No actor ever has enough time to prep an audition for TV and film in the real world. Most shows are cast so quickly, with new parts written and cut all the way up to the day of the shoot, and actors are constantly dealing with last-minute audition prep panic (especially during pilot season).
How can an actor do their best work in the audition room when they get the script the night before or worse, the morning of? It’s a recipe for anxiety and a nervous actor never books the job.
Here are some cheats to help you cope with—and nail—those last-minute auditions.
Before you walk into the audition, take four deep breaths. Seriously. A relaxed actor is a good actor and a great listener. They are effortless in their delivery. Casting directors need to trust you and believe you can handle being on set. If you’re nervous, you’ll make other people nervous to hire you. Train your mind to be fully present for two minutes while you’re in the room. That’s it, two minutes. You can freak out after.
2. Know your lines so well you don’t even have to think about it.
Own the words. The best actors are the ones who can work on a scene 1,000 times at home and then come into an audition and act like it’s the first time they’re saying it. Write the words out, use the voice memo on your phone, use a line-learning app, run lines with your roommate—whatever it takes to know those lines backward and forward.
Be so familiar you barely have to look down. It’s the only way to walk into an audition with confidence that you’ve done your work. It’s the only way to fully listen to the reader. Most actors shoot themselves in the foot by not knowing their lines well enough: They can’t possibly focus on the little moments between the lines if they’re worried about what they’re supposed to say next.
3. Make it yours.
Put your unique fingerprint on the scene. What’s your point of view on anything and everything that’s being said? Nobody wants to see 200 actors reading the same two pages of dialogue the same way. Don’t be obvious—dig deeper. Know where you came from, how you’re feeling at the beginning, your point of view, and what you’re fighting for. If you’re relaxed, your natural essence will come through in the work. That right there is the reason you’ll get hired over someone else: because of your authenticity, your quirks, and your eccentricities. What’s interesting about you? Find it, own it, and put it into the scene.
4. Visualize the scene.
The difference between a decent actor and a great one is that the latter fully believes everything around them in a scene, down to the smallest detail. They are fully immersed in the scene and reacting from moment to moment. This is very hard to do when you’re sitting in a sterile casting office with no props or other actors, with people staring at you wondering when their lunch is coming.
So try this: As you sit in the waiting room, close your eyes, let your mind wander, and let your imagination run wild. Picture the scene from start to finish, the room the characters are in, how they’re feeling, what they’re wearing, and everything going on around them.
The more immersed you are in the character and details, the less room you have for the demon thoughts to creep in. When you walk into the room, this will help you to “drop in” quickly after your slate. If you believe the scene is real, so will they.
5. Be confident.
Auditioning is a confidence game. You can have all the technique in the world but if your sides are shaking in your hand, nobody is going to trust you on the set of their show opposite whatever star is getting paid way too much to be doing the scene with you. Even if you’re a nervous wreck, learn how to walk into a room like you already have the job. If you’re nervous in an audition with one person, how are they going to put you on a set with 150 crew people staring at you? Look your reader in the eye, trust that you have the skill to pull this off, and be fearless and unshakeable in your delivery. That’s how you nail it.
*This post was originally published on Jan. 14, 2019. It has since been updated.
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