There is a difference between a working actor’s frame of mind versus the frame of mind of an actor who wants to be working. This is a small shift but makes a big difference in the way you are in the room.
1. Be a person first, and an actor second. “How are you?” This is a question that casting usually asks, and 95 percent of the time I hear actors brightly respond on autopilot, “Great! How are you?” Find something more interesting to say.
Recently a casting director gave this feedback about an actor’s audition: “It was good for a guest star audition… but this was for a series lead.” That’s when he got my name. So I chatted with him for 10–15 minutes and then asked him to come in as if he were auditioning for me. As soon as I asked how he was. He went into this semi-fake thing and his answer was expected…. “Great! How are you?”
I had sat with this interesting charismatic person but as soon as he went into audition mode he switched off his personality and started acting. Last year I went in for the phenomenal Carol Kritzer and when she asked how I was doing I paused and then said the truth “Not great; I just got dumped.” It started an awesome 10-minute conversation about breakups.
Be real and honest as a professional—that’s what we strive for in our work, so shouldn’t that translate into the room? Be a person instead of acting like one.
2. Do you have any questions? It is such a small thing, but there are many different ideas out there about how to answer it—“no” being one of them. What I find is that saying no just cuts off any chance of being open…and isn’t part of our job to stay open?
Then there is the actor who asks a question for the sake of asking one. I did that…once. It was a producer session and the director was Tony Goldwyn, (who I happen to think is ridiculously handsome), and it was he who asked if I had any questions. I responded with “Is anything you would like to tell me about the role?”
He very graciously suggested that I show him my choices and then he could redirect if necessary. That is what I would always say when asked that question, but being thrown by his blue eyes somehow made me forget that I am a confident badass actor who had prepared and made great choices. After I finished the first scene he smiled and said, “That was great. Let’s go onto the second scene. That is, of course, if you don’t have any questions.”
Communicate that you are prepared and have brought something special into the room, but that you are also open any adjustments or redirection.
3. This is your time in the room, so stop rushing it. You have worked on the material, put your life on hold, and perhaps paid for coaching, spent money on transportation, and waited to go into the room. No one has paid you to be there. This is your time. If you value it, so will casting. (At least that has been my experience.)
If you are feeling rushed by a casting director, take control and do not let that affect that which you have worked hard to prepare. I have experienced this many times but it really became clear during one particular audition where the CD was having a very bad day. From running behind to asking me for a picture and résumé—(I stopped carrying those some time ago was my answer)—to the difficulty with running camera and reading simultaneously, she was feeling pressured and that was obvious in how she was treating me. When she rolled camera I took few beats and without getting into her energy I set my own pace. Upon finishing she had calmed visibly, even taking the time to ask about the fabulous leopard boots I was wearing.
Remember that there is a difference between wanting a job versus needing one. The idea is you are a working actor—a professional who knows that you are bringing something worthwhile into the room…yourself.
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