Why Casting Directors Want You To Color Outside the Lines

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Spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy once said, “Peace begins when expectation ends.” This has been a longstanding philosophy of mine, as one can only be disappointed when one chooses to have expectations. No one is entitled to anything; every positive thing that happens in your life is a gift to be cherished.

That said, as an actor, you will always have certain expectations going into an audition or a job and the people on the hiring end will be carrying their own expectations into the room as well. The question is, then, how can you possibly know what’s expected from you without any direction? With so many personalities on the other side of the table, each with their own subjective point of view, what’s an actor to do?

Although there is no simple answer to this question, here is my point of view.

If we’re talking about roles with any meat on them, go in and make your choices as if you were the actor, director, and producer. Unapologetically show them the role as you would like to see it done through your own prism. Don’t be constrained by what you imagine their expectations are.

Think of these auditions like a coloring book. We, the hirers, are handing you a book of black-and-white line drawings with a jumbo box of crayons and telling you to fill in the colors.

The misstep many actors make in this metaphor is to take one crayon and trace along the existing lines with great precision. Voila! You leave thinking you’ve fulfilled the task at hand and executed what the breakdown and text asked of you.

That may be perfectly fine for an under-five or a role that’s there solely for exposition but it won’t serve you for much else. You are a unique being with your own sensibilities; we want to see what colors you choose, where you put them, and how those decisions change the tone of the picture. Where does the burnt sienna, the ochre, the teal blue go? You put electric lime there? I never would have imagined that but damn, it’s great!

Make it your goal to be fearless and defy expectations. Color outside—or inside—those lines with whatever colors you choose.

Ready to color outside the lines? Looking for remote work? Backstage has got you covered! Click here for auditions you can do from home!

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.

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Marci Phillips
Marci is the Executive Director of Casting for the ABC Entertainment Group. She is the head of the New York office and is responsible for covering the entire East Coast talent pool for all ABC Studio shows and most of the pilots made for the ABC Television Network
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