Watching an actor like Jaques Tati makes you realise that there are such things as natural stage presence and comic timing. We all have these qualities but most of us allow them to be subconsciously interrupted or sabotaged. With Tati, it all appears effortless.
He seems to play the ‘earnest innocent’ quite frequently and this character colours his choices and timing. But what makes his performing so engaging are the minute detail of the characterisations. And this is usually down to observation. As actors, we have to continually observe the world around us – its characters and processes in order to create a library of mannerisms, movement and timings. Jaques Tati presents a footballer, a policeman, a tennis player or a boxer so effectively – not because of broad, cliched strokes, but because of the detail – a look, a gesture, posture, reactions, facial expressions. And part of the joy of watching an actor like this is seeing parodies of the familiar world around us. In order to build such a library, the best thing an actor can do is engage with the world – suspend judgement – engage, observe, empathise and remember. What a beautiful job.