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Directing actors in continuing drama: meaning-making and creative labour

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Publication details

JournalCritical Studies in Television
DateAccepted/In press - 12 May 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 21 Aug 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Sep 2018
Issue number3
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)297-314
Early online date21/08/18
Original languageEnglish


This article examines how three directors approach working with actors in one of the most exacting creative contexts – long-running television. Via new interviews with three directors of the flagship BBC continuing drama, EastEnders (1985–), this article explores their approaches in the context of the time constraints in production which preclude rehearsal and where directors and actors alike must work with great speed and precision. The three directors interviewed, Sophie Lifschutz, Kate Saxon and Rebecca Gatward, all trained in and have significant experience of theatre. This article thus explores the elements of their theatre training and experience that translated to their television work with actors, elements that required remodelling, and what was completely new to them and thus can be classified as medium specific. ‘Emotional action’ and ‘physical action’ emerge as key terms in the directors’ work, and the article explores how these directors worked to afford the actor creative space within such a formidable shooting schedule. With reference to Stanislavski’s writing on the ‘Method of Physical Action’ and the theatre technique of ‘actioning’, this article brings to light the hidden processes of television direction and locates the directors’ approach to working with actors as a creative labour which is a significant meaning-making component in continuing drama.

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©The Author(s) 2018. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

    Research areas

  • Constantin Stanislavski, EastEnders, Method of Physical Action, Richard Boleslavsky, Television directing, acting processes, actioning, continuing drama, emotional action, soap opera, television acting

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