Often times, actors will come into the audition room showing their preparation for the audition instead of truly being in the scene with the reader. While being prepared is extremely important, it can sometimes cause actors to push their choices, worrying too much about the lines or getting fixated on only one way of doing the scene.
Yes, we want to see that you’ve made strong choices and have done enough work to understand the material, but we also want to see you make that same material truly come alive. Instead of showing us how hard you worked on your lines, we prefer to see you having a natural conversation with the other characters in the scene.
So when a casting director tells you to throw it all away, I’d interpret that to mean something like, “Don’t work so hard to show us you’ve done the work.”
When I work with actors on audition prep, I like to say, “If I were to walk by you rehearsing your lines with a fellow actor, it should feel like I’m witnessing a real conversation between two people. If one of you is getting upset in the scene, it should feel and look like you’re getting upset by what the other person said or did to you.”
If you’re working correctly, you’re actively listening—fully present, living in each moment of the scene, responding with a true point of view.
Sometimes, I will read with actors to see how they naturally respond to the way I’m treating them. Often times, actors stick to the way they rehearsed the work, giving little room for a story to come to life. Instead of a conversation, it becomes an actor saying his or her lines.
But when you honor your unique point of view in a scene and react based on how something truly makes you feel, we don’t see you work so hard to “convince” us you’re happy, frustrated, angry, hurt, or sad. You’re naturally throwing it away and trusting that you’ve done enough work on your scene to trust that the emotion will come through. As long as you’re connected to the other actor, actively listening while truthfully responding, and living under the emotional circumstances of the story, we become emotionally connected to what’s happening on the screen.
Melonie “Mel” Mack has worked in entertainment in NYC and L.A. for 17+ years. Mel began teaching 10 years ago, helping actors find comedic timing within scripts. Mel studied with some of the best teachers in the business: Lesly Kahn of Lesly Kahn & Company, John Rosenfeld of John Rosenfeld Studios, & Billy O’Leary of The Actor’s Path. Mel’s national commercial credits include Verizon, Nutella, Toyota, Bud Lite, Pampers, Visa, and Ikea, among hundreds of others. Mel has worked with renowned artists Damian Lewis, Jamie Chung, Eva Longoria, and Madonna, to name a few.
Mel owns and operates Mel Mack Acting Studio (MMAS), offering education programming, ranging from classes and workshops to career coaching and advice sessions. Mel cultivates a community of talent that she develops and often refers to casting directors and projects when they are a good fit. Mel also runs a Casting Support business, running casting sessions that position her in the room. As Mel is behind the table, supporting directors and clients who make casting decisions, she has invaluable insight about what works for actors and what doesn’t.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.