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Backstage Experts

You Are Enough: Why You Need to Just Be Yourself in Commercial Auditions

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You Are Enough: Why You Need to Just Be Yourself in Commercial Auditions

People often ask me how they can stand out when we see so many people for each role in commercial casting. For example, a theatrical casting director may only call in 20 actors for a co-star role, while we’ll often see 50 or more per role for a commercial project. That brings your overall chances of booking the job down from an already measly five-ish percent to just two-ish percent or less!

The answer is simple, and many of you still won’t believe me when I say it, but it’s true, nonetheless: Just be yourself. You are enough, just the way you are. No one else looks exactly like you, laughs like you, walks or talks the way you do. You already are a unique character with your own essence and mannerisms. It would be nearly impossible for another actor to perfectly mimic what already is totally effortless and natural for you.

And yet, so many actors I meet find it so terrifying. They don’t believe they are interesting enough or entertaining enough or attractive enough as they are. So, they cover up all that beautiful individuality and put on a “character” that they think the client is looking for, which is always worse. Always. Why?

Because if we need you to play a character other than yourself, we will tell you. We will be so clear about it, because if that’s what our client wants, it’s our job to get that from you. So always start from a place of just being you. Be fearlessly, unapologetically yourself and you will start to book like never before. Instead of a bland, generic, cardboard cutout of what you think will please the client, you’ll be a real, cool person.

I had a brilliant, handsome, leading-man type theater actor break down in tears in one of my commercial workshops at the very thought that he was enough just as he was. He had spent his whole theater career putting on character after character to the point, he said, that he didn’t even know who he was, in acting. He’d never just been himself ever, in an acting situation.

Take it from Meryl Streep, arguably one of the best on-camera actors of all time, who said, “Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.”

So, the question changes from, “Should I be myself?” to “Which side of myself should I be?” All acting is storytelling. Commercials are no different. They just happen to be very short stories. They also tend to be very simple, clear stories. On top of that, you have us directing the session telling you exactly what the story is and what we want you to do. You don’t have to do any text analysis whatsoever! All you need to do is what we direct you to do and put your own stank on it while you do it.

If it’s a silly burger commercial, you’ll be your playful self; the one you put on when you’re playing with your friends, kids, nieces or nephews. If it’s a heartfelt testimonial commercial, you’ll be your chill, down-to-earth, grateful self. Each of us has felt love, lust, pain, loss, anger, hope, excitement, joy, etc. It’s all within you. Every story you will ever have to tell as an actor contains elements that are already within you. Yes, even the twisted stuff—because we’re all screwed up, too, in our own ways. Hey, we chose to be actors for a living, didn’t we? How messed up is that?

It will take some time to process and accept that you are enough, but you are. Get yourself into an acting class environment where you can explore that. Take all the pressure off yourself to be entertaining and interesting, and just focus on the story. Just make your choices, do your preparation and then let go—be yourself and just have an experience. If you just have an authentic experience, free from any expectations or focus on outcomes, we will be right there with you. And we will love you.

We will love you.

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Shaan Sharma is a session director, teacher, and author of “A Session Director’s Guide to Commercial Acting in L.A.” For more information, check out Sharma’s full bio!

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