (I’ve seen brilliant interpretations), I find that younger people (that means anyone under 50 to me) usually relate to someone closer to their age. Luckily for me, that leaves a cornucopia of wonderful characters to choose from. While I may really appreciate Captain Jack Sparrow, I will be much more comfortable and I know I’ll have a great time as Hector Barbossa.
Second, will I feel comfortable in the role? I learned my lesson a couple of years ago by choosing a character without knowing their story… without being a fan. I wanted to participate with my friends in a Game of Thrones cosplay group, but had never seen an episode. I binged a couple of seasons and found a character whose costume was very appealing to me. He was age appropriate and had facial characteristics I could emulate. Without watching another episode I moved forward with him. It was only after financial commitments were made that I discovered how truly loathsome he was. While I have had many compliments on how accurate I look, most people who know the series steer clear of any interaction… especially women. I understand why now and have decided to retire him for general pop-culture type conventions and bring him out only at GoT immersive events.
There has to be some sort of redeeming characteristic. I’ve been asked about Argus Filch. Filch is not a bad man. He is an old curmudgeon whose been doing the same job for decades. In the Harry Potter universe he is a squib (not adept in doing magic) who has been dealing with children year after year who do not respect him… kids who are capable of doing things he’ll never achieve. He wants things kept in order and rules followed in a world that is full of magic he can’t perform. Yet, he is not a bad man and I believe there is love in his heart… if for no one else, but his cat.
And finally, can I pull it off? Cosplay has become more to me than just putting on a costume. I try to immerse myself in the genre, story and character. When I started this adventure, I’d had almost zero experience with makeup and knew nothing about wigs and hair prosthetics. While the costumes have been brilliant, the first time I slipped on a custom wig that was fitted to my head the entire world of cosplay changed. When I looked in the mirror, I saw the character and not myself. It was (and is) a wonderfully surreal experience. The next step was to add makeup and although it was very rudimentary, it did add to the persona and I have continued (albeit slowly) to push it further, including trying my hand at prosthetic appliances (nose, scars, teeth, etc.)… a truly exciting and challenging adventure.
…and then there’s the persona. Can I think and behave like the character? To prepare for this I spend a lot of time watching movies. I observe the way an actor has interrupted the role, his body language and manner of speaking. To try and achieve the right dialect, I have started compiling just the audio portions of the actors dialog from the films. I will listen to it on endless loop while I am putting on makeup and getting ready, repeating the lines and over and over so that by the time I am done and on my way to event, I am in character. I’ve had some pretty interesting conversations with my rideshare drivers. (laughs)
I look at all these prerequisites when I am considering a persona and before I make any investment, I create a character development plan, moving forward only if I think I can achieve my goal.