Daniel Day-Lewis is the king of method acting, in that he pretended to be a king for four months in order to earn that title (he beheaded so many poor serfs), but he’s not the only Calculon-like THESPIAN who has mastered the technique, nor is method acting only for the cinema. It abounds on television, too, including in these 10 TV shows, featuring either actors who stayed in character off-screen or gave genuine reactions to scripted scenes.
1. How I Met Your Mother
In the emotional sixth season episode “Bad News,” Lily informed Marshall of the titular bad news: that his father died of a heart attack. Thing is, Jason Segel had no idea. He requested that Alyson Hannigan not tell him what the big announcement was, so that his reaction would look genuine, not forced. Segel’s only direction: that Hannigan finish whatever she was going to say with the word “it,” his cue to react. They got it one take.
2. Breaking Bad
Walter White doesn’t go for the bald HEISENBERG look until the sixth episode of Breaking Bad, “Crazy Handful of Nothin’,” when his hair begins to fall out in clumps from chemotherapy treatments. It was a pivotal moment for the character, and one that Anna Gunn wasn’t privy to until the day of filming. Gunn went out of her way to make sure she didn’t see her on-screen husband until the cameras were rolling — she wanted to be as surprised as Skyler White.
3. Mad Men
Don Draper could turn out to be a crossdressing alien from that terrible Planet of the Apes (wait, that planet was Earth…? YOU MANIACS), and it still wouldn’t be as shocking as what happened in “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency.” It’s the stuff of classic teen sex romps: Parties! Booze! Babes! Someone gets drunk and runs over Guy Mackendrick’s foot, spraying blood and carcass all over the office! But mostly onto the four unlucky souls, including Harry Crane and Paul Kinsey, who were told that the gore would hit them on the count of three. Director Lesli Linka Glatter instead went on two, meaning the horrified and shocked reactions you see above? They’re real.
4. The Brady Bunch
Sherwood Schwartz is one sick son of a bitch. During a very special episode of The Brady Bunch, Bobby Brady becomes obsessed with Jesse James, naturally, and it’s up to Mike and Carol to convince him that the outlaw was a villain, not a hero. The episode ends with a goofy dream sequence where Jesse shoots Bobby’s entire family, proving an important lesson about…something. Anyway, before filming the dream scene, Schwartz told the actor who played Bobby, Mike Lookinland, to imagine Jesse shooting and killing HIS real family and dog, in incredibly graphic detail. This scared the Alice’s leftover meatloaf out of the poor kid, who Schwartz had to later comfort so that he wouldn’t be permanently traumatized. Can’t imagine why child actors so often turn out insane.
5. Sons of Anarchy
Jax Teller wanted to hate Clay Morrow so much, Charlie Hunnam refused to talk to Ron Perlman. Hunnam told EW, “I decided as difficult as it was going to be, I wasn’t going to talk with him, not even say good morning to him and not tell him why I was doing it…I just hoped he would understand, to know that it was just about work and that it wasn’t anything personal.” Hunnam was afraid of Perlman getting pissed at him, but Hellboy learned what was going on during a press junket interview for a movie the two of them are in, Frankie Go Boom.
Remember when Boyd was a Nazi? Yeah, that was weird, minus the bazooka part, and no one hated his swastika tattoo more than Walton Goggins. But he wanted to stay in character, so, as Goggins told NPR, he “actually wore it home. I didn’t let them take it off. I kept it with me during the process of filming the pilot episode.” This included off-set visits with a comically shocked Timothy Olyphant. “I…rolled my shirt up just to see what would happen,” Goggins said. “Tim didn’t notice it for about five minutes until there were tourists walking through the lobby of the hotel who almost gasped.”
7. Battlestar Galactica
More like Edward James Olmos Got Into Big Trouble Because While In Character As Adama He Smashed What He Thought Was a Prop But Instead Turned Out to Be a Very Expensive Model Ship On Loan From a Maritime Museum. But that wouldn’t fit on his driver’s license. Eh, still a better call than his role on Dexter.
Voice actors can go method, too. Take Billy West, for instance, who was so good at fake-vomiting, he actually accidentally threw up in the voice booth while recording “The Honking.” Apparently it smelled like cheese.
This one’s painful. Literally painful. When Elliot’s Sacred Heart coworkers keep completing her old gags before she can, Sarah Chalke screams, “STOP FINISHING MY AWESOME JOKES.” J.D. achingly yells, “Oh my God” and covers before the show cuts to the opening credits. Chalke’s screech actually hurt Zach Braff’s ears.
Oh, Rose and Bernard, you were everything Kate and Jack…and Kate and Sawyer…and pretty much anyone with Kate weren’t. The married couple don’t see each other on the island until season two’s “Collision,” so the actors who portrayed them, L. Scott Caldwell and Sam Anderson, were careful to not meet before director Stephen Williams yelled ACTION — they wanted the emotional reunion to feel as genuine as possible. It worked.