As actors we all know too well that those moments before auditioning can be crucial to our performance, whether it is to prepare the emotional state of the character or create the focus and confidence as person. Yet we repeatedly let ourselves down in that waiting room.
An actor looks better for the part, they are dressed so well, they are more attractive, or recognisable from a TV show, they are matey with the casting director, best friends with the other actors, that actor has been in the studio for ages, oh there is so much laughter coming from in there, they must love that actor…
None of this means they are going to do more interesting interpretations of the role, or better performances. They may not even be auditioning for the same role. The director might find they are too attractive for the part, too recognisable, not funny enough, or the wrong energy and type.
But inevitably, we spiral into negativity, agitation, competitiveness or complacency. We create stories in our head of who will get the part and how wrong we are for it or that the casting director doesn’t like us and we are here just to make up numbers.
These destructive states of being feed into your very soul, and the camera magnifies that. You become your own worst enemy, sabotaging your chances and not believing in yourself anymore.
In fact I will never forget an audition for a TV show with a scene involving a dramatic child birthing situation, and as I had recently had children, I went for it in an impressive way. When I walked out the next actress in the waiting room looked completely dejected and even said to the casting director, “Is there any point in me auditioning?” No doubt she would have stuffed her audition up, but guess what, I didn’t get the role.
Similarly I noticed an actress at first round of auditions, and again at recalls, for a big ad campaign who I thought looked so great for the role. I became obsessed with her getting cast; her image haunting me so much that I lost my nerve… Turns out, I didn’t get that ad, but neither did she. I had based all my expectations, or lack of, simply on a paranoid and unfounded judgment call in the waiting room!
You can’t possibly guess the outcome, and you can’t control it – you can only control your performance so stay focused on that.
In fact we really need to use the waiting room as a sacred place for our audition process, a place for creative preparation…a quiet room. It might be a public space, but we are all there for one thing – to act. Allow yourself to settle your nerves, work on your breath, whisper affirmations, recount your personalisations, tap into your emotional triggers, cry, talk to the wall, run your lines, lie on the ground, meditate, listen to music, star jump…
I feel the same way as many of my acting students when they workshop and improv for 5 minutes and then enter into the scene, they are so much more into it and connected, all that internal self-conscious chatter disappears. An audition doesn’t allow for that time, but if that’s what works for us, then we should accommodate it before the audition, ideally in the waiting room. I know it would get noisy if everyone was doing it, and often waiting rooms are right next to the studio, but you get my drift. We must remind ourselves to honour the moment before in the waiting room, that the audition has begun, and it is our only opportunity to tap into the life of the scene that we are about to explore.
The challenge is running into other actors, old friends, striking up conversations, or wanting/not wanting to bond or rehearse with the other actor who you might be paired up with. I have been guilty of bombarding an old friend with questions in that time they needed to prepare. The key is to be honest and respectful about each other’s processes in the waiting room just as we would in the audition room…not so much ‘wait’, but effectuate!
Gabriella Maselli McGrail (B.A. HONS, M.A. MEDIA STUDIES) is an actress and acting coach, specialising in commercial acting. She is a veteran of countless TVCs, and has spent over a decade assisting directors and actors in the casting studio and on-set.
Her extensive insight into the advertising process helped her formulate a sure-fire strategy for successful commercial auditioning, culminating in an eBook: Transform Your Ad Audition! An Actor’s Guide to the Commercial Process, and workshops globally.