How He Prepared For Split
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest thriller Split features James McAvoy delivering a stellar performance of nine different personalities. With a broken hand and only a month prepare, McAvoy explains that he focused on three important factors when getting into character.
Balancing Light and Dark
McAvoy plays Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). When finding the characters, McAvoy was very intentional about allowing the characters to be humorous when the story called for it. He believes that a serious disorder or debilitation should not limit a character’s range. McAvoy expressed, “We get very earnest, we get very sober, and we get very serious… There’s a time and a place for that… but I also feel that there should be space to approach them in an entertaining and artistic fashion as well…”
Knowing The Character’s Purpose
The causes of Crumb’s multiple personalities is a brilliant mechanism of storytelling. His childhood is plagued with abuse. Each persona is manifested, in turn, to protect him from those trials. McAvoy uses the prime directive of each character to define their identities, and by extension, his own performance. He even goes so far as to invent them himself when they are not in the script.
Doing The Job
When asked how he prepared to play all nine characters, McAvoy expressed that ultimately he did what he usually does. He researched: reading diaries, watching videos, and reaching out to professionals to really get inside the head of his character. He then spent time defining the boundaries of each persona, discovering their secrets, their motivations, and their identity, until he understood all nine roles.
Ultimately, that is what is admirable. When there is no method, no shortcut, no secret to a difficult role, the willingness to do the unglamorous work of preparation can make or break a performance. The film Split relies heavily on McAvoy, and he delivers.