The question actors have asked me most over the years is how they can set themselves apart in auditions. What can they do that no one else is doing? To answer this, it’s necessary to look at how we’re similar and different from each other. Let’s examine four specific characteristics to see if they can make you stand out from the other actors in auditions.
For instance, your body. Yes, in some ways it is unique inside and out but does it necessarily make you stand out in an acting audition? Unless you have a striking physical characteristic, the answer is no. When I’m at a studio and I look at an audition waiting room, it’s almost impossible to guess what type of role is being cast. The room is full of actors of all different shapes and sizes, ages and skin colors, all competing for the same role. Looking at such groups will tell you that the body won’t be a huge consideration in deciding who gets the role. You have the body you have. It’s not the characteristic that will set you apart from the herd in a consistent job-getting way.
Your thoughts also won’t make the audition particularly unique. If you take a set of sides, read them, and prepare based solely on your thoughts about the piece, you’ll be adding nothing of your true self to the role. You’ll also audition like everyone else who prepared this way because everyone will likely have basically the same thoughts about the role when taking this approach. At the studio I consult for, we’re often amazed how completely different people can appear exactly the same when they come in and present, as we call them, neck up auditions that do nothing to bring the role to life. Acting isn’t about thought, but it’s about feeling.
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So if it’s about feeling, will your emotions make a big difference? Again, probably not. As with our thoughts, all of us generally share the same emotions. We all have the capacity to feel and have felt emotions like anger, hurt, joy, and passion. The mistake many actors make is thinking that these emotions alone are what makes them unique. They make choices of anger or joy and deliver these choices devoid of the single most unique quality they possess: Energy.
Here it is. The characteristic that says the absolute most about who you are. While there is little that is meaningfully unique about our bodies, our thoughts, and emotions, no one else possesses your energy. This energy is all of your life experience. Since no one else has had your exact experience, no one else has your energy. Sure we can all get angry, but our expressions of anger differ wildly due to the energy of our past experience.
When the actor has left their energy out of their preparation, it doesn’t exist in the room and truthfully, neither does the actor. They’ll simply be the next person on the list, coming in and taking a rigid, disembodied stance that ensures the reading will be delivered exclusively from the neck up without any of the unique, dynamic energy from your body.
The next time you’re preparing for an audition, tap into the most defining trait you possess!
*This post was originally published on April 17, 2019. It has since been updated.
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