5 Things to Do to Survive and Thrive on a TV Show Set

It’s so exciting to get booked on an episodic television show. I mean, you are going to be on TV!

You’ve auditioned, been called back, placed on hold, and then your agent or manger called you with the booking. Yes!

Now it’s time to read the script and see how and where you fit in the episode, but… the reality is, things move so fast today in TV that there will be times when you won’t even get the chance to read the entire script because of the lack of time. There have been times when I have received my booking from my agent in the evening, called in to wardrobe the next day, and began shooting the following morning. It can feel like you’re in a hurricane of activity preparing for the shoot and clearing your schedule for those days.

In this fast-paced environment, I believe the five most important things you need to do as an actor that will help you survive and thrive on the set are:

1. Learn those lines and learn them cold. Know your lines backwards and forwards so that you are absolutely as prepared as possible. Don’t stop running your lines to yourself until you hear “check the gate,” which means they like how the scene went and are ready to move on to the next.

2. When they call you to set for a rehearsal, have your script or sides in your hand so you can read it. Even if it is a one liner and you know it cold, it will keep you relaxed to have your script in your hand and feel the rhythm of how things should go. The rehearsal is not like a film or theater rehearsal; it’s usually more for the writer and director to see how the scene sounds and how they might want to frame it for the shooting, and if, perhaps, they might want to tweak the lines. Give them a flavor of how you might want to do it. but do read them.

3. After your first rehearsal is finished, immediately go up to the director and ask if you can have a minute of his time. You might say, “Hi, could I have 60 seconds of your time and ask you what it is you are looking for out of me in this scene. I want to be sure I give you what you want and what the story needs?” You are important to the success of this story and you want to be sure you give the director what they want and what the story needs.

4. Ask yourself how you can tell the story more clearly and if there is perhaps a small prop that will help you. This is a directing note I learned from Seth Barrish of the Barrow Group. If you’re a cop, maybe you’re drinking a cup of coffee, if you’re a FBI agent, maybe you’re checking your phone for classified information, or perhaps you’re about to light a cigarette as a hit man, depending if it is network or not. (There’s no smoking on ABC, CBS and NBC.) Always ask the director if you can use it, but on every set that I have ever been on, when I have asked, they have never told me no and have appreciated that I was trying to contribute. If it is subtle and helps add to the story, they will mostly likely say yes.

5. And last, go celebrate your success! I mean, you’re going to be on TV!

www.DouglasTaurel.com. Follow him on Twitter @DouglasTaurel.

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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Douglas Taurel
Douglas Taurel is a producer and actor. He works consistently in independent films and has been fortunate enough to grace many of New York’s stages in many classic and dramatic plays.