Oh, those feelings we have when we head forth into The Room: the pressure, the anxiety, the nerves!
So how do most actors defend against these? There’s “talk as little as possible” (deer in headlights), “keep smiling” (usually becomes grinning awkwardly), or “own the room” (be arrogant) to name a few.
Firstly I want to say, owning the room is great and is very important provided it means being confident in your talent, open, strong, and grounded. But many actors interpret this as coming in like they’re better than everyone else (and the project) and being super cocky in the room, which will make no one want to work with you.
All these inauthentic defense tactics would be great if the casting director were some evil overlord planning to behead you if you show one scrap of insecurity or if they were a machine, judging your every move to ensure you get it all ‘right’.
But guess what. They’re not.
I have an even bigger secret for you…they’re human.
And the biggest secret of all…they WANT you to get the job.
That’s right, the casting director is your closest ally. They’re on your team. Heck, they’d LOVE for you to nail the audition! And they’re dying for you to book this job!
Well, for one thing, because then they get to go home and snuggle up with their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/dog/cat/fish (wait…what?) and watch dumb TV shows and drink and eat and relax! Because WHEN YOU GET THE JOB, THEIR JOB IS DONE!
And for another, CDs love calling an agent or actor to tell them they got the role! They love hearing the squeal of delight at the other end of the phone. It’s one of the best parts of their job!
Think CDs are judging you because you don’t have many credits? Guess again – doesn’t everyone ultimately root for the underdog? Don’t you think one of the best parts of being a casting director is that moment you get to “discover” talented unknown actors and give them their first job or their big break?
When I audition, I consider it to be a business proposal or presentation. We are two equals meeting, so I come in with the vibe of “this is how I, as a professional artist, interpreted the role” and then they can decide whether my take is close to what they’re after and whether it needs modification to fit their requirements.
I mean, isn’t that why they give you redirection in the room? They’re not telling you you’re wrong, they’re working with you to say: “Yeah I like what you did, but the director is after something more like XYZ,” so you have an even better chance of getting it right! Isn’t that what the character breakdown is? The CD giving you their interpretation of the role, so you can follow the “brief” and give them what they need?
You’ll find if you walk into each casting room knowing that the CD is your greatest ally, knowing they wouldn’t spend ten minutes of their day bringing you in unless they truly hoped and believed you might get the part, then you won’t need to “pretend” to be confident, or cocky, or awkwardly over-friendly, and you won’t feel at all scared to impress them. You can just walk in (with real confidence!), collaborate with your fellow industry equal regarding what your and their take on the role is, and the producers and director can take it or leave it.
Because, I promise…you’re going to be absolutely fine either way.