About Chemistry

After last night’s premiere of Sleepy Hollow, I got thinking about chemistry. Whenever there is a pairing on the screen, the two people need good chemistry. I’m sure you all know I’m not talking about mixing compounds or diagramming isotopes, I’m talking about how well two people vibe with each other. For an onscreen relationship to work, this melding of personalities is essential to keeping an audience interested.

An onscreen relationship needs a few things to make it come to life. The first thing you need are your two characters. Each character needs to bring their on baggage and personality to the screen. Onscreen chemistry will never come about if the characters aren’t full characters on their own. A character needs to be able to somewhat stand on their own before. A poorly developed character with nothing interesting about them and no personality will only bring down an onscreen relationship. Once you have two solid characters, a chemistry can emerge. Notice, I don’t say extraordinary, just solid. Good chemistry doesn’t require the best of the best, it requires a solid, stable character.

With the characters in place, they need to be driven together. There needs t be some sort of reasoning for why the characters are being thrown together. Characters simply being in the same place is a bit lackluster. A good reason for the characters sticking together should exist. Sure, there are times they stick together to form a romantic relationship, but onscreen it is sometimes better for there to be an initial why. Having a reason, helps identify the initial course of the relationship.

The next important thing for an onscreen relationship is a dynamic. With solid characters already established, a relationship needs to establish some sort of dynamic. This dynamic is going to depend largely on the type of characters. No matter what sort of dynamic is formed it needs to lead to banter and conversation that makes sense. If the characters are goofballs, I wouldn’t want them to only speak about 19th century European politics. Sure, it could be a quirk, but they need to discuss more. The dynamic established will drive the rapport between the characters and make them interesting to watch.

The final part is the obstacles. No relationship, onscreen or offscreen can avoid the inevitability of obstacles. The obstacles provide an onscreen relationship the ability to struggle and grow. The more a relationship has to go through, the more invested you become. The obstacles come in all shapes and forms. Sometimes the obstacle drives them apart, other times it forces them far closer than they want to be. Either way, when they come out on the other side of the obstacle, it will have either strengthened their relationship or weakened it. The outcome should intrigue people to think about it more.

Good Examples
Throughout the years there have been many shows with characters with fantastic chemistry. As I mentioned earlier and in my review of the pilot, Sleepy Hollow’s Ichabod and Abbie have the start of some good chemistry. They are pairing up, though a bit reluctantly because they can help each other. Each one of them has their own history and are interesting in their own right. The interaction between a white male from the 1700s and a black female of modern times presents moments of humor. In general, they have the makings of what could be a very dynamic relationship.

While Sleepy Hollow is still up in the air, the dynamic between brothers Sam and Dean on Supernatural is undeniable. The show throws the two brothers together in close proximity traveling on the road. Each brother brings their own perspective of the world, accentuated by their fighting of supernatural. Jared Padelecki and Jensen Ackles feel like brothers on screen. Listening to them talk or fight is always entertaining, even if you already know what angle they will be coming to the conversation from. Their relationship feels natural and that’s why they have good onscreen chemistry.

What is your favorite onscreen pairing?

4 thoughts on “About Chemistry

  1. Rounded characters, reason to be together, relationship dynamic, and obstacles–these are all true. But sometimes, alas, it also boils down to whether the actors click. For some reason, it is entirely possible to put two normally great performers together, and they’re “meh” as a team. I really hate when that happens because the whole show or movie goes flat. (FYI, I clicked over here from AW’s blog thread.)

    • That is totally true. At a certain point it does trickle down to the actors. But without the other elements, it doesn’t matter how well the actors mesh. Sometimes, great actors have awful material. The reverse is also true.

  2. Pingback: About September 2013 Roundup | So, I pondered...

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