The Question This Casting Director Wants Every Actor to Ask Themselves

Photo Source: Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Who are you?

Nothing like a small question to get this article rolling! One thing I see all the time in casting sessions are actors who are in denial about who they really are. I know you’re probably reaching for a glass of wine right now and asking, “What’s up with the soul-searching”? Not to wax philosophical here, but in order to become a successful actor you need to really look in the mirror and be happy with what you see. Seriously, be honest with yourself. Who is staring back at you? Remember that person in the mirror is who we—casting directors, directors, producers, and advertising executives—see walking into an audition. That person is the character we’re trying to place into our shoots.

Take a look at your resume. Has it been 20 years since you played Audrey in “Little Shop”? Then you probably aren’t an ingenue anymore. Have you become a polished executive and aren’t playing in that grunge band now? Maybe you’re more of a character type than a leading man.

Look, I realize it’s sometimes difficult and uncomfortable to break through to reality but it can be freeing. Being honest with yourself is a path that leads to your strengths. Now you’re probably saying, “Wait! I can play any character—I’m an actor!” In fairness, you probably can...at home. But for the professional, paying projects, we need talent that looks like our storyboards and fits the role. Actors who land the role need to be believable as someone in college or the mom of a two-year-old or the president of a Fortune 500 company or a homeless person. They personify that character.

READ: This is What Really Happens After You Leave the Audition Room

I had a woman come to an open call of mine recently who was in her late 50s and absolutely stunning. She presented an amazing, emotionally available monologue. But at the end of our time together she sheepishly turned to me and said, “Look, I know I’m not what I used to be. Should I just give it up?” I was shocked. She was actually more castable now than ever. Do you know how many projects I get that call for the “older mom or dad” or the “empty nester”? Loads. To her surprise, I brought her in right away for a pharmaceutical audition and she was booked! Give up? Never!

On the other hand, I had a really cute 20-year-old guy walk in, perfect for a leading man. And what monologue did he do? “The Elephant Man.” Sure, it showed me he had acting chops but it was probably the last role I was thinking of for him.

So what do you do now? First, a bit of common sense. Look in the mirror. Then hold your headshot up next to your face. Do you look like the person in the photo? Make sure you do. This also applies to your comp cards and demo reel. Then, make sure you choose a monologue that makes sense for you to take to auditions. Don’t do Gollum from “Lord of the Rings” if you are a 50-year-old woman (true story). And show up to the audition in age/role-appropriate wardrobe.

For a health insurance spot I just cast, I brought in a woman perfectly suited for the conservative “mom” role. In she walks wearing aviator sunglasses, a leather motorcycle jacket, and spandex pants with heels. Yah, you guessed it. Not a match for the character. She didn’t book the role.

By all means, enjoy yourself and wear whatever you want in everyday life...just not to the audition if it doesn’t represent the “you” we were expecting to see. Know what you look like and be that role when you walk in. We will love you for it and everyone will be happier. One guy walked in with a white beard wearing all red. Odd? Not for him! I’ve booked him four jobs straight as Santa, and one of those roles was opposite Bradley Cooper. (I think he got what he wanted for Christmas)!

We all age. Embrace who you really are. You are indeed unique just by being you. From my experience, if you’re seriously pursuing an acting career, save yourself a lot of time and worry. Accept yourself and be honest with yourself, and you may actually get more work.

Melanie graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in acting. She then started her own production company producing feature films, documentaries, and commercials in New York. In Los Angeles, she worked in business affairs at the talent agency Writers & Artists and then went on to work at The Firm, a celebrity management company. She is now head of casting at Mike Lemon Casting where has she cast nearly a thousand films, television shows and commercials, many receiving related awards.

Check out Backstage’s commercial audition listings!

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.

Melanie Forchetti
Melanie is the head of casting at Mike Lemon Casting where has she cast nearly a thousand films, television shows and commercials, many receiving related awards.
GO TO AUTHOR PAGE