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What the Smart Actor Knows

What the Smart Actor Knows
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The ideal actor for any role is the actor who is equal parts skillful, creative, and intelligent. This actor is in control of himself and the material and truly belongs in the room. Casting knows these people as “smart actors,” and they get called in a lot as they always have something original and interesting to offer. Here are some of the hallmarks of the smart actor:

They know that the mind doesn’t create.
The mind is a literal organ. It tells you what is in front of you without illumination. It also has the job of keeping you safe and has no interest in you risking anything. So if you rely on only the mind in preparing an audition, all you’re going to show the people in the room are the safe, obvious, logical choices, making for a dull and forgettable audition.

It’s the body and the heart that are the centers of creativity. The body contains everything that you’ve ever experienced and ever felt, which means that every answer you will ever need is inside of you, ready and waiting to be discovered. 

Smart actors have a way of working that allows them to calm the pushy mind so they can explore with safety and depth the body and heart. In doing so, they access the truths that instill the piece with the particular life force and specific qualities that make the role uniquely theirs. 

They know that the most intelligent thing they can do is release the brain’s authority over their creative process and melt into the rich insights provided by the body and heart.

READ: How to Show Casting You’re Set-Ready

They’re aware in their day-to-day lives.
The smart actor looks at his/her life as a creative laboratory. They know their lives contain moments and experiences that can add to the depth of their work. Every interaction holds the potential for creative growth. They’re excited about everything and can’t wait to feel how the circumstances of their lives affect them. They lean into life and look for opportunities to explore their emotional mapping, and the insights they gain make their work richer and more specific.

They know the audition is the job interview, not the job.
Your job in the audition is to show the people in the room who you are and what you have to add to the role they’re casting, not to give a finished performance. This is the job interview and your job is to give them reasons to hire you. This means investing the role with the qualities of yours that bring the words to life in a compellingly personal way—the possibilities that are yours and yours alone—and to deliver these qualities in the rhythm of a connected, dynamic conversation. 

The smart actor isn’t acting the role or giving a reading; they’ve done the work that allows them to simply be in the role. 

Because of this, they’re flexible. And when it comes time for adjustments and redirects, they can shift their work and deliver the different emotions that are being asked of them. The actor who has delivered more of a final performance is probably not going to be adjusted as casting tends to leave auditions that look “done” alone, figuring that’s all the person has to offer. And if they are, it’s doubtful they’ll be able to deliver the adjustments as the work is probably too set to be shifted.

Smart actors know that a great audition is the perfect blend of preparedness and flexibility. They know that their bodies and hearts won’t let them down and are confident enough in their skills to let the work go and connect in the room. 

When a casting person, director, producer, or studio executive describes an actor as “smart,” it’s a high compliment. They believe the actor will be a sharp collaborator who will be able to understand and deliver whatever is asked of them.

So remember, passion and desire are great motivators. But they are no substitute for passionate, determined creative intelligence.

Craig will be giving his annual free seminar and Q&A on Saturday, September 9 from 12-2 pm at The Complex Theater in Hollywood. Space is limited and this event always fills quickly, so R.S.V.P. as soon as you can! Hope to see you there!

Craig Wallace is an award-winning audition teacher, acting teacher, and author. He teaches in Santa Monica, CA. For more information, visit and check out Wallace’s full bio  

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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