Mary Elizabeth Kelly went viral by ‘Mouth Acting’ on TikTok
- Mary Elizabeth Kelly popularized the idea of ”mouthing” on TikTok.
- She contorts her mouth into the shape that mimics famous actors, such as Drew Barrymore.
- Kelly told Insider she didn’t know she was so good until she got into the pandemic.
Mary Elizabeth Kelly has gone viral on TikTok on multiple occasions for impersonating celebrities, including her impersonation of Drew Barrymore. Viewer favorites are often quick snapshots of celebrities like Kristen Stewart, Meryl Streep, and Olivia Coleman reading a recipe, ordering coffee, or meeting a dog.
Kelly, 31, has been on TikTok for about 10 months. She goes through the @mare_kell handle and posts impressions of everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Owen Wilson with a technique called “act with your mouth”. She has 586,000 subscribers and her most popular videos have been viewed millions of times.
“The whole trip has been crazy,” she said.
You may have noticed that the mouth is acting without realizing it
“Mouth acting” involves contorting her face, especially her mouth, into a shape that mimics famous actors. Along with the change of voice, it makes Kelly’s impressions particularly memorable. Barrymore tends to smile as she talks, for example, while Jennifer Coolidge pulls her lips together. Keira Knightley’s jaw has an underbite, while Emma Stone pushes her lower teeth back further. Kelly’s original mouth actor video emulating these celebrities and more has over 14 million views.
Kelly thinks this is due to the novelty of the mouth game and the fact that people may have noticed how the actors’ mouths differ, but never really thought about it.
“Every day I watch something and I’m like, ‘He’s a real actor,’” Kelly said. “It’s kind of a currency of something that people haven’t really had a word for.”
“Johnny Depp was doing weird things with his mouth while he was playing, and Keira Knightley is so intense with his mouth too,” Kelly told Insider. “And I was like, it’s a thing? Like, I think it’s a thing.”
Kelly had made impressions for her friends, but decided to shoot a video for TikTok to try her style on a larger audience during the pandemic. “It kind of came pouring in,” she said.
The mouth game is a lot less technical than people think
Kelly studied theater at Northwestern University, where she majored in musical theater. When the subsequent Broadway New York auditions circuit didn’t work out, Kelly realized she was “made for a screen, not necessarily for a stage,” so she and her husband moved to Los Angeles. Angeles last year to pursue a career in television and film. .
Kelly said she’s always been analytical when watching movies – thinking about what actors have played before or what accents they put on.
She sees herself more as an imitator – watching someone over and over again until the impression kicks in: “It’s kind of muscle memory.”
Kelly receives a lot of requests, often for the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy”, which she had never watched before trying out the characters. Kelly’s favorite impression is probably Barrymore, she said, but other celebrities are more of a challenge.
“When I look very different from this person, I find it hard,” she said. With Blake Lively, who she doesn’t look like much, Kelly said she needs to watch them very carefully and “actively try to match my mouth to what I’m looking at.”
When this happens, she tries to get more of the “essence” of the person.
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