Movies & TV

How Do Actors Remember Their Lines?

How Do Actors Remember Their Lines?

Chances are that, at some point, you’ve watched a movie or show and been blown away by an actor’s performance? The delivery doesn’t need to win Oscars or Emmys to stun us, but how do they do it? When it comes to acting, just how do actors remember their lines? Here’s the answer. 

Here Are Some of The Techniques Actors Use to Remember Their Lines

Typically, actors memorize their lines and will practice and practice until they can recite them by heart. There is no single, universally approved “magic” method for learning lines. But several actors have shared their own personal techniques.

Helen Mirren, for example, recommends working on one scene at a time. Jim Parsons, who played Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory, uses note cards to help him memorize lines. He’ll also type his lines into a word processor. The Mandalorian’s Katee Sackhoff learns her lines while working on a treadmill or undertaking some other task. 

Ultimately, repetition is a huge factor, though it’s also important that actors understand where their character is coming from emotionally. Also, before acting out a scene the actors will  have rehearsed it, both alone and with other actors.

Do Actors Have to Memorize All Their Lines?

Actors don’t necessarily have to learn all their lines. Not all at once, anyway. Yes, stage plays are performed from beginning to end, often with a prompter or autocue in case the actors forget a line. But shows and movies are shot scene-by-scene, over the course of days, weeks, or even months.

Ideally, an actor will know which scenes are being shot on a given day so they can practice the lines for those scenes. A single scene will often have multiple takes and if an actor forgets a line there’s the possibility of another take. They also won’t be in every scene, so they won’t have to memorize the whole script, just their part of it. 

So, actors still have to memorize their lines, but forgetting one isn’t as big a deal in a show or movie as it is in a play. And as actors become more experienced, they’ll explore and hone their own techniques for remembering their words. 

And, on the subject of how do actors remember their lines, that’s what you need to know. 

About the author

Chris McMullen
Freelance contributor at The Escapist. I've returned to writing about games after a couple of career changes, with my recent stint lasting five-plus years. I hope, through my writing work, to settle the karmic debt I incurred by persuading my parents to buy a Mega CD. Aside from writing for The Escapist, I also cover news and more for GameSpew. I've also been published at other sites including VG247, Space, and more. My tastes run to horror, the post-apocalyptic, and beyond, though I'll tackle most things that aren't exclusively sports-based.