How Actors Cry On Demand

In Episode 24 of Season 8 of Grey’s Anatomy, the core cast suffers a plane crash on their way from Seattle to Boise, Idaho, to separate conjoined twins. At one point, Meredith Gray (Ellen Pompeo) can’t find her husband, Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) among the debris. Fearing that he had been ripped out of the plane and was lying dead somewhere in the forest, she broke down and began to cry, sobbing uncontrollably. So, how do actors do that? Believe it or not, crying on demand is a critical and highly esteemed skill. To achieve an authentic-looking on-screen cry, actors need to tap deep into their emotions. The key is not to simulate crying, but to actually bring yourself to tears and do so in a way that feels natural and real. Most actors focus on a genuinely emotional moment in their lives, achieving a psychological separation. Most focus on the loss of a loved one to summon the level of emotion needed to bring them to real tears. What most people don’t realize is that this method is incredibly psychologically taxing, and actors need time to recover. It’s not a matter of turning emotions on and off like you would a faucet. Once an actor brings the emotion to the level of tears, they need to allow themselves time to return to normal, which is tough when you’re under the pressure of a demanding filming schedule.