10 Steps To Express Sad Emotions In Acting – Practical Guide

Emotional scenes are not easy to play out in a film as a lot of effort is required from the actor/actress. While the scene and entire story are both important, what is most relevant is the character you are playing. This is why you must understand your character to the fullest.

The tips that can help you express sad emotions in acting are outlined in this article.

Table of Contents

How To Express Sad Emotions in Acting?

There are two major things to do if you want to express sad emotions in acting. The first one is to consider the scene, after which you can then proceed to act out the scene.

Consider the Scene

#1: Study the Context

Having a full understanding of the situations surrounding a scene could give you insight into the emotions and motivation of the character you are playing. This is why it is important to study and try to understand the context of the scene. Take time to read the entire script for the particular scene, as this will give you a complete idea of what you need to do.

Have an understanding of the character’s feelings and the life the character had led up until that scene. Also, take note of the relationship between your character and other characters, and make sure to listen and observe other characters in the scene as it may help you recall when and how to respond.

#2: Find Out If the Character Has an Internal Struggle

Although it is good to consider the situation of the character you are playing, it is even more effective to pay more attention to the character and his reaction to the circumstance. Try to delve into the psyche of the character you are playing and show why he reacts to situations or other characters the way he does.

NOTE: For example, for a scene with sad emotions, you must depict why the emotion is important.

#3: Take Note of Exclamation Points

Pay attention to the exclamation points in the script for every scene and know how to use them. Depending on the scene, the character you are playing either has to show anger, fear, or joy.

The character may also need to raise their voice. A line must be delivered with force if that line ends with an exclamation point in the script.

NOTE: For example, for a scene with sad emotions, you must depict why the emotion is important.
that the scene determines how to express lines with an exclamation point. Keep in mind that there are many ways to say the same thing, and the situation determines how you say it.[/su_note]

#4: Don’t Forget About Physical Action

Don’t get caught up with having to express the emotions that are required in a scene so much that you forget to portray physical action to back up those emotions.

NOTE: Most scripts note what physical action the character should display, so be sure to express them.

The action of the character you are playing has a lot to say about what they feel, and sometimes their physical actions don’t align with what they say. It is important to read the stage direction of your character in that scene and play it properly.

Act Out the Scene

#5: Follow The Guide to The Emotional Scene

It is good to let yourself go and be taken over by the scene when acting. Emotions can easily flow from objects or people into other objects or people. You must allow the emotions of the scene to flow through you. Immerse yourself into the character you are playing and relate with their feelings and thoughts, and this will be easy to do when you understand your character. Your acting will appear forced if you try to control the emotions of the scene.

Emotions cannot be controlled easily. Pay close attention to your body while acting, and you may find that a line could spring emotion out of you.

NOTE: When this happens, don’t fight it – just let it flow.

#6: Add Humor

You can excite an emotional scene with humor. Sometimes, emotional scenes have humorous lines in them, and you shouldn’t just skate over them; instead, try to make the best out of those frivolous moments. The audience will much appreciate the laugh in-between tears.

#7: Switch Things Up

When portraying an emotion, it can be helpful to act it out in a way that isn’t immediately obvious. Act in the opposite direction. This may enhance the audience’s perception of your character’s emotions.

For example, an obvious way of playing anger would be by yelling. However, you can express anger with a quiet voice that the audience perceives as cold anger.

Your character puts on a brave and optimistic face to hide his sadness. When playing an antagonist, avoid making the character appear malicious. Instead, act polite and even friendly. Many audiences find cheery villains scarier than villains who openly oppose the protagonists. Although this doesn’t work all the time, you can rehearse and attempt it a few times on set.

#8: Don’t Change Your Character’s Emotion in One Scene

The emotional reaction of your character should not change in one scene – make sure to maintain it. For example, if you are playing an emotional scene and your character is supposed to be sad, your expression should be nothing other than sad. If your character is happy, his emotion should be nothing but happy. The way you play the scene may be different, but it should still have the key emotion at its core.

#9: Your Voice Must Be Under Control

Beware of overreacting when acting out an emotional scene. You may sometimes lose your voice control and could start talking out loud or yelling.

Therefore, try to pay attention to yourself at all times and keep the tone of your voice in check. For example, do not scream at the top of your voice, even in scenes where your character is supposed to be angry. When you do, you will not be able to control the tone of your voice and how you are supposed to deliver the lines.

If you feel like you are not properly conveying an emotion, you can do something with your body instead of raising your voice. For example, your body can help you express either sadness, happiness, anger, or despair.

#10: Your Character’s Needs Should Be Your Focus

Your character should always be your focus when playing a scene. The reason the scene is significant to your character is more important than the scene’s significance to the entire story. This is why getting into the mind of your character is important. For example, suppose you are playing a scene where your character is supposed to be having a contention against another character. In that case, your focus should be on the relationship between the two characters rather than on their argument.


Transitioning from one emotion to another is very important in acting. The actors who are able to do this effortlessly are versatile and are the best. Being able to express these emotions requires a high level of empathy. However, if you are struggling to express sad emotions, you should consider taking acting classes.


Firas Sameer, a movie director with several video productions for cinemas, festivals, TV commercials.. etc with several international awards and recognitions for his work.

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