You want to impress the casting director, producers, and directors in a casting room. You come in wanting so badly to do well, to know your lines, and to give them what they want, which is completely understandable. But here’s the thing, nobody knows what they want other than to be affected. And what they respond to is… your humanity: a full human being having a truthful and personal experience, with ease, power, and clarity. We see when this works, and we mostly see it not work- over and over again in the audition room.
Look, we’re all sensitive creatures (although some more guarded and hardened than others) so when you show up nervous, tight, and sweating, eyes glazed, trying to remember your lines, and feeling like you’re in the spotlight being interrogated or judged… we pull back. We disconnect; we cannot afford to be affected by that. We don’t have the time or energy to take care of you. And even if we do take the time to offer you support, the truth is, it’s not our jobs to provide that security for you. We are there to collaborate, not to judge you. But that’s a shift you have to make in order to take your seat at the table.
When we see you drop into the circumstance and the experience of the character, we believe you in this world; when we feel both your ease and artistic weight, we become available. And when you share your heart with us- affecting us on an emotional level and in a real way- we feel your humanity. We care about you, we invest in you, we root for you, and we get excited about you bringing this world alive, bringing the words off the page. These words- most likely only written hours before- have no life yet. Often for the first time, you are making them real. You’ve internalized them, you’ve personalized them, and you’ve brought an emotional life and strong point of view to them. You’ve taken ownership of them. When you do that, we’re in the work with you. We’re moved. This is what we call artistic leadership.
The other day I was in a session with a showrunner/writer/producer- who I’ve known for a very long time and respect very much- and he turned to me after an actor left the room and said “I really believed that she cared deeply about her friend (who’d been killed.) I really felt it, and I saw her struggle through it and fight for something because of it.” His words, not mine. And he circled her on his sheet, thought she was fantastic, and then asked me, “Why don’t they all do that?” I said “Do what?” He continued, “Why don’t they all feel that way? Why aren’t they all that dialed in?” And I replied, “Because they forget.”
And that’s it… you forget. You come into those rooms and you give up your beautiful, personal voice. You put your talent aside in favor of “getting it right.” You tuck away your vulnerability, protecting yourself from being hurt- which is what you assume will happen if you show yourself. You forget that you’re here to affect us on an emotional level. You forget that it’s your humanity that we respond to, not the lines (which will come with more clarity, more certainty, and more accuracy when you know exactly why you’re saying what you’re saying at a cellular level.) The truth is, the thing you’re most afraid of is exactly what’s required to grab the attention of a director who’s got 100 things on her mind, or a writer who’s listening to hear if the scene is overwritten or logical, or a casting director worried about her bursting inbox and who will give up her soul for an actor to walk in with artistic leadership and with humanity.
So, take the risk. Start with how you feel about everything, have a really clear point of view, and then fight like hell for what you want. Be human. Get personal. Get messy. Show us your heart. Share your wonderful humanity. That is what anyone in a casting room or watching your tape will respond to. That’s what they’ll feel, that’s what they’ll be drawn to, and that’s what they’ll cast.