A thing experienced is not a thing perceived.
We so often are in our heads about what we think something looks like (a choice, an idea, a commitment to something) that instead of committing to that thing and having the experience, we second-guess it based on what we think the casting director is looking for.
The casting director doesn’t know what he or she is looking for. Neither does the director or producer or agent.
Yes, they may have a “type” in mind. And if you physically fit what that type is, you can get called in. But that’s at the physical/superficial level. And there are hundreds of actors who may share your type. So what sets you apart is your giving yourself permission to do it your way. Not the way you think it’s supposed to be or what you think they’re looking for. When you do it your way unapologetically you will become what they’re looking for.
I recently assessed an actor who explained to me how he went to an audition and the casting director asked him, “Do you have any questions?” (Which to me is a polite way of simply saying, “Are You Ready?!”) But he took that as an opportunity to second-guess his choice and asked her if the relationship between the two characters was adversarial. The casting director said no. He was screwed. He immediately went into his head (taking the Brain Drain Train) and doubted everything he wanted to do. Scared to go for his original choice and not follow his impulses led to his reading being flat and unmemorable. Surprise? Not really.
He came to me after the audition and told me what happened and I asked him to do the scene for me just as he read it in the room. And yes, it was as flat as a pancake. Womp Womp.
I asked him to do the scene again coming from his original choice of exploring a more adversarial point of view. He did and the dynamic completely changed.
Here’s the insight! In his mind (and in his committing to something) he thought he was being adversarial (and that it would read only that way). But for me watching him – it simply read as someone who was more committed and more interesting; someone taking more chances and was sexier and more mysterious. He played more, had more fun and was consequently more real and human. In other words – not flat. So he didn’t come across as adversarial. He came across as being alive.
The breakthrough is in realizing in making a choice (and no longer asking for permission to do something!) what you experience in your own work and what we might perceive are completely different things.
Stop making everything so black-and-white and reductive. Trust that the magical alchemy of acting and playing and creating in the moment takes care of the details that you don’t have to micro-manage.
If you’re having an experience, I am having an experience. And so will the casting director or producer or director. From there they may give you an adjustment or take you in another direction. But if you don’t first allow yourself to have the experience they won’t either (!) and you’ll be unmemorable. And that’s where the thing about “type” comes in. If you’re unmemorable, there are hundreds of other people out there who can fulfill that which you are reading. And do so in a memorable way. That is to say, their way.
And that’s what’s memorable about it.
So don’t delay any longer. Go for things fully. Committedly. Stop second-guessing. Trust that in strong choices, the person watching will have their own subjective experience witnessing humanity in front of them. They will. Stop trying to control what you think other people should – or want – to see.
That requires trust.
And a healthy sense of giving yourself permission. So the next time someone asks, “Do you have any questions?” – and you don’t – trust the part of yourself inside who has the answers.