How to Decide When a TV Monologue Is Right for You

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Photo Source: Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO

When an acting teacher, casting director, or talent agent asks you to prepare a monologue, what ideas for material spring to mind? Perhaps you immediately think of your favorite classical Shakespearean soliloquy. Maybe you fantasize about delivering an iconic film monologue, like Jack Nicholson’s speech in “A Few Good Men” or Samuel L. Jackson’s chilling yet comedic tirade in “Pulp  Fiction.” But there’s a chance you’re overlooking a rich source of monologue material from television and streaming series.

If your acting career goals center on television roles, start paying attention to TV monologues. Monologues are used as a device by storytellers in this medium almost as often as in films and plays. You may be able to pull a great TV speech to use in your next meeting, workshop, or audition. When in auditions can you break out a TV monologue? Well, TV casting directors almost always send specific sides for the show they’re auditioning for whether it’s right from the show or fake sides because the script is secret and actors are under NDA. That means TV monologues won’t really come into play for television auditions but can be considered for other auditions.

So what exactly do you need to consider when choosing a TV monologue and deciding if it’s the right fit? Here are five things to keep in mind.

1. Your monologue should be able to stand alone.
You won’t find many TV monologues in monologue books, so you may be transcribing material from a show you’ve watched. Make sure the monologue stands alone outside the context of the scene in the show. It should be interesting and dynamic, have an arc, and allow you to go on an emotional journey as the character.

2. Double-check the requirements of the assignment.
As with any situation involving your acting career, professionalism and attention to detail are paramount. You want to ensure you are honoring the specific wishes of the person who requested the monologue. Oftentimes, casting directors will outline requirements for length and type of material for audition monologues. If the casting director requested a three-minute monologue from a classical play, for example, you should not bring a TV monologue. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised!

3. Make sure your TV monologue is not iconic.
There are some monologues that most TV viewers will recognize, either because of the popularity of the show, or the specific nature of the content. You don’t want the casting director or agent to be distracted by comparing you to the original actor who played the role. For example, the monologue from “Game of Thrones” in which Varys explains how he became a eunuch is probably not a great choice because your audience will be thinking about how amazing Conleth Hill was in the role.

4. Select TV material that matches your casting.
One of the first elements you should focus on as you grow your career as a professional actor (after developing your acting chops and becoming really good at your craft) is starting to understand the quality or essence that you naturally bring into a room as a human being. For the sake of this article, we’ll call that your “casting” or “branding.” This can often be difficult to discern on your own, so get help from an acting teacher, casting director, or coach.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. Can you easily be seen as a trustworthy, by-the-book, professional type or is the free spirit, hippie, rule breaker more your speed? Whatever your essence, it’s crucial that the tone and content of the monologue you choose is a match for your casting. If you’re doing a TV monologue in a talent agent meeting, for example, it’s helpful for the agent to see you in a role that she is going to be able to easily sell you in.

The Backstage Guide to Delivering a Monologue

5. Make sure you are passionate about the material.
Any monologue you choose should be something you actually enjoy working on. As with any performance, the more excited you are to dive deep and make it your own, the better your result will be. We don’t often have the opportunity to choose our material as actors. When you do, take full advantage of it!

The bottom line is this. The material you select can make all the difference. With so much quality programming on TV and streaming services now, performers who need great material will be well served to source monologues from them. 

Monologue ready? Apply to casting calls on Backstage!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Ajarae Coleman
Ajarae Coleman is a working actress based in Los Angeles. She founded ActingResourceGuru.com to help actors share honest information about schools, casting directors, and talent agencies via anonymous reviews.
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