Sometimes an actor will find themselves type-cast, and the reasons for this can vary greatly. It can be the fault of a narrow-minded industry, a lazy agent, an iconic role that they find impossible to be divorced from, or simply from the actor’s own lack of range.
We are all lucky to be fans of a man who has not experienced this. Damian has had the pleasure of embodying many different types of men. And while so many of these characters have some sort of overlap(just how many times has he put on a military uniform now??), he has used his incredible skill set to create a different, iconic character in each role. Specifically, I want to talk about how he uses his body language to create believable characters that resonate.
Ursula wasn’t wrong. Let’s talk about how Damian used his whole body to create Bobby, Brody and Charlie. To understand my analysis, I have to explain a little more detail about Delsarte. The Delsarte system maps human expression in the body, and its universal meaning. I’ll quote my instructor, Joe Williams, for a moment:
“Does it make sense to you that a person can be described as a combination of Body, Mind and Spirit? It is rather common language today. Nearly everywhere you look, there are promotions for classes, products or articles whose intent is to nourish or inspire the Body, Mind and Spirit. It is not difficult to imagine that the basic impulses of a human being are survival instinct, intellect, and that mysterious harmony we call spirit. In Delsarte training, one learns that body, mind and spirit are not esoteric ideas, but very real and very practical forces in the body, with very specific locations in which they show themselves.”
In more modern terms, I tend to favor the terms mind, heart, and vitality. As I broke down Charlie, Brody and Bobby by their faces/head alone, I was using these three elements. These three elements occur not only in a person as a whole, but also within each individual part of the body. Within the head, Bobby was ruled by his mind, expressed through his forehead. Brody was ruled by his heart, expressed by his eyes, and Charlie was in harmony, as he used all three seamlessly and appropriately. This language continues through their whole bodies. Let’s talk about Mr. Mind-Bobby Axelrod.
Bobby is clearly lead by mind, as well as a bit of vitality. His swagger of a walk, head down most times, is very much an example of that. His head swivels as he walks, taking it all in. He is not going to take his eyes off the game for one second. Even the percussive nature of his steps-within the leg, the foot is your mind! He stomps around like a man who knows what he wants, and gets it. Hear him coming? Move out of the way! His chest, the heart zone, is hardly ever prominent. Many times, his arms are crossed over it. His most favorite finger, the index finger, is the mind finger. He points a lot. He pounds that finger into the table or desk during discussions. Or even “pokes” Dollar Bill in the chest with it.
Oh that scene. I think I could write a whole post about that scene. Superbly executed! So well written and performed. That, my friends, was art! And a 100% clear example of what these posts are all about-body language can be the most important part of any interaction. If your words and your unspoken words don’t line up, there’s deception!
I loved him in this moment of triumph. He was so confident, so open. His heart is exposed, but really what is most prominent is his vital upper arms and his underarms. In Delsarte, I have learned that underarms are the equivalent of your groin. So what’s really on display in that position he’s in? Oh my!
Bobby tries desperately to always appear this powerful, but he’s rarely anything but. Sure, he has climbed his way to the top. Not just climbed, but CLAWED. And it shows. His posture is stiff and tense. While he is trying to be strong with his presence, this tension gives him away. Tension is the opposite of power.
Balance of the trinity-mind, heart and vitality, is power. And power is what Charlie has.
I know for a few of you, you’d never thought about Charlie’s power. He’s strange. He’s quirky. He spouts zen phrases and answers questions with more questions. But this all is distraction from the very truth of his power. Charlie is relaxed. He is honest. When he talks to people, he faces them straight on. Not in an agressive way, head down, like Bobby. But with ease, full eye contact, neutral.
We do see, at times, his zen fail him. It happens in a few different ways in the episode “Fill it up”. As he heads to confront the man who killed his friend and his friend’s family he’s stiff, he’s rigid. His jaw is tense, his shoulders are squared but tense. His walk is purposeful-his casual, easy strut is gone. His posture is rigid. He literally throws the zen out the window!
In the beginning of that episode, he returns to the prison that he was trapped in for over a decade, and you can see how his spirit dips, just being inside of it. His eyes look sad, his shoulders are rolled inward. You can tell that this place, physically being back inside of it, brings back his pain. While outside of the prison, he is free. But the pain of his incarceration is not far from his mind. It was brought up during conversation on part one of this post-he couldn’t even bear the thought of having a fence around his property. He doesn’t want to dwell on the past, but it’s not like it doesn’t hurt.
Using faith or spirituality as a survival method is something we also see in Brody. When Brody’s world is spinning out of control, he turns back to the thing that brought him sanity, purpose, and calm during a horrible time. He goes from spending hours up against a wall in his bedroom, trapped in a PTSD flashback, to somewhat in control. The changes in Brody we see once he is able to start praying again, speaks to the peace and strength his faith gives him.
Brody still struggles at times, though. He is still a bit unpredictable, prone to outbursts. Prayer does help him find some balance. Or, at least, enough balance to get through the day without pounding his best friend’s face into the ground.
Ok, sometimes it doesn’t work. But hey, no one is perfect 🙂
We can see, through his disengagement, his rage, his inability to interact correctly, how Brody is having a hard time letting people in. He has trouble finding the intimacy he needs to be kind and gentle with his wife, partly due to the brutality he faced, but also due to the betrayal he feels over her involvement with Mike.
But he does find some kindness for a couple people. His daughter, Dana, seems to find a way through his pain immediately. I’ve thought a lot about it. How can he relate to this sassy little teenager? What makes it so easy for him to sit on her bed and laugh with her?
I think that he relates to her because of her rebellious spirit. He is being told what to do, how to feel, what mission to follow. Kind of the same way a teenager is told how to act, to be responsible, to overlook fun and what you want to do, for what you should do. I have to wonder how much Dana is actually like a pre-military Brody? Does he see his former wild spirit in her?
You see him open up to her, and its rather touching. He might be rather broken, but are there parts of him that still work? I think we see those most with her.
And of course, with Carrie. I feel like the moment that had Brody, hook, line, and sinker, was when Carrie met him in that parking lot. Before the rain fell, they had this interaction:
Carrie: I have a better question-how come it’s so hard to talk to anyone who wasn’t there about anything at all?
He knew she got it. He knew she understood. Suddenly, when the ground was falling out from under him, there was someone to call.
He looks relaxed and confident with Carrie. His posture is calm and powerful, his eyes make contact with hers, his smile goes all the way up into his eyes. The tone of his voice matches the expression on his face. He has so many deadpan deliveries of either mean, sarcastic phrases(“get Mike to build the fence, he’s handy!”) or false jubilation(when celebrating Chris’s blue belt with Mike), its nice to see real feelings. In the season one finale, he tells Carrie that she gave it all up to him, but that also holds true for him.
Well, that’s part two! Join me in the comments for some discussion, and let me know what other analysis you’d like to see. I get the feeling that they want me to stick around or something… 🙂