When a script stipulates actions, gestural routines and mental models for a character that clash with the personal values of the actor, it creates dissonance between what the actor (as person) believes, represents or feels, and that which the character (as fictional construct) is interpreted to represent. This dissonance may negatively impact on the believability of the actor inhabiting the ‘as if’ world of the character. The article proposes a theoretical approach to navigating this potentially performance-restricting dissonance through a cross-disciplinary approach that draws on embodiment, embodied imagination and empathy. Personal restrictions, values, socialization, culture and impulse avoidances are subjectively sculpted and embodied in and through lived experiences. In articulating the proposed approach, the article places emphasis on practically guiding and enabling the actor to manage these embodied experiences, personal values and subjective restrictions in relation to material that is perceived to be challenging and uncomfortable. This article does not aim at theorizing or expanding on character development techniques, but rather to facilitate finding ways to navigate actor–character dissonance while remaining sensitive to actors and their respective processes in engaging with, and depicting, a character in a competent and believable manner. Instead of forcing actors to work through restrictions or adversely dislodging talented actors from a production due to seemingly unmanageable dissonances, this article argues for possible solutions to manage contradictory values and stances respectfully through a multi-layered process. The article will address concepts such as personal views, mental models, socialization, will, empathy, imagination, gesture and motor intentionality.