Austin-based casting director Donise L. Hardy has been casting principals for more than 30 years. A former actor, Hardy worked as an agent in the Bay Area for seven years before becoming a full-time CD in Los Angeles in 1991 and making the move to Austin in 1999. She says she sees actors make the same audition mistakes from L.A. to Texas. Through her blog and workshops, Hardy doles out audition advice to actors at all career levels, and shares some of it with Backstage!
What’s the biggest mistake you see actors make in auditions?
One of the biggest mistakes actors make is to trying to figure out what I’m looking for. I want them to be themselves. What is “typical” or “wrong”—you never know. There are people who come in completely different than the character may have been originally written, and they land the job. I’ve been doing this for 30 years—I’ve seen great auditions and horrible ones. It all depends on the actor bringing themselves to the table.
How should an actor prepare for an audition?
For a commercial shoot, in particular, there’s a very limited amount of time. Show up at the right time, and when you walk in the door you have to walk in “it”—if it’s a nurse, you should be wearing scrubs. Haunt Goodwill and Salvation Army and come prepared. A commercial audition is 20 seconds long. You don’t have time to tell us what you will do—just do it. Know the script. If you don’t have the script you should at least know the gist. Know the name of the product. And don’t blame your agent for anything! Show up with headshots and résumés or whatever was requested. Don’t say your agent didn’t tell you to bring any when everyone else brought five copies.
What do actors not typically think of when auditioning?
They don’t think about how many subtleties there are to auditioning. Really stop and think about it. Don’t shake hands; don’t touch us. We’ve got 300 people coming in, that’s 300 hands, and you’ve just taken up 15 minutes of our time that you could’ve used auditioning. Be friendly without being obnoxious. Another thing is killing enunciation; it’s not “did’ja know,” it’s “did you know.” People are lazy with enunciation, or they use the word “like”—especially young actors. I rip them over the coals if they come in and do that, because they’ll end up doing it on camera. They’ll be adding “like” in the script where it wasn’t written.
What’s the most important advice you have for actors?
Have fun! You already beat out a lot of people just getting to the audition—remember it’s an invitation. Have confidence. Your agent thought you were a good fit for the role and the casting director wants to see you. As far as landing the job, it all has to do with being professional and being prepared.
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