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The Green Room: What should you do if you’re miscast?

Marcus Brigstocke in Barnum. Brigstocke was widely reviewed as having been miscast in the role. Photo: Tristram Kenton Marcus Brigstocke in Barnum. Brigstocke was widely reviewed as having been miscast in the role. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…​​​​​​

Gary Abblett is a 38-year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National, Royal Shakespeare Company, in the West End and on tour

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Dicky Benfield is an actor in his 40s. He has worked in the West End, at the NT, the Globe and in regional theatres as well as appearing on TV

Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television

Jenny Talbot is 39 and has 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV, film and plays

Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked predominantly in regional theatres and is also a writer and street performer

Dicky Get on with it and take the cash.

Albert Surely the time to think about whether you’re miscast is when accepting the job, and to refuse it. But as most actors would seem to be incapable of turning down any work, does the problem really arise?

Annie I’ve never had this issue, but if it were to happen to me tomorrow, I’d probably speak to my agent first of all. See what could be done and offer a solution – suggest a friend or another good actor who I think would be great for it.

Peter It depends on the role. You can embrace the miscasting and pull the role towards you. At other times you just have to try to pretend you’re right.

Gary Firstly, ask yourself why you think you’re miscast? (Because you’re probably deluded).

Jon“I’m far too young/studly/clever for this part…”

Albert I’ve been up for roles I would never cast myself in and played some, and I’ve nearly always been thankful for the director’s imagination.

Jon“Just get on with it”, seems to be the consensus so far.

Albert Yes. Leave it to the critics to say you’re miscast.

Dicky With some critics, it would be “fat and miscast”.

JonYou’ve been reading my notices again.

Jenny I saw a show where the leading man was insanely miscast, but I respected his commitment and energy. He kept going, he worked his arse off, and I enjoyed his performance, even though he was wrong for the role.

Dicky That’s a personal opinion though.

Jenny Yes, it was my opinion obviously.

JonJenny – the fact it was a lead is interesting. Stars are never “miscast” – just being “bold” or “avoiding typecasting” or “challenging themselves”.

Jenny The press screamed “miscast” about him, but when I saw it the audience loved it and I heard them saying they were glad it didn’t get good notices as it meant they could get tickets more easily.

Albert I was in a production of Romeo and Juliet where Romeo had a cleft lip. It raised a few eyebrows at the read-through, but he was brilliant.

Dicky Well, if Romeo and Juliet is a play about love, then people with a cleft lip fall in love.

Albert Indeed they do.

Peter Towards the end of her career, Margot Fonteyn was clearly far too old to play Juliet but still managed to be wonderful.

Jenny I sometimes audition for parts I don’t think I’m right for and they end up being horrendous auditions.

Gary I would never consider myself miscast if someone had been kind enough to place trust in me. As I’ve mentioned before, I played a goose once. But I’ve also played people. Quite a range.

JonIt can be an excuse sometimes too. “Oh I’m not getting this moment right because I’m so miscast,” which means: “It’s someone else’s fault.”

Dicky Lazy. To be bracketed with: “I don’t think my character would do this.”

Gary Quite right.

Albert Absolutely. It’s nearly always just a question of finding the right way to play it. Sometimes that eludes us.

Peter A director I know once said to an actor: “It’s not your fault, darling. It’s my fault. I miscast.”

JonOh ouch.

Jenny Awful.

Dicky That must happen a lot.

Albert How fab. I hope the actor responded. With a punch in the face.

‘Margot Fonteyn was clearly far too old to play Juliet but still managed to be wonderful’

Jenny There is such a fear of miscasting that it sometimes makes for unimaginative casting.

JonI remember a crop of reviews for a West End musical a couple of years ago that said: “Of course X can’t really sing, but the intensity of her performance (etc)” and I thought “Or, they could have got someone who can sing..?”

Dicky I did a perfectly normal audition once, I got the job, and then on the first day the director wanted me to do a lot of acrobatics and tumbling. I’d say I was miscast.

JonOh God, or when they say: “So, the accent is…” on day one and it’s the first you’ve heard of it.

Albert When it’s singing, or acrobatics and tumbling, that is ability that can be measured and indeed should be measured at the audition. The problem with acting is that it can’t be measured, it’s subjective, and a lot of people who can’t do it, think they can.

Dicky Don’t put yourself down.

JonAnd play to your strengths. I find: “There’s no reason why this character shouldn’t be me” quite a useful thought if I’m struggling. As an interim at least.

Gary Good call. “You’re interesting enough, darling…” and all that.

Jenny One job I did, I was so shocked to even be asked to audition and it was one of the most fulfilling gigs of my career.

JonAs I’ve progressed through my 40s, I sometimes get a bit down with all the audition breakdowns that start “X’s grandfather, a twinkly old man of 70…”

Albert These days I’m thrilled to find out who will be playing my children – and increasingly, grandchildren.

JonBut then middle age is weird because all the 30-year-old characters seem to be played either by embryos or by people in their 50s.

Peter Well, of course, actresses are rightly furious that 60-year-old men can be regarded as sexy while women are regarded as over the hill at 35.

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