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Careers clinic: ‘Will they cast a star name over me?’

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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After almost eight months since my last casting, I was starting to feel quite despondent, although it hasn’t been for a lack of trying.

I get regular submission reports from my agent and can see I have been put forward for lots of suitable roles, including the ones I nudge for. I guess that’s just the business sometimes.

The good news is that, last Friday, my agent called to say I had an audition for a recurring role in a successful series. I’m in front of a very well-known casting director early next week.

I’m pleased and relieved, but also a bit terrified. It hasn’t helped that a friend of mine who has been in the business a lot longer says he has been up for similar big roles in the past and that, no matter how well you do, they usually cast a ‘name’ actor in the end.

Like most actors, I live fairly frugally with a low-paid day job, but I think I can negotiate a few days off to prepare for this casting. I’m just afraid that if I do, I might just sit at home fretting and not do anything useful.

What would your prep suggestions be? 

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE It is important to keep a balanced view when any audition comes in, but especially a ‘big’ one, and even more so if you haven’t been working in the industry much recently.

Getting the audition is definitely something to be celebrated in itself. If somebody has picked you out of quite possibly hundreds of other applicants, you have as much chance of getting the part as any other auditionee.

Yes, the ‘getting gazumped’ scenario could happen. It also could happen that your audition is so good that you end up being more right for the part than any other contender.

Even if the producers still decide to cast a ‘name’, rest assured that the casting director won’t forget you. You will certainly have advanced your chances of being called in for similar roles in the future. It is often when a casting director starts to champion an actor that more opportunities come in and one will inevitably come up trumps.

On the other side of the balancing act, don’t let your joy at getting into the room – or any worries about the competition – get in the way of the one part of this process that is firmly in your control: putting in the preparation that will give you the most chance of being your best self on the day.

There are two elements to consider here. The first is mindset, which is why believing in your chance is so important. The second is the practical considerations of the audition: researching the character and project as much as you can, learning sides if you have been given them and making sure any accent required is impeccable.

Depending on your means, do whatever it takes to help you feel confident before the audition, up to and including booking a session with a coach if you need to. Running the lines with somebody a few times may also help, but avoid ‘taking direction’ from them, no matter how experienced you or they feel they are. You don’t know what will be required in the casting room until you get there. Your job is to go in confidently, but also to stay flexible enough to deliver whatever is asked.

Whatever happens, I strongly suggest that between castings, you find some way to keep acting, whether via classes, an actor’s collective or some other means. That way, you’ll keep yourself warmed up and it won’t be quite such a shock to the system when a casting comes around. You’ll also spend less time around “friends” who I am not entirely sure have your best interests at heart.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne