Breaking Character

Actors often break character they are playing, which results in hilarious bloopers. But this isn't about that. This is about the characters breaking character - sometimes abruptly and sometimes through a well developed character arc

Breaking Character
Breaking Character

The best character that comes to my mind about breaking character is Walter White from Breaking Bad. Sure, he has an epic character arc, from being a mild-mannered chemistry teacher to making enough drugs for securing his family to becoming a ruthless drug kingpin. But right when he had decided to cook meth, he had already broken his character. The turning point was getting diagnosed with cancer.

"A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!" - Walter White

Recently, I finished watching The Marvelous Mrs.Maisel, which is a series set in 1950s. Midge Maisel, who goes to college just to find a good husband and to whom, having a great house is important, goes on to become an independent woman by pursuing standup comedy as a career, when her husband walks out on her. In turn, she inspires her parents to break free from their own bubbles and carve out their own paths. 

“You made me passionate, and independent, and broke!” - Rose(mom) to Midge

Michael Corleone, from The Godfather, ascends as a mafia boss from being a reluctant outsider, after the deaths of his brother and father. Similarly,  Faizal Khan from Gangs of Wasseypur, goes from being a crazy Bollywood fan to a man who ultimately avenges everyone's death.

“Baap ka, Dada ka, Bhai ka. Sabka badla lega re, tera Faizal.”

The famous keyboard smash to face scene from the movie Wanted happens when the hero, who has a dead end job, who is pushed around by everyone and has to take pills to control his panic attacks, encounters a group of assassins, who tell him that he is the son of an assassin.

In the movie Black Swan, Nina who is perfect for the White Swan, has to outshine her rival as Black Swan too. She descends into hallucinations and madness to become the dark Black Swan from being an innocent and fragile character.  

"Surprise yourself, surprise the world"

The dreamy head Walter Mitty from The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, actually gets out of his head and goes out on an adventure to find a missing negative of a cover photo for his magazine. Alexandra Rover from Nim's Island, who is an agoraphobic writer, goes out on an adventure to save a child in potential danger.

In the movie Rockstar, Jordan waits for a heartbreak to happen to him, so that he can churn out great music from the pain. When that actually happens in the end, he goes on to give his iconic performance.

The Hero with a thousand faces is about the common elements found in many stories of Hero's transformation from ordinary life to adventure. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Game of Thrones and many other great stories have these same patterns. An extraordinary external trigger/catalyst - cancer, divorce, death of someone close, an encounter with a bunch of assassins, call to adventure - makes the character break the character.


Sometimes, the external triggers that can unsettle one's life aren't that dramatic or they are completely non-existent.

In Seinfeld, George , who is always jobless and is kind of a loser, does the opposite of whatever his instinct tells him to do, on Sienfeld's suggestion. He miraculously gets a date, a job through his date and moves out of his parents house - all just by doing the Opposite of "What would George do?"

In the movie Yes Man, Carl takes up the challenge to say Yes to anything and everything, which he would have never done otherwise. This takes him on wild set of adventures and finding the love of his life.


If I quit my job and join Shaimak Davar dance group, then that's definitely me breaking character. Because it's not something I want to do.

If I quit my job and pack my backpack to travel, then too I am breaking character. Because it may be something I may wish to do and but definitely not something which I usually do.

Then there are some things, where I feel stuck - these are not impossible stuff, but things which definitely need a different approach than whatever I have been trying so far. They need to be tackled the way, they have never been tackled by this character of me. 


The point is (I know, finally!) - sometimes we need to break our own character, do the Opposite, say Yes to things we wouldn't say Yes to, surprise ourselves and surprise the people around us. This may be to get unstuck like George or to open up an infinite set of adventures like Carl. I am not talking about breaking character to become a mega villain and cook meth, rather to become better.

"To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did."

What wouldn't you usually do? What things can benefit from a different approach?

Break character. Break a leg.


PS: Apologies, I broke character by skipping blog for three consecutive weeks. That's no way to break character! 

PPS: Thank you, Vasuki for the encouragement :)


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