Tirade Tuesday: Actors who can’t move their face

I am so sick and tired of actors getting hired who cannot move their faces. Acting is 90% facial expressions, and 10% remembering your lines. Okay, probably not, but from a viewers perspective it is.

Facial expressions are so important in society. We have mirror neurons, neurons that  fire when we perform an act and when we observe somebody else perform the same act. In laymen’s terms, the same neuron is activated  when we are happy and when we see somebody else happy. This is one of the reasons why yawns are ‘contagious’.

This is why actor’s facial expressions are important. For us to fully empathize with a fictional character, to completely understand their actions, our mirror neurons need to be activated. We need to feel what they feel.

When actors don’t move their faces, or they use the same expressions over and over again, we aren’t as connected. Our mirror neurons aren’t activated, and we feel nothing.

For example: Cam and Arastoo from Bones. We are supposed to buy that they are in love, yet their facial expressions say otherwise. Take the pictures below. Her smile does not meet her eyes, so we can automatically tell it is not genuine. His face literally stays in that position 24/7. Something romantic has just happened between them, and yet, where is that expressed in his face? In his eyes?


Luckily the above are just side characters and not lead characters. When it’s the main character whose face never moves, major issues occur. One such show is Once Upon a Time. The character Emma Swan has no expressions. You can just google image the character, and every picture has her with the same expression. I couldn’t make it past the first episode because I could not connect with Emma. I wanted to feel what she felt, and to all appearances, she felt nothing. I don’t care how good the story lines are, if the actors can’t sell the emotion, you have an unwatchable show.

Some roles require little to no facial expressions. Take Kristen Stewart, one of her first roles was in the movie Speak. The movie focused on a freshmen in high school who was dealing with the aftermath of her rape by not talking to anybody. She was emotionally shut down and had no relationships with anybody. This character was supposed to not show emotions, and Kristen rocked the part.

There is a time and a place for not showing emotions, but sadly more and more actors who struggle with facial expressions are not finding those parts. They are landing parts that require them to use muscles they have no idea how to use.

Casting directors need to start paying more attention to facial expressions and not just  how the actor delivers the line.