When I started acting at age 9, my ignorant bliss was magical. I had no idea I was getting paid, competition never crossed my mind, and the pressures of “work” were nonexistent. Working hours in a studio, playing dress-up, and entertaining a studio audience was so much fun, it never felt like anything but play. When I waited in an audition room for casting to call my name, I wondered why other little girls even showed up—the part was mine. The insecurities and vanity of being a teenager hadn’t hit me yet and the inevitable rejection didn’t faze me. Now, at 18, I think of that younger girl when I can’t get my hair just right, when I don’t feel good enough, when the gorgeous girl reading for the same role reminds me I’m just a mere mortal, when I’m impatient, when the casting director says, “That’s enough,” and when I don’t get the phone call I wanted.
It’s not necessary to love every part of the process, but it is important to admire it and respect it, from the vulnerable and shaky audition to the joyous booking, the precarious filming, and the anticipated final piece all stitched together for viewing pleasure. This sometimes fruitful, often frustrating process makes what actors do so special. One can never know what to expect. Each day, each project, each audition, each obstacle is new, and nothing is routine. But it’s easy to let the natural frustration and rejection get you down—like when you read a script and fall in love with every inch of every page, then go in for a three-minute reading and leave feeling unsatisfied and violated.
Entering an audition room and being so intimately open and emotional is a brave and vulnerable experience. No one will understand the feeling unless they’ve done it. So it’s important—essential, even—to take care of yourself and your emotions. It is incredibly badass to be an emotional creature, but it also takes major self-care and constant reflection.
If in the audition you want to do a scene again, take a minute to yourself, or have a drink of water, it is your absolute right to do so. Not only is it your right, but it will make you feel so empowered to ask for what you need. I love to audition like I already have the part and casting is working for me. Request your needs graciously.
Speaking of grace, it is so important to be your best self with everyone you meet. This is easy to forget when it’s an early morning or late night on a set and the struggle to be your most pleasant is real, but it is as important as your acting job. People want to work with their friends. Be a friend. That means be generous (with your time and emotions), introduce yourself to everyone you work with (and remember their names), and speak up for yourself (and others, if necessary). People respect people who are leaders, not followers. Make suggestions, ask questions, and observe your surroundings. Most importantly, though, draw on that 9-year-old we all have in our hearts.
The joy of filmmaking is a rhythmic, harmonious one—storytelling in the purest form. Remembering the child in all of us will keep our egos at bay, our curiosity vast, and our dreams limitless.
Hannelius got her start on the Disney Channel’s “Dog With a Blog.” The actor has since been cast on “Roots” and most recently on Netflix’s new satire “American Vandal,” premiering Sept. 15.
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