Considering monologues from TV shows will open up an entire world of audition material. Here are some of the best TV monologues, delivered by iconic characters such as Leslie Knope and Annalise Keating, that feature brilliant writing and encourage strong performances. Some you may want to shorten—or contain language you might want to remove—but they’re all worth keeping in mind for your next audition.
1. “How to Get Away With Murder”: Annalise Keating’s closing argument
“How to Get Away With Murder” focuses on leading character Annalise Keating, a criminal law professor and defense attorney played by Viola Davis. Annalise teaches a popular course on escaping punishment for murder—and, ironically, ends up on trial for murder herself. The six-season series culminates with the jury’s verdict and Annalise’s fate. Davis does not disappoint in this closing argument, in which Annalise takes off her mask, confronts her actions, and begs for mercy. This monologue gives an actor the chance to show vulnerability in a high-stakes, life-and-death situation.
2. “Parks and Recreation”: Leslie Knope’s debate speech
Sitcoms rarely are places to look to when searching for the right monologue. But single-camera series have scores of hidden gems with heart and personality. Amy Poehler plays the ambitious civil servant Leslie Knope, who crushes her opponents in her bid for a city council seat by delivering from the heart: “When you love something…you fight for it.” The quirkiness of this show adds a humble texture to a local patriotic promise.
3. “Black Mirror”: Bing’s speech
“Black Mirror” is an anthology series that comments on our current society with a dark, often dystopian, point of view. In this monologue from the episode “15 Million Merits,” actor Daniel Kaluuya’s character, Bing, forces his way onto a popular reality competition and delivers an impassioned speech on live TV about society’s social obsessions and glaringly narrow world vision. The sheer desperation of this monologue makes it compelling and powerful.
4. “Barry”: Sally’s monologue
“Barry” is a favorite series among actors, because it takes a comical and raw look at a group of actors in an acting class. Before you roll your eyes about a monologue about a monologue, do yourself a favor and watch. Sarah Goldberg secured herself an Emmy nomination with this neurotic ramble about a monologue she’s afraid to do in class. It’s a crafted speech that runs through Sally’s gamut of feelings about doing a monologue that is truthful to her own life. This is a treat for an actor to show off their skilled comedic timing.
5. “Ozark”: Ben Davis’ taxi monologue
This haunting flashback with fan-favorite character Ben Davis, acted impeccably by Tom Pelphrey, is almost certainly going in the books as one of the greatest character speeches from television. This stream-of-consciousness piece from a disturbed man is tender and enthralling—a perfect choice for the blue-collar type that wants sincerity with an edge. Although it’s long, there are many moments that provoke intrigue, display humility, and showcase an unraveled man.
6. “The Newsroom”: Will McAvoy’s “America is not the greatest” speech
You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of television’s best writing that doesn’t include an Aaron Sorkin series. There could easily be a list dedicated to his greatest monologues that would serve any actor well. Sorkin is honest and clever and sprinkles shock value throughout his writing that reverberates long after you first witness a scene. Jeff Daniels plays cynical journalist Will McAvoy, who has no choice but to preach to a crowd about the declining state of America. This is dialogue with a purpose and grabs attention in a powerful, thought-provoking way. It provides an actor with an opportunity to command the room.
7. “Shameless”: Fiona on Monica’s death
“Shameless” regularly dips into the well of painful emotions, often with gritty results. This series about the struggling, impoverished Gallagher family, who relies on their street smarts to survive, is eye-opening and racy. What makes “Shameless” compelling is the brutal honesty that’s spoken between these family members who only know how to use tough love. Emmy Rossum plays oldest child Fiona, who had to grow up quickly to keep her siblings alive when their drug-addicted parents proved over and over again to be unreliable and dangerous. After her mother’s sudden death, Fiona doesn’t hold back her feelings. What you get here is a daughter’s angry, heart-wrenching outburst about her estranged relationship with her mom—who was reckless and never there—to her father, a man who is heavily grieving his soulmate. This monologue is great for showcasing complex and deep-rooted emotions.
8. “Euphoria”: Rue on depression
In this monologue from "Euphoria," recovering addict Rue—played by Zendaya—explains what it feels like to experience depression and the inescapability of darkness in everyday life. Her depiction of the frustration, ennui, and existential dread of mental illness is, paradoxically, at once anhedonic and emotionally wrought. You can use this monologue to demonstrate your ability to portray nuanced and difficult emotions.
It’s crucial to remember that monologues are a part of a scene. They’re spoken by characters with lives full of stories and events that make them who they are. The monologue itself is spoken to somebody else that the character wants something from. In order to really nail your performance, you must establish that you understand why the character is speaking and connect with the emotions of the character to have empathy.
A monologue is a tiny slice of a character’s life, and an actor should seek to empathize with the character so they can honor them during this important moment in their life. What’s great about a successful television series is viewers are privileged to follow and witness years of a character’s life. Viewers are impacted by actors’ performances because they too know where the character has been and what makes them the way they are. Make sure to do your research before choosing a piece so you can make informed acting choices when delivering your next TV monologue.
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