Response to Maclean’s Article on Ms Yvonne Strahovski/Strzechowski’s Acting

The author of this article is not a subject matter expert in the dramatic arts nor has any professional experience with them, except for watching and being entertained. Therefore this article will not focus on providing a critical analysis of the article referenced in the http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/05/03/the-sarah-on-chuck-he-man-haters-club/, but rather attempt to quantify what defines acting in order to objectively examine Yvonne Strahovski’s performance on the TV show Chuck, as well as provide examples of where Ms Strahovski’s performance on Chuck does not consist purely of a blank stare.

First, the definition of acting is defined as “the work of an actor or actress, which is a person in theatre, television, film, or any other storytelling medium who tells the story by portraying a character and, usually, speaking or singing the written text or play.” In addition, “Acting requires a wide-range of skills, also including vocal projection, clarity of speech, physical expressivity, an emotional facility, a well-developed imagination, and the ability to interpret drama. Acting also often demands an ability to employ dialects, accents and body language, improvisation, observation and emulation, mime, and stage combat. Many actors train at length in special programs or colleges to develop these skills.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acting)

All of the above qualities are subjectively interpreted by every individual in their own way. It is impossible to quantifiably compare one actor to another, though general consensus is currently used. However, to begin some form of objective analysis, the qualities above will be examined at a high level. This article will look for examples of vocal projection, clarity of speech, physical expressivity, and emotional facility, as well as the employment of accents, body language, improvisation, emulation and stage combat. These examples are more easily seen in a TV show like Chuck by the viewer, whereas other elements are better commented upon by directors or colleagues of Ms Strahovski.

In season 1, there is a scene where Ms Strahovski’s face is quite visibly changing, and depending on individual opinion, expressing emotion. One scene occurred in the episode Chuck vs the Wookie, where Chuck asks Sarah to tell him something real about her, and Ms Strahovski looks down and answers the question in a whisper. Watching the scene carefully one can see her eyebrows move and her mouth move a little, but it is up to the individual to decide whether these facial expressions show physical expressivity or emotional facility. Throughout the season Ms Strahovski employs an American accent, and does a few staged combat sequences too. Finally, there is a scene where Ms Strahovski must improvise in Chuck vs the Imported Hard Salami, where her character must pretend to come on too strong to another character. In that scene her character does smile and change her facial expressions continually, so it seems there is considerable physical expressivity there.

In season 2 there is a particular scene at the end of Chuck vs the Lethal Weapon where after a discussion with Chuck, the camera focuses on Ms Strahovski’s face. Her mouth curves and her eyes blink and various facial movements can be scene, so that scene is arguably an example of physical expressiveness and emotional facility.

There is a scene in Chuck vs the American Hero where Casey tells Sarah he killed an enemy agent that Sarah thought Chuck killed. In this scene Ms Strahovski’s face changes expression from somber to shocked to overjoyed. The camera is focused on her and viewers can see her breathe strongly plus smile. Finally, when she tosses the gun onto the hotel bed, the camera focuses on her smile, and her hair has been changed to accentuate her emotional mood.

Now, watching a pre-recorded scene is not the best way to evaluate Ms Strahovski’s professional acting ability, because only the final product is shown and there is no knowledge of how many takes were required to achieve that. However, viewers can watch the final product and develop an opinion, but the most informed and objective opinion would be best developed with input from the actor’s colleagues and directors.

In conclusion, one could safely assert that all evaluations are subjective, which was why this article focused on specific scenes with specific facial gestures and movements, and left most of the interpretation to the individual reader who wishes to follow up on the subject. It is important to note that for a fair analysis of any actor’s ability, including Ms Strahovski’s, one must obtain feedback from peers and directors. This article has presented some evidence from the TV series Chuck to counter the Maclean’s article regarding Ms Strahovski’s acting skills, but still requires feedback from directors and colleagues who have worked with her to provide a more objective opinion. Perhaps time will answer this question soon enough; perhaps Ms Strahovski will receive acclamation from her peers in the form of Emmy or Academy Award nominations. This author certainly hopes to see Ms Strahovski win an Academy Award for acting excellence in the future.

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