It's that time of year again. Los Angeles is about to be inundated with actors from New York, the rest of the country, and further abroad, hoping to secure a series-regular role in that mystical and wondrous thing known as a pilot.
As a casting director from the U.K. who arrived in L.A. three years ago to work with Randi Hiller, I have seen many of my actor friends from home come through town on a mission to grab one of these elusive roles. Some of them succeeded and stayed, others secured a role in the pilot and then it didn't get picked up, others got cast and then their role was recast with someone else when the pilot went to season, and still others went home empty-handed.
When approaching pilot season, treat it like it's a triathlon and you are the athlete. Athletes must train every day if they want to win. Every day, they watch their diet, keep booze to a minimum, exercise, get plenty of rest, and work on their skills.
Focus. You came here for a reason. Do not let the distractions lure you from your goal of getting a role. There will be plenty of time to party—once you have booked that part and are attending the Emmys.
Be prepared. If you get an appointment for an audition, learn your scenes. Look fresh. Smell clean. We have had many an actor stagger into an audition hung-over, unprepared, and stinking. Seriously. It's not nice for us, and not pleasant for anyone auditioning after you.
Come in with a character choice. Do this not because you feel it would be "cool" to do something different but because you actually have that take on the character. If you perform it with conviction, we are going to buy it. When casting a pilot, we do not have the luxury of time as we do when casting a movie. The audition room is not the place to start preparing your performance. Be bold in your choice. We will steer you if we need to. If you get redirected, don't get disheartened and flustered. Listen, and do it.
Be on time. If you need time to focus before getting in the room, do it outside before signing in. Don't arrive any more than 10 minutes early for your appointment. If we are running late, you will have even longer to wait. On the other hand, don't be late. If you are running late, know that others may have taken your spot and that you may have to wait longer. Be gracious about it. Have your agent call ahead to say that you will be late, and apologize when you get in. Also, be polite to those around you, keep voices low, and just be aware of others. This might sound like basic stuff, but the number of times I have walked into our waiting area and seen actors loudly on the phone, others with their iPods turned up loud, others pacing, others just staring people down—it's stressful. Be considerate.
Finally, casting directors are not the enemy. We want you to do well in the room. We want to cast the part. That way we can move on to the next role/project. You may think that you are wrong for the role you are reading for, but there will be a reason we have asked you to read it, so act like the part is yours. Maybe they are going in a different direction for the role. Maybe the script is changing. Maybe they are thinking "out of the box." Regardless, don't half-ass it. You will be wasting your time and ours.
Above all, remain positive, don't get disheartened, and if at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again. Good luck.
Tamara-Lee Notcutt began her career at Hubbard Casting in London. She then joined forces with Carrie Hilton, working on the British TV shows "Doc Martin," "Robin Hood," and "Benidorm." She is currently with Randi Hiller and has worked on the upcoming films "The Next Three Days," directed by Paul Haggis; "Thor," directed by Kenneth Branagh; "Warrior," directed by Gavin O'Connor; and "Cinema Verite," for HBO, and the MTV comedy series "Warren the Ape."