"I open the door for a lot of actors, I hope," Jennifer Euston says of her career as a casting director. "My job is to open the door. But they get the jobs. I don't get them for them."
Euston knows that it is in her own interest to coax the best possible performance, and she will even spend time soothing a nervous actor before beginning an audition.
"When they come into the room for me, I want actors to feel so comfortable, at ease, and relaxed," she says. "Because if they're relaxed, they'll do the best job they can do. And I want them to do the best job they can do, because then I can get the part cast and part of my job is done. I'm always rooting for the actor. If they do a good job, then I did a good job."
So what makes Euston lose her cool?
"I can tell you one thing that actors should never do," Euston says, "and that is touch the casting director or their assistant. It is a red flag." Handshakes are fine, she says, but suddenly bringing an unprepared CD into a physical demonstration or intimate romantic scene will certainly ruin the mood.
"I've had that happen to me personally, when I was an intern and an assistant," Euston says. "You just have to remember that not every casting director has been an actor, so it can be very uncomfortable. That's not what we signed up for."
Euston also warns actors that even a great audition can't guarantee getting the gig, due to factors beyond their control.
"If you walk into the room and you give the best audition, and you look like the director's ex-wife, you're probably not going to get the job," she says frankly. "There's a human component in casting that people have to remember. You're dealing with people's emotions. So always do your best, and know at the end of the day that it doesn't mean you did a bad audition if you didn't get the part."
Because she is aware of this unpredictable aspect of the business, Euston always keeps headshots and résumés on file. And she likes giving people second chances, if they show a willingness to work at their craft.
"If you come in for me and you don't do a good job, it doesn't mean in a year or so, if you've worked and trained, you won't do a good job then," she says. "I'm not going to count you out if you give one bad audition."
Daniel Lehman is a staff writer at Back Stage. Follow him on Twitter: @byDanLehman