Physicality in Acting: Using Body Language to Tell a Story

Acting is a multifaceted art, and one of its most powerful tools is body language. These unspoken cues can either enhance, support, or even contradict the words spoken, making them a significant element in the world of acting. When we communicate, it is not only what we say but also how we say that often carries the most weight. Let’s learn more about how body language can impact a story and its importance in the world of acting.

Why is Body Language Important in Acting?

Body language plays a pivotal role in acting for several reasons. Firstly, it’s a highly evocative form of communication after verbal speech. Just as we can glean meaning from real-life situations through body language, actors can convey vital information about their characters without speaking a word. 

Imagine an actor playing a character who’s trying to conceal their sadness but reveals it through a drooping posture and downcast eyes. The audience can instantly perceive the character’s inner turmoil, enriching the storytelling.

Through the right body language, an actor can establish a deeper connection with their character and better inhabit their role, resulting in an authentic and in-depth performance.

How to Use Body Language as an Actor

Using body language effectively as an actor requires conscious effort and practice. Here are some steps to help you harness the power of nonverbal communication:

  • Study body language examples: Observe how accomplished actors use their bodies to convey emotions and meaning in their performances. Learning from the greats can provide invaluable insights into the art of nonverbal communication in acting.
  • Learn body language techniques: Familiarize yourself with various movement techniques for actors, such as Laban Movement Analysis and Viewpoints. These techniques can empower you to use your body as a potent instrument for conveying messages.
  • Do body language exercises: Engage in exercises like mirroring, subtexting a scene, or writing a scene that relies solely on body language. These exercises can help you refine your body language skills and develop a unique style that enhances your acting.
  • Act like your character: Use your sense memory to generate authentic emotional responses to your character’s circumstances. Adjust your body language to reflect your character’s feelings, whether they’re confident, shy, or emotionally conflicted.
  • Keep practicing: Remember that acting is all about body language, so practice makes perfect. Continuously work on honing your nonverbal communication skills to become a more effective and convincing actor.

Tips for Improving Your Body Language

Improving your body language in acting requires heightened self-awareness and practice. Here are some steps to enhance your non-verbal communication skills:

  • Become more aware of your physicality: Pay attention to your own body language habits. Recognizing your typical movements and expressions helps you consciously adopt different character postures and gestures.
  • Watch people: Observe how people around you use body language in various situations. Watching people can provide valuable insights into how nonverbal cues are employed in different contexts.
  • Watch your own performances: Review recordings of your acting performances to assess the effectiveness of your body language. Identify areas where you can improve and refine your nonverbal communication skills.
  • Attend acting classes: Continuing to attend acting classes is essential. Your acting coach can provide valuable feedback on your use of body language and help you improve your acting skills.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice: Experiment with body language in different scenarios, even adopting an entirely different persona for practice. The more you practice, the more versatile and skilled you’ll become at using body language in acting.

Body Language Acting Exercises

Actors can benefit from various body language exercises to enhance their skills. Here are a few exercises to consider:

  • Gait Exercise: Explore how your character walks and how it varies based on their emotions. Experiment with different walking styles to reflect your character’s personality and feelings.
  • The Seven Microexpressions: Practice conveying the seven universal facial expressions—fear, anger, contempt, disgust, sadness, happiness, and surprise—without words.
  • Good Listener/Bad Listener: Collaborate with a partner to express “good listener” and “bad listener” behaviors solely through body language while telling stories.
  • Subtext a Scene: Act out a scene in which your character’s body language contradicts their spoken words, revealing their true emotions.
  • Write the Gestures: Create a written scene in which two characters communicate exclusively through body language, highlighting the power of nonverbal communication.


Body language in acting is a potent tool for conveying emotions and storytelling. Actors who improve their body language skills can create more authentic, engaging, and memorable performances. By understanding the importance of nonverbal communication and actively practicing body language exercises, you can enhance your acting skills and captivate audiences with your compelling portrayals.