Technique

Meryl Streep on acting

HS: Every time I see you on screen, whatever role it is you chose, the second I see you in it, you own it. Your voice is different. You physically may be different. How do you do that?

MS: Oh, well, that’s acting. I mean, it is. That’s what I like to do. That’s total immersion into possibility. A life I could imagine I lived. And that’s infinitely interesting to me. There’s no bottom to it.

I read a lot of scripts, and my heart starts to race at some point when I read a character that I want to do. And so that’s the recognition—of a like soul or something in there that I want to say. I’m so inscrutable to myself I don’t really know—you know I’ve never been in analysis and I don’t understand very much about why I do what I do…

This is why, you know, I’ve been very shy to give an acting class or anything because I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to construct it in a logical method that I could impart to someone. I think a class given by me would be something like, ‘Well, you know. You just kinda like, feel it,’ and ‘You know, just trust yourself,’ and all the stupid platitudes that don’t help.

[sighs] A lot of it is just great, deep belief. It’s just like religious faith in what you’re doing. And you just believe in the character.

“Meryl Streep.” Interviewed by Harry Smith. CBS News Sunday Morning. CBS. 13 Sep. 1998.

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