In middle school, my teacher would challenge us to stand before the class and talk about whatever we wanted as long as we didn’t pause, say “ummm,” “like,” or repeat ourselves.
It was a wonderful exercise in public speaking—I remember talking about boogers for a good eight minutes. So why not transfer this exercise to the audition and rehearsal space and go for as long as you can without apologizing.
That’s right: never apologize for your art.
All I seem to hear from others actors is the word “sorry.” I’m not talking about the “sorry” that comes as a prelude to constant rejection. I’m talking about the string of apologies in a rehearsal space or an audition that come from actors in connection with a forgotten line, a flat note, or a false start. It could be a missed mark, a stumble, a misplaced pause. It could be a brave decision, a bold move, a strange choice that doesn’t quite land.
Rather than pushing through it, improvising, taking a deep breath, or—God forbid—laughing it off, the actor tends to apologize instead.
“Sorry, can we start again?”
“Sorry, I missed my cue.”
“Sorry, I forgot my line.”
A casting director doesn’t need a word-perfect audition. Contrary to the musings of Type A perfectionists, a casting director (or whoever is making the ultimate decision) isn’t going to ax you for missing some words. They will pass, however, if you’re difficult to work with.
A director will not dump you for working through some glitches. (Sometimes the best work can come out of mistakes!) They may never hire you again, however, if you’re annoying to work with.
Directors and casting directors need to see confident actors. They need an actor who can improvise, roll with the challenges, and excel when the pressure hits. If you’re uncomfortable, everyone is uncomfortable, and not in an artistic, boundary-pushing sense.
Get comfortable with making mistakes. It’s part of the process. Adjust. Take the time you would spend apologizing and instead use it to think of a correction.
If you absolutely need to start again consider your phrasing. Laughing and asking, “Hey, let’s try that again,” is much different than “I’m sorry, can we try that again?”
It may not even be a conscious thing to say “sorry.” It could be up there with, “ummm,” “like,” and repetition. It’s a tic, a knee-jerk reaction. Overall though, these are all stall tactics for when you’re too afraid to continue the work.
Why are you afraid to continue? You might mess up again? Over the course of your career, you will mess up again and again and again and you will get over it. You can get over it every time without apologizing to the room for a mistake we barely noticed.
So train yourself to stop apologizing. Short of personal wrongdoing, murder, or being late (never be late), stop apologizing altogether. Extend the premise to every part of your life. Stop beginning every e-mail with, “Sorry...” Stop apologizing to your boss for taking a day off to audition. Stop saying, “I’m sorry,” as a prelude to your thoughts and opinions.
Stop playing the victim. You’re not a victim, you’re an artist.
Exercise those improvisation skills you shelled out a small fortune to learn, take a breath, pick up from where you left off, or even just laugh and try again. Whatever it is, own your art, train yourself, and never apologize.
Unless there are boogers. Apologize for your boogers.
Check out Backstage’s Los Angeles audition listings!
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.