Auditioning Your Personality

For better or worse, your audition begins the second you step foot inside the casting office. Yes, a lot of emphasis is placed on your actual acting ability when you read with the casting director, but it is a well-kept secret that an actor’s personality is just as important as an actor’s look or ability. In fact, an actor’s personality is often times the deciding factor on whether or not someone is truly right for a part.

What they are looking at
As mentioned in our previous article Building Your Reputation, the first thing that casting offices pick up on is your overall demeanor. Do you smile and greet the casting assistants/associates when you walk in? Are you polite and courteous? These qualities may seem trivial, but they absolutely impact how you are perceived by that office, which then affects whether or not that office will be open to bringing you back in the future. Casting offices are immediately turned off by actors that exhibit diva-like behaviors, i.e. are rude, snobby, and impolite.

The Actor-Character Disconnect
Besides for your overall demeanor, there is often a second, deeper level of scrutiny that takes place in the casting office regarding your personality. This level of analysis solely pertains to whether or not your personality matches up with the character you are auditioning for. This may come as a surprise to many actors since so much emphasis is placed on the actual audition (as it should be) – but it’s a reality nonetheless. Yes, how well you can play the character is important to booking the role, but that extra push, that clinching deciding factor is often determined by how much you actually embody the role you are pursuing.

Let’s sum this up with an anecdote. An actor client of mine recently auditioned for a role in a comedy pilot. The breakdown description for the character described him as “gruff with an east coast edge,” qualities that I’m sure my client showed while performing the sides for the casting director. However, when we followed up with casting to get feedback, they ultimately said that although our guy did a “great job”, ultimately, his “natural qualities” did not give him the gruff and edge that their producers were looking for. This was no surprise to us because the client in question happens to ooze kindness, charm, and a wholesome boy-next-door attitude – qualities that casting obviously saw and took into consideration when rendering their decision. To further emphasize this point, this wasn’t the first time we’ve gotten this kind of feedback for that client, so it can definitely be a problem for actors that have very “strong” personalities. Conversely though, whenever a casting office is looking for a handsome, incredibly kind/sweet guy type,our client easily nails those auditions!

What you can do about it
This disconnect between the actor’s personality and the personality that they are trying to portray can definitely pose a problem–especially if the disconnect is huge. Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate this setback, so if you’re a sweet, down-to-earth country type that’s vying to play a gritty and dark villain, read on!

First and foremost, this is mainly an issue for people that have strong personalities, like the aforementioned client that tends to radiate smiles and sunshine wherever he goes. If you’re an actor that falls into this category, depending on the role you are auditioning for, it might behoove you to consider toning down your personality to better fit the personality of the role you are auditioning for. If you’re a naturally bubbly, happy-go-lucky actor that’s auditioning to play a dark, manic-depressive, you should probably dial back the smiles when you walk into the casting office (of course you should still be polite and courteous).

By all no means, am I advocating to completely shed your personality and become the character you’re auditioning for (that kind of audition intensity almost always backfires). If you’re auditioning to play a schizophrenic mental patient, don’t walk into the office claiming that you hear voices in your head – besides for coming off as cheesy, you will most likely weird out everyone else in the office.

Why it matters
Casting directors aren’t just looking for actors that can act well and take direction when they are casting roles. Rather, they are looking for actors that can best embody the role. Yes, one’s acting ability is always a big deciding factor, but it would be naïve to think that traits like age, look, ethnicity, name value, and personality don’t also play huge parts. Take this scenario – two actors are vying for a coveted role in a feature film. Both actors are equally talented thespians, equally attractive, and both have similar name value. In a situation like this, the casting directors, producers, director, and the rest of the creative team behind the project will almost always default on the actor whose personality most closely matches the role. A perfect example of this is Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel’s Iron Man/Avengers film franchises. In these movies, Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark– a cocky, playboy, genius billionaire. If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Robert Downey Jr. (or at least seen him in interviews/public appearances), you will immediately see that he embodies the character of Tony Stark; he naturally has that role’s “essence”.

When it comes down to it, if you’re ultimately not right for the part, you’re not right for the part. By being hyper-aware of your personality, and thus tweaking it for various auditions, however, you can significantly improve your chances of being seen by casting offices, and more face time with a casting director is always good for a new and aspiring actor. Once again, by no means am I advocating for you to shed your natural personality, and pretend to be something you’re not. However, if you tend to have a strong natural presence, e.g. you’re really happy, energetic, emo, hipster, New York, valley girl, etc., you should be ever-vigilant on how you come off in a casting office, and should learn to tweak your behaviors accordingly.

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