I’ve been lucky enough to have been used as a reader in many casting sessions. This means I’m not actually auditioning for a project but I’ve been hired by the casting director to read lines with actors who are. I love sitting on the other side of the table, watching actors come in, seeing the things they do and finding out what works in the room and what doesn’t.
The good things are typical in most job interviews: be courteous and confident, show up on time, dress appropriately, etc. But over the years, I’ve been subjected to some strange behavior so I’d like to share some pointers on what not to do. If you’re an actor, maybe this will help you get more callbacks. If you’re not, perhaps this will just give you a laugh.
- Don’t kick the reader. “What’s that?” you say. “People kick you?” The answer is yes, multiple times. In this one scene, the actress was simply trying to get my character’s attention. So she kicked me. Hard. Then the director asked her to redo the scene and she kicked me again. Harder. The director asked her to do the scene a third time and…well, you get the idea. I guess some casting directors don’t like actors physically assaulting their readers because she didn’t get the part. But I did get some X-rays to make sure nothing was broken.
- Don’t try to make out with the reader, even if the scene calls for it. In one scene, a man was supposed to inject my character with a drug that temporarily paralyzed her so that he could do inappropriate things to her. This man clutched me to him in a death grip and did the whole scene practically on top of me, though I remained seated in a chair. I was supposed to be paralyzed so I didn’t push him away but boy, was it gross. The director thought so, too.
- If you pass gas, loudly, don’t pretend it didn’t happen. It’s a little embarrassing but just acknowledge it, laugh about it and move on (or start the scene over, if need be). If anything, it will release any tension or nerves you might have and could improve your reading.
- Don’t bring in props. If you do, at least make them simple. An actor once brought in his cordless phone from home so he could do a scene where he talks on the phone. He pulled it out and began dialing. Problem was, the phone emitted loud beeps in protest every time he dialed. He tried repeatedly, but the beeps would not stop. The producer and director were about to throw something at the actor just to shut the beeps up. The actor finally said, “The handset wouldn’t let me dial because I’m too far away from the base.” Hey guy, how about using your cell phone or just faking the dialing?
- Don’t kiss ass. This one actor came in with a collage of pictures of every movie poster of every project the casting director had ever worked on. That’s just scary and stalker-ish.
- Ladies, don’t forget to wear underwear, especially if you’re wearing something low-cut or short. It’s unhygienic for other actors who use the chair after you.
- Don’t send naked pictures of yourself to casting offices, either, unless you’re sure they’re casting a porno.
- Don’t be rude to anyone in the casting office. An actress once yelled at a young man in the front office. Moments later, I ushered her into the audition room and she was all smiles. Until she saw the director behind the table. He was the same young man she’d yelled at; he’d just stepped outside to make a phone call.
- Don’t use your audition as your prep time. An actor came in and asked for a few minutes to get into character. He then proceeded to put on his headphones, go in the corner, shadow box, do push-ups, jog in place, had a snack, change clothes and run through his lines for about 5 minutes before saying he was ready to start. Do that at home or in the hallway, please.
- Don’t take a bite of the casting director’s lunch without asking permission. Better yet, don’t do it at all.
- For your headshot, don’t pose with gargoyles, giant balls or in a shopping cart. OK, that’s not something you technically do during an audition but if you’d like to get one, don’t do it.
The thing is–crazy antics don’t help you get the job. Just show up, act, then leave. If you’re right for the role, you’ll get it. If not, at least there’s a chance that casting office will call you in again for something else.