For so many of us, at different stages in our career, casting directors can seem remote and elusive, figures of fear, or gods to be revered. But the older we get – and the more times we throw ourselves into the audition room – we realise they are on our side.
If the casting director has done their job well, every actor who walks through the door will be right for the part. I always feel the casting director is my advocate. The reason they’ve put me in the room is a belief in my suitability. I’m grateful to them.
Casting on British television is high-quality. I’m not talking about the unimaginative picks of producers plumping for Olivia Colman or David Tennant. It’s in the scope and depth of the supporting casts that casting really makes its mark. And this is where the casting director rules.
But casting director David Grindrod referenced a worrying trend in a recent piece about casting directors in The Stage, saying: “People pull out at the last minute because they don’t think it’s for them. If you had phoned two days ago we could have got someone else in there who wanted the job.”
Increasingly, casting directors comment on social media about empty slots during a casting. Directors of fringe theatre productions speak out openly about the way time has been wasted by people who just don’t turn up.
The bottom line is that this is unprofessional and it’s rude. Not only is it denying another actor the chance to audition for a particular role, but it casts the whole profession in a bad light.
As somebody who was brought up being told the only excuse for absence as an actor was “death – and by that, I mean your own”, I find it hard to get into the mindset of actors who turn down interviews at the last minute.
I can empathise if it really is fear of the ability to do the job. Our whole careers are based on challenge. The better work is the work that really pushes us.
Quite simply, it’s in your interests to go to the interview. If you haven’t decided if you really want the job, wait until after you’ve been offered it, and then use the derisory fee as an excuse. Casting directors might have more sympathy with an actor who can’t do the job for financial reasons than with one who simply doesn’t turn up.
Decisions on the quality of our work are entirely subjective. Quality of acting can’t be measured, but punctuality certainly can. If you don’t turn up today, you might not be asked tomorrow.
So perhaps it’s time to go back to the basics. If we want to be treated as people and not cattle, if we don’t want casting directors ringing at 5.30pm the night before and sending sides over for us to learn for an 11am meeting the next day, then let’s lead the way. Turn up, smile, and don’t bump into the furniture.