Suit Performer

If you want to use your entire body, this is the area of puppeteering you want to be in. Technically, the suit performer is considered an actor. That is, he or she brings the physical movement of the character to life.

Suit performers are something of a different breed. They can range anywhere from walking around in a Godzilla suit on a miniature set to lurking in the shadows waiting to fight Sigourney Weaver in the Alien films. A suit performer for film or television has to create the physical carriage of the character, how it walks, stands, sits. It's acting without words. If the scene requires the character to be sad, the suit performer has to show that through the layers of the costume. Here the suit performer is not working alone. The costume has any number of electronic controls operating the face and any other part of the creation that needs extra articulation. These controls are operated by a second or even third person. The operator of these extra functions is in constant communication with the suit performer, working in harmony to create the perfect performance necessary for the shot.

"Before my audition, I videotaped myself walking around my apartment, eating breakfast, dancing, like a dinosaur." This is what suit performer Bill Barretta did to prepare for the role of Earl in Disney Television's show "Dinosaurs." Bill is an actor who finds being literally inside a character a challenge. "From training in movement, you learn to have a certain balance and how to move and how to create certain things. Most of my acting is based on behavior, which is really what I do." Bill has to be able to interpret the script as a whole, not just for his character. "I have to be able to figure out what the behavior is that will tell the story without really having to hear the words.

"Every time I get a script, I go through it, and as I'm reading it there are things that I just imagine [the character] doing. There are always ideas that I'm coming up with." In this way, Bill, like any actor, has input into the creation of the personality of his character.

Other aspects of the job? "Just being creative and open to suggestions and collaboration are a big part of what we do. It's good to have an open mind. You have so many people who work on the show, [giving ideas]. If you close yourself off to that sort of stuff, you're losing rather than gaining."

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