The Cardinal Sin of Auditioning

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Recently, as I was sitting in my partner's office (who owns a talent agency), I overheard one side of a heated phone conversation between one of his agents and a client.

"If you go in for Tara Rubin for this audition, just to be seen, without any intent on accepting an offer for the national tour of 'Young Frankenstein' should it come your way..." was how the conversation began as the agent's temporal veins began to pulse. I knew where this was going. And it wouldn't be pretty.

The actor, with solid representation, had been given an offer for a job in New York which would conflict with the potential "Young Frankenstein" national tour. He had an offer on hand that was not yet finalized on paper, so auditioning for other projects is the norm in the industry. What is not the appropriate norm is what he wanted to do.

He was telling his agent—someone in the business long before this actor was in diapers—that if he got an offer from the "Young Frankenstein" audition, he would pass; i.e., flip-off the offer and creative team. His sole desire in meeting with one of the hottest casting offices in New York was to use the audition to remind Tara Rubin that he existed.

W.T.F. Excuse me?!

As the conversation to my left continued, the agent's pulsating temples were joined in rhythm by her click-clack tapping of manicured fingernails on the frosted glass of her desktop. I looked to her boss, my partner. He informed me that the actor on the phone was the same young man who came into an audition for me over a year ago, got an offer from my office—then passed. The actor declined because he never wanted the job. He auditioned only because he had yet to be seen by me. (How did I know this? I do speak to the other half on occasion.)

Never, repeat, never, ever do you as an actor, a professional, go to an audition knowing that you will not accept an offer should you be so lucky as to receive one. Far too many times do some actors and academics of our profession live by, or impart unto others, the misguided, moronic mantra: "You should audition for anything and everything. Even if you're not right for a role, not available for, or disinterested in the project being cast." If you're one of the following Chinese menu-like choices—Column A: Not interested; Column B: Not right for a role; or Column C: Not project available—do not audition. Got it?

You're wasting the time of your fellow actors who are appropriate for the role(s) being cast and who do want the job . By being false with your audition intent, you're abusing the valuable tick-tock and cha-ching of the creative personnel behind the audition table and fellow performers who need immediate employment. You anger your peers and the people who hire.

Actors and acting academics who believe in the "audition for anything and everything even if not available or interested" fable can argue against that fiction with me and the professional opinion of my casting colleagues, talent reps, producers and directors until those thespians and their tenured professors enroll for the grave. But they should know this: Participate in this foolish, selfish, unprofessional behavior and an early grave is where your career journey will prematurely be buried with those the folly is practiced upon.

Now you may be thinking: How would the casting people, directors or producers know I was auditioning for a project that I had no intention of taking if the job were offered? Deceit cannot hide forever. Eventually the truth of an actor's intent will be revealed, just as it has been numerous times among my casting colleagues. The reaction from behind the audition table? Producers, directors, and casting personnel will discontinue calling in the audition-deceitful. The actors are excommunicated for their sin.

Committing to an audition constitutes that you are committed to negotiating, in good faith, a potential contract for work should an offer come your way. To the actors, like the 'I'm-only-auditioning-as-a-reminder' twit, please heed this note: Audition with honor and more than likely you'll be honored in return.

Paul Russell's career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. He is the author of "ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor." For more information, please visit