If you’ve ever come across a major actor’s audition online, one that led to them getting the part, you probably have an actor crush. How did he or she so accurately portray the character that you now know from the series?
It’s easy to assume that in the audition, they delivered the exact character the creators were seeking. That this actor had the perception to find every nuance the writer had envisaged.
The actor didn’t create the writer’s version of the character. The actor created their own unique version and when the creator saw it, said, “THAT is my character. That is what I want on screen.” That successful audition tape then made its way to the writer’s room with the instructions to capture THIS character on the page because this actor can then translate it to the screen.
The creative team enters the audition process with an open mind. They have strong ideas, but are usually open about how a character may evolve and develop. The screen tests are the catalyst to fertilize that thinking. To make your pilot season auditions stand out in a way that sparks something with the creative team, remember these points:
1. The audition process is merely the first draft of the character. Do you think writers construct a perfect character in their first attempt? After spending days casting, and struggling to find an actor to bring the character to life, we start to think it may not be the actor’s fault. Rather, the problem lies with the character.
In many of my casting projects, we’ve changed the gender, age, or sexuality of a character halfway through the audition process as he or she evolves.
2. You must identify the rhythm of the series and your character. This will be evident from the sides, but also by the past work of the creator, producer and network.
Consider how your character fits into the canvass of the show. Is she the jokester or comic relief? The fall guy that always gets things wrong? You must make these decisions in advance of your audition.
3. Now look in the mirror. What qualities do you (and you alone) bring to a any and every character? The natural qualities you possess are equally as important as the qualities listed in the character breakdown. No one can deliver those natural qualities as well as you.
By embracing these principles, you give yourself more freedom in your audition. Once you understand that individuality is a more important thing to deliver, you will find you have more room to move in your version of the character.
Think about it from a casting director’s perspective: At the end of a long day of watching audition tapes—and more importantly, self-tapes—do we remember the actor who got it exactly right? Or the one who did something (or a lot of things) that was quirky or appealing or different or eccentric.
Maybe that flash of uniqueness doesn’t get you that part. But it gets you the one thing you want from every audition, especially during pilot season: it gets you remembered.
And the next time that casting director considers you, they know exactly what to bring you in for. They want you to capture that spark of unique distinctiveness in a new character because at the end of the day, that’s exactly what we’re trying to put on the screen in a new series. A collection of characters in a setting that the audience has never seen before.
If I can achieve that as a casting director, then I’ve done my job. Help me do my job and I promise I will see you again.
*This post was originally published on April 26, 2016. It has since been updated.
Greg Apps was an actor, appearing in many iconic Australian films and theater. He knows and understands the frustrations of an actor. The endless auditions without getting the role or worse, not being seen or considered for the role that is perfect for you. Greg has been a casting director for the last 35 years, and has cast over 80 feature films and countless hours of television, and hence seen thousands of hours of actors in the audition process. Greg has been nominated as one of Australia’s top 10 most influential people in the Australian film industry. He has worked alongside many notable actors, directors, and producers namely Tom Cruise (casting “Mission Impossible”), James Cameron, Russell Crow, and Eric Bana to name a few. He is currently the President of the Casting Guild of Australia and continues to cast some of Australia’s most iconic films and television series. Greg created The Audition Technique and works tirelessly to educate actors by teaching them how to connect to decision makers and how to get the role through auditions and self-tapes.
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