Often times after a long day of auditions, I get to grab a quick second to check Facebook. Undoubtedly, I’ll see a few postings by actors commenting on their audition that day—and lately, I’ve seen quite a few angry posts about being put on hold or “on avail” time and time again, but never getting the booking, losing to another actor, or worse yet, losing out to someone from L.A. or New York when the show is shooting in Chicago.
I know how it feels to be an actor—I started out as one. Your reality is that you know so little of what goes on before and after your audition, and you’re left to fill in the blanks. All you know is what you do to prepare, how long it took to find parking for a two-second audition, and whether or not you got the job. Nothing in between. As frustrating as it may seem to be continually put on hold for a role only to have it go to someone else, let me assure you it’s a good thing—a great thing—and something that should keep you positive and motivated to boot.
For the purposes of this post, let’s concentrate on a TV series and I’ll fill you in on what goes on when you leave the room. Usually, the director and producer are in the room when I’m casting one of my series episodes and I typically only bring in five actors per role. (Sometimes I’m looking to fill upwards of 25 roles and unless audition day is going to morph into a pajama party, I need to make it as tight and time-efficient as I can.) Casting sessions can be long and they count on me to bring in the best so they don’t have to see 42 actors per role. If you’re one of those five actors, that’s a good thing to start off with right there.
After we finish seeing actors for a role, we take a beat and the director and producer confer and select their top two picks. This is when we call your agent and put you on “check avail” or “hold.” That means you’re one of the top two choices and your audition is now in the universe on its way to the showrunner, and writer/producers for them to look at. Then they’ll pick their number one choice. After they make their selection, it goes to the network for approval. This usually happens over a couple of days, a time period that may seem like a year in actor time.
There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, guys, and sometimes decisions come down to hair color or the fact that you’re taller than the series lead and he doesn’t want someone bigger than him in the scene. It’s subjective. Being put on hold isn’t to torment you, it’s because you were great and the decision-makers in the room think you’d be good for the role. Basically, it means you’re close to snagging the job.
Sometimes actors are on hold for a week. The reason? Everyone has made their number one choice and it’s not you, but you’re still on hold because things change. The actor forgets he’s getting married during shoot days, the play she’s in doesn’t have an understudy ready to go on, he can’t afford to join SAG...stuff happens. So we keep an actor on hold until the booking is firm. If something happens, you’re still available and we can give the job to you!
Another important thing to keep in mind is that being put on hold doesn’t mean you should give up other gigs. It simply means we’d like first dibs on you and if you get another offer, we’d like a call from your agent who will say, “Time to make a decision or you’re going to lose her.”
My hope is that my little explanation will help to dispel the frustration so many feel when they’re being put on hold all the time, and maybe turn the perception around to a positive thing—which it is!
*This post was originally published on Feb. 19, 2018. It has since been updated.
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