Are you auditioning for every role you could possibly
play? Actors looking to expand their visibility, range and experience
audition for everything. The actor’s goal should not be to "get
the job," and especially not to please the director or casting
agent. The goal should be to create a character, to develop a wide
Two things drive directors nuts in an audition. The
first is actors who have obviously given the role little (if any)
thought. It’s not enough to just show up, you must come prepared;
present a developed character. The second thing is actors who don’t
listen. Actors relaxed enough to pay close attention to what the
director is asking for consistently get high marks.
What drives you, the actor, crazy is a director who
doesn’t really know what he or she wants. There is a way to remedy
all this, and to leave feeling good about your craft, your talent
and your choices, no matter how off-base you believe the director,
casting agent, or producer to be.
First, read your sides (script pages) carefully. Think
about the character and the story. What does the character want?
What does she feel? Where is she? How would she interact with the
scene’s environment? What is the beginning, middle and end of this
One film project I did was particularly difficult
to cast. The person I ultimately cast got the part for two reasons:
First, the actor was more interested in being the character than
pleasing me. When I gave him a note (a verbal suggestion for his
character), he responded in character. Other actors broke character
when they communicated with me.
A review of the video revealed the other actors simply
weren’t as immersed in the character, and therefore not as natural
as the person we cast. Second, the actor brought more to the part
than I had written. He developed a heart and soul for the character,
a depth I hadn’t seen in the script or the other auditioning actors
(who were still very good). After along day, one actress got my
attention when she started her audition by saying, "I see this
character starting out disinterested, then ultimately becoming completely
involved. Is that correct?" This actress was involved enough
to analyze the part.
Meryl Streep landed her award-winning role as Joanna
in Kramer vs. Kramer by analyzing the character. She was
originally slated to audition for a bit part in the film. But at
her audition, she gave a concise analysis of the part of Joanna.
She praised the script mightily, but noted that Joanna fell into
stereotyped, shallow characterization in specific places. She went
on to describe how she would change the role.
She was excused from the audition and later cast as
Joanna without further review. The script was even rewritten to
accommodate her character interpretation and development.
John Ratzenburger (Cliff in Cheers) says that
he failed his Cheers audition, badly. As the character for
which he originally tried out, that is. But as he was leaving, he
asked the producers if they had already cast the "bar know-it-all."
Huh? "You know," he said, "the guy who…" and
went on to give a bogus breakdown of the office furniture composition
in the audition area—as Cliff.
That improvised character development landed him a
steady job for 11 years. Ask questions. The most important thing
to remember in an audition is that the people for whom you are auditioning
will be doing other projects in the future, some of which your talent
may be tailor-made for.
Directors remember actors whose auditions stand out
in their minds, even if they aren’t cast the first time around.
Colleen Patrick is a Seattle screenwriter, director
and author. She teaches beginning and advanced "Acting for