10 Screen Stars on How to Audition Like a Pro

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A good audition is the perfect mix of performance, vulnerability, and pressure. Even after years in the game, most seasoned actors still feel nervous about auditions, but their past experiences shed light on the intricacies of the process. The following 10 actors offer advice on how to successfully approach an audition.

Zach Woods, “Silicon Valley”
“Lately, I’ve tried to be a little more casual about it—just learn the lines, make a few decisions, go in, and treat it all like an experiment as opposed to trying to deliver some sort of complete performance. I asked for advice before I went in for an audition, and she said, ‘Just feel your feet on the ground and then prepare to do something hugely imperfect.’ That, to me, was great advice because to feel your feet on the ground gets you in your physical body and grounded, and in your mind, you’re about to do something hugely imperfect, which allows you to be open and flexible. You’re not trying to stick the landing which, at least in my case, leads to overly stiff acting.”

Al Pacino, “The Godfather”
“The secret I could tell actors is: try to get that audience. Auditions are the best thing in the world to do because it’s not about getting the part; it’s about finally having an audience that will tolerate you for a while and you can get a chance to practice. Practice is everything.”

Holland Taylor, “Mr. Mercedes”
“I think the most important thing I can impart is psychological self-management in the audition process. I still have to audition occasionally, but more rarely, of course. Back in the day, I had to audition for every job I ever got, and they are hard, there’s no question about it. They are a test of your nerves. I always took them much too personally; we’re much too frightened of them, much too unsteady, much too sort of tormented by them so you do self-destructive things like not prepare adequately or be late because you have so much turmoil flowing around. This is really unfortunate because the fact is, you can’t go get a job, you don’t have that power. And it’s the illusion that you have power that actually gets you in trouble.”

Dominic Cooper, “Preacher”
“Auditions are all different. Sometimes we’re just recording stuff in our room and hoping for the best, which is awful because they don’t get a sense of who you are. You prepare as much as you can, you learn who the character is, and you go in and you show them. Most of the time, they know the moment you walk in the door that’s the person they want in their film or the person they want to be seen on camera. You can sense that more often than not.”

Justin Collette, “School of Rock”
“A lot of it is going to come down to just the way you look, and you can’t help that. And you obviously need to be prepared; know your material and go in and be as competent as you can with it. But I really think that the more you seem like an easy person to work with—theater and film can be really, really stressful—so the more malleable you are in the room, the better. Don’t get stressed out if they ask you to do a reread of something. And if they ask you to reread something, don’t do it the same way you just did it. They want to see if you can move. An actor is a tool for the director to use, and they want to see that you have more than one function. So I think the most important thing in an audition room is to be comfortable and to be malleable.”

Peter Sarsgaard, “The Looming Tower”
“An audition largely was seeing if you and the director were two people who wanted to hang out together for the intense period of making a movie together and collaborating. Do I want to work with this person? Do they want to work with me? It’s not about your acting in that audition, it’s about being an artist, being someone who has an idea in their head. Most great filmmakers respond to someone who has an idea in their head. I do think it’s great to think about it as if you’re auditioning them on some level, too. It goes both ways.”

Meghann Fahy, “The Bold Type”
“I actually had a casting director say something really helpful to me once and it was for a TV audition. She said, ‘Read the sides like it’s a piece of music. Pay attention to the punctuation because it’s like it’s a song and those are all important parts of the song. If there’s a rest in a song, you don’t skip it.’ It’s the same when you’re reciting words for a regular audition.”

RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
“For me, on the other side of that table, when I see someone who is authentic in a way that they’re not trying to put on something on that they’re not, that’s when my ears prick up. I think, Oh, who’s that? A lot of times on our show [‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’] I’ll see auditions from the contestants and I can tell they’re trying to behave in the way that they think I want them to behave, which is the complete opposite of what I’m looking for. I want to see them. I want to see their own rhythm and their own frequency, not some affected version of themselves.”

Amber Nash, “Archer”
“Everybody has a different way that they got into voice acting, but one of the things I often tell people is you have to be so patient. With regular acting, there are so many people auditioning for a role. With voice acting, it’s even crazier because of technology. I can audition for a role from my closet, and so can many people all over the world. It can be a tough place to break in. To get into it in the beginning, you have to have a reel. A lot of people are like, ‘You can’t have a reel if you haven’t booked anything,’ but I think in the very beginning you have to put stuff on your reel, whether you’ve booked that job or not. As far as voice acting goes, it’s not a separate entity from acting. You have to develop yourself as an actor in order to be a voice actor.”

Antoinette Robertson, “Dear White People”
“I write notes about all of the relationships that I see present: someone’s opinion of my character, as well as things my character says that inform me about her thoughts on life, love, her parents. Then I work on it the exact opposite way. I go toward my instincts, of course, but to add nuance to a performance, you may need to explore things outside of the box. After going over it a million different times, I try not to run it out loud too many times because I don’t want to get caught in a robotic way of saying things. I want to understand how my character feels about everything and everyone in that script, what my instinctual response was, and how I felt when I turned it on its head.”

Ready to put these tips into practice? Find your next audition here!