Tales from the Audition Room: Part 2
Recently, we were casting some co-stars for one of our shows. It was a long day of sessions (three and a half hours in the morning, three and a half in the afternoon,) reading 60+ actors for 5 or 6 different roles. (Side note: this is the benefit of not having producers in the room; we aren’t beholden to someone else’s schedule, so we can read as many actors as we like, whenever we’d like.) We had narrowed this pool of actors down from thousands and thousands of submissions, and I felt confident that every actor walking in the door could nail their read.
And so they did. The waiting room was constantly full, so every actor who came in was respectful of our time together. Even if they knew me well, they kept the catch-up chit chat to a minimum and focused on their work and being present in the room.
We were coming to the end of this very long day, when in came an actor, I’ll call him “Mark.” As I was mic’ing Mark, I asked how he was doing and if he had any questions… the usual banter. He had no questions and told me how he was feeling blessed because he had been very busy auditioning and working. Before he could elaborate further, we read the scene a couple of times. Mark’s performance was solid, he took redirects well, and when we finished I felt good about including him as an option for our producers.
But as I was de-mic’ing Mark, he began telling me about all of his auditions and bookings, how he was in a contest with another actor friend to see how many auditions they can get in a single month and how he was blowing that guy out of the water. Mark listed off the directors he’d recently worked with, and how they all sang his praises, telling him that he was one of the best actors they’d worked with, ever. He went on and on about himself this way, until I finally reminded him that we still had actors to read and we had to keep going. As he walked out, Mark turned to me and said, “if I booked this show, it would be my tenth this month. Get me to ten!” There was nothing threatening or creepy about this. He said it playfully, as if I had a stake in his game.
After Mark had gone, my assistant looked at me with big, “are you f*cking kidding me?” eyes. She had never seen an actor brag about himself in that way. Unfortunately, this was nothing new for me. I’ve never had anyone tell me about a (frankly, stupid and probably hurtful) contest they were in with another actor, but I have had MANY actors come in and (without my asking,) verbally give me their resume and go on and on about their accolades. I’ve had actors who will listen to my direction and then relate it to something so-and-so director said to them when they were on the set of whatever-movie, and how that director had LOVED what they had done, and on and on and on…
This is a version of what we call, “talking yourself out of a job.” You might have a great audition, but then, in an attempt to prove JUST how perfect you are for the role, you end up over-explaining your choices, or entering into a major bragfest about yourself (like Mark did.) When this happens, we become worried about sending you to set. How will our crew finish their day if you can’t stop talking about yourself? Will the other actors get frustrated if you continually distract them with stories? Will the director get fed up with your antics, thus choosing not to interact with you or give you notes? Will the producer then come to us and complain about how “bad” you were, and how they hope they can cut around you?
As actors, you will often have to be your own PR agent. You will sometimes need to brag about your credits, the people you’ve worked with, how your web series just got into five different festivals, etc. However, you NEVER need to do that in the audition room, (unless we very specifically ask.) If you’re there, we know your credits. If you’re there, we picked you over someone else. If you’re there, we already like you and feel you have a good shot at a particular role. You don’t need to try to impress us by listing off the directors with whom you’ve worked. Impress us by giving a good read, acting professionally and then going about your day.