You may or may not know this, but the good people at Backstage have set up an excellent discussion board on their website. It’s a free service that allows you to interact with other actors and industry professionals like me. You can post questions, get answers, vent your frustrations, find a community—stuff like that. It’s a wonderful online resource that you should take advantage of—and like I said, it’s totally free.
Recently, one of the questions an actor posted reminded me of a situation that many of my clients have experienced, so I’d like to address it in this week’s column. To paraphrase the actor’s question:
“How do you cope with getting far in the casting process but never booking the job? Everybody says I should be happy that I always make it to the final callback, but after a while, it begins to take its toll.”
This happens all the time, and it’s a symptom of a larger problem. If you’re constantly making it down to the wire but you’re never the choice, it means you’re a good actor—but that’s not enough. You have to be special. You have to stand out.
A casting director once told me that if she takes five actors to producers for a guest star role, four of them will perform the material in exactly the same way. Their choices will be perfect and appropriate for the part, but it’s the fifth actor who’ll get the job. Why? Because that actor made one choice that was different, a choice that surprised everyone and made him or her stand out.
READ: How to Audition
For example, one of my clients recently booked a recurring role on an AMC show, and the audition scene was the moment she discovers her husband has been cheating on her. At this point, the character is supposed to break down in tears. Well, I’ve known this woman for years, and she has a dark sense of humor. So instead of crying, she laughed, and that choice got her the part.
It should be noted, however, that this approach only works for roles that have some meat on their bones. If you’re auditioning for Nurse No. 1 and the character only has two lines, then you have to keep it simple—just say the words and get out.
To return to this actor’s question, getting down to the wire over and over again can be extremely frustrating, but if you ever find yourself in this situation, here’s what you have to understand: You’re doing something right. If you weren’t, you would never get past the initial audition. I would tell this actor that you’re obviously a gifted performer, so you need to start challenging yourself. Consider what makes you different from every other actor in your general type. Maybe you have unusual habits. Are you always running your fingers through your hair? Are you constantly cracking your knuckles? Are you always adjusting your bra strap? That’s all stuff you can use. Next time you’re auditioning, throw in one of those moves where it’s not appropriate. The director and producer will be surprised. It will make them think about you. And that’s exactly what you want!
And to join in on the forums community fun, visit backstage.com/forums.
Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s Los Angeles audition listings!