It was the best of auditions, it was the worst of auditions. Sorry, couldn’t resist. I actually hate overdone titles like “To act or not to act” but this one just rang true to the post. So enjoy.
I want to discuss two auditions I had in the last couple weeks and how different they were. I think a lot can be learned from these two about nerves as an actor, what they can do to you and a few potential pitfalls to watch out for when you do get a “big” audition.
The first audition was for a film. I’m not going to mention the name of the film as I didn’t get it and I don’t like to talk too much about stuff I didn’t get but it was a pretty large film with an A-List cast. The scene I was reading for was with a pretty well known actor and a major A-lister. It was two straight pages of talking with one of the actors. Amazing, right? I got the call from my manager on a Thursday and the audition was the next Tuesday. I had five days to prepare and five days to freak out.
This wasn’t a “career maker” audition like a pilot or a major role in a film but it would have looked really great on my resume and demo reel. So there I was with a few pages of sides and a bunch of days to work on them. I went online did plenty of research to find out who each character was going to be played by, looked up the director, looked up the writers, read the IMDb board on the film and, of course, read over my lines dozens of times and made some good strong choices of what I wanted to do. I show up at the audition and have to wait an hour to go in and read. Finally I go in and give a pretty good read. Not the best of my life, but I was really pleased with what I did.
I’m so happy I did well because that audition easily could have gone the other way. I could have started to think about how the director works ALL the time and could make my career on his next film, how I’d format my resume with the new credit or how I could easily screw up in front of one of the top casting directors in Los Angeles and never get brought in by her again. Those kind of things can consume an actor and do nothing to help with the actual audition. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of all of those things but I focused my energy on the work. That’s what stopped me from freaking out. When I started to think of how amazing this job would be and how much money I’d make on residuals when the thing runs on TBS every two hours I picked up the script and worked on it again.
And in that waiting room I could have started to worry about what the other actors were going to do. I could have looked at them and judged their wardrobes and demeanors to figure out who my real competition was. But instead I stretched out on the sofa, relaxed and read my lines a few more time. This took my mind off of the hour wait and onto the work.
When you have days to analyze and think about your audition the best thing to do is to focus as much as possible on the work. What good are five days if you only spend an hour on the sides and twenty hours fantasizing about what could happen? Switch those two around (maybe not 20 hours on the scene, that’s insane) and you’ll calm yourself down to no end. Because you’ll know what you have to do when you walk in that room.
The second audition I want to discuss is my audition for Ghost Whisperer. I get the call Tuesday at 2PM for an audition at 4:30PM in Burbank. That means I have to finish what I was doing, do a little shopping for dinner, get in my car and go. That was it. I barely had time to print out the sides. I read them over quickly on my way out the door.
I drive to the studio, park my car, get lost and eventually find the casting office after asking directions at a production office as well as the casting office for Heroes. I get in there and there’s one guy in front of me. He’s in the room for two minutes and suddenly I’m in there auditioning.
There was no room for nerves. In fact, the excitement of the whole thing didn’t sink in until the morning I shot. I woke up and said, “Hey, I get to shoot a scene with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Orlando Jones today… neat!”
The best way to keep nerves from messing you up is to keep busy and keep focusing on the work. If you feel like you’ve worked the scene to death, go out and watch a movie. Have a cup of coffee with an old friend. Do something other than ponder over and over what would happen if you got this part or messed up. Enjoy the opportunity, get excited about the fact that you get to have this audition and make sure you’re ready to step in there and give a good performance.