Playing The Little Guy- Kaia Hillier Talks Supporting Roles

The Lucius Factor: The Importance of Supporting Characters



06 Kaia HillierI have been doing out door Shakespeare for about five years now with the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival and have had the privilege of performing many rewarding roles including Helena, Olivia, and Juliet. However, when I auditioned for Bag-n-Baggage, I held little hope that I would even be called back. This was a company I had wanted to audition for, for a long time. What gave me the oomph to actually go for it this time? The all female Julius Caesar.

I thought to my self, “self, you know how to work the Bard in the outdoors and here’s an opportunity that if you don’t seize, you’ll end up slapping yourself later.” So I did it. And even got cast. But it was the emphasis of the ensemble that really maintained the urge and want to be part of this production. This is why I was happy to accept Lucius; a servant role among others in the original Caesar. I’ve had the opportunity to play leading roles, but how you truly learn to challenge yourself as an actor is by playing the “smaller,” supporting roles. What gave me even more confidence concerning the role of Lucius was Scott’s vision of the character?

First of all, I’m not just playing Lucius. I’m also a drunken citizen, a murderer, and an elemental storm force of energy. I feel myself pushed outside of my comfort zone, and thank god. What would be the point of just playing the same role over and over again?? Secondly, Scott has created a tender and loving parental connection between Portia, Brutus, and Lucius that has really helped to serve the emotional push of the story and has also helped propel my motivation for the role. Thirdly? A supporting role is an essential role to any story! Without these roles, who else is there to help guide the audience in reactions? How the supporting characters feel, what their perspectives are concerning the events of the story, really fuels the tone of the story. I have come to see my characters as story telling tools. How I move, react, and express my characters is vital in order to show the complexity and the layers of Caesar.

This has also been something that I have had to work on as an actor. I never play thug characters or crazed, celebratory drunken citizens. Therefore, I have had to push myself in character movement and physicality so that my different characters are distinguishable and differentiated. For example, I at first felt uncomfortable playing a thug/murderer. Letting go was extremely difficult. But as I realized, and which was also enforced by Scott’s numerous notes about commitment to actions and thought, if I’m not truly invested in what I’m doing as my character, I am not doing my job as an actor and the audience will be ripped off too. These are the moments in which, as an actor, you realize the complexity of your craft and that you’re there to tell a story.

I’m so lucky to be in this ensemble show with so many powerful and committed women. We have all been working on constructing genuine emotional relationships with each other on stage and this is where the necessity of the ensemble show kicks in.

If we work together, if we are all committed in our motivation, leading and supporting roles alike, then we are doing our job and making the story of Julius Caesar clear, provocative, thrilling, and true for the audience.

Kaia Hillier
“Lucius” in Julius Caesar