I’m often asked what is the No. 1 pointer I can give to help actors or the No. 1 thing an actor should do to really stand out. There is so much information to share and so many important topics to discuss. Let’s get to it.
What is the No. 1 piece of advice I give actors?
My answer might come as a surprise, but the best bit of advice I can give you is to make sure you do notspend every waking moment being an actor! You must feed the other parts of your soul and be a well-rounded person before you have any chance of being a well-rounded, grounded, genuine, and interesting actor. There are many actors who live and breathe the craft. From up and at ’em to bedtime, they focus solely on acting. While I admire that amount of dedication, in my experience, those actors are much less exciting in the room.
Actors take real life experiences and the accompanying emotions and bring all of that into an audition and into a character. Without living your life and feeling those feelings, how can you possibly expect yourself to buy what you’re selling? If you spend all day reading books on acting, watching films, going to scene study class, preparing new material, and going to rehearsal—and while you’re running from one place to another you’re listening to some acting podcast from some celebrity just because if they “made it,” gosh darn it, so can you—your entire day has been consumed with one only thing. You are an actor, be loud and proud about that. Back in my Syracuse University days my professors literally made us practice making the statement, “I am an actor.” However, you are not only an actor. You’re also a friend, brother, sister, mother, father, barista, Uber driver, swim coach, yoga instructor, and part-time American Ninja Warrior.
What is the No. 1 best thing an actor can do in the room?
Let’s be honest. There are about 1,000 things an actor should do in the room and about 10,000 they should not do in the room. What makes it even more challenging is that it’s all subjective. Surely there are some consistent, almost factual, items all (most) casting directors want/don’t want. Though, there are many of these 1,000–10,000 elements that differ from casting office to casting office. You will drive yourself crazy trying to remember what each casting director expects of you. Yes, I’m sure it will only help you if you can actually achieve this type of superhuman memory, though it’s more realistic of us to simply expect you to be professional, logical, and present.
How does this translate into the original question, what is the No. 1 best thing an actor can do in the room? The answer is simple: Think. Whoa. That is some groundbreaking advice. Think. I see it all the time. Actors whom I know to be smart, talented, experienced, and professional cross the threshold to our office and automatically, without thinking, enter “blinders mode.” They are so ultra-focused on being perfect that some forget to stop, breathe, and think.
Casting directors know you’re nervous. We know you have a lot on your mind. We know you drove across town, fought traffic, and searched for parking, and we know you coached for the role and spent a lot of time and even money preparing for this moment. We get it. We also know you are human beings and you’re imperfect. Imperfection is actually one of my favorite qualities an actor can share. It’s in those vulnerable moments that actors become completely transparent and allow us to see what’s 100 percent real. But I digress. Next time you approach the door to a casting office, take a moment, take a deep breath, and think. When you are waiting your turn, think. Don’t stress out, just think. When you walk into “the room” and we ask if you have any questions, breathe and think. If it’s just you and me in the room and you ask, “Who am I reading with?” chances are you did not take your “thinking moment.” We want you to succeed. I will always give you time to think in order to get the job done.