Photo by Debra Lopez
How I almost talked myself out of the role of a lifetime.
I walked into and audition & all my competition was in the room. Of course, I immediately started to doubt I'd get the part. So, I started listening to other peoples' auditions and noticed they were making acting choices based on what they thought the writer/director/producer wanted, so they all started sounding alike and pat.
Why was I called in for this role? The breakdown said they were looking for a big 1940's, cigar-smoking, Shelly Winters madam. I thought, why are they calling me in for a blond Mae West type, I'm all wrong. But then, I thought, no, I wasn't called in because of my body, I was called in for what I know how to do:
I know how to put someone on the spot, shamelessly look a man over for spare parts, make him do my bidding whether he likes it or not; to use my sensuality in a ferocious way that brokers no argument. Yeah, I played a 5'3" Medea where I destroyed a 6'4" Jason. It wasn't the body, but rather the size of my spirit that got me that part and this audition. This CD saw me. That's why they called me in for this role.
So, I'm saying all this shit in my head, so that I remember that I got this audition because they want something that only I have.
So instead of making the obvious choice, I made the choice that fit me. Because really, people are hiring me. Not the character. So, I went in the room, played it much smaller, subtle & smokey. It was a risky choice, but since it was true to me, the audition sang. They were surprised by my choice, but they laughed their asses off & gave my manager amazing feedback.
Two weeks later, I was sewed into a vinyl dress on the set of Gotham running a huge BDSM club, dressing down the detective who thought he could intimidate me. As we worked the scene, the director kept yelling over the smoke and music:
okay, Sal, take him out, dress him down, show him who's boss. Own his little ass & I did.
That's how you walk into a room, see the competition & not falter.Because you're there to offer up your unique goods. You got the audition because you have something in your emotional arsenal that knows this character. Something unique to you that only you will bring to this character & often, you'll make them re-think, re-envision the role because of you.
You walk in with YOU.
That's how you deal with that competition fear.
You walk in with a super clear understanding of the center of your emotional range. For me, the center of my emotional range has always been a unfiltered, audacious self-respect that doesn't allow people to tell you who they think you are, but rather a being who unflinchingly tells the world who she is & gives zero fucks about how that lands. Because my personal definition, my self-regard is what keeps me breathing & true to the life I'm meant to lead.
So, when taking on a role, instead of looking to please people by giving them what you think they want, you make choices that have to do with what you know you do well emotionally. The emotional types that resonate with you. Because those you can do at the drop of hat, with your eyes closed. When you lead what that, you are unforgettable.
You lead with who you are and you bring all of that to bear in the audition.
The problem is if you don't know your emotional types. And everyone has about 4 major emotional chords, then you will always make choices that have to do with what you think the director wants. And people smell that lack of unsexy uncertainty. It feels needy & the last thing people want on a set is someone who needs their hands held to do the work fast, clearly & on cue.
I'm amazed that folks haven't thought of this. It affects everything about your brand. It affects your choice of material for your reel, how the reel will be edited (will it have a documentary feel or primetime crime drama feel), that's totally an artistic choice that has to do with your temperament.
Your emotional chords determine what your brand is and your brand is your unique set of gifts as an actor. Branding affects what acting choices you make, physical presentation, headshot, marketing materials, resume, reel, IMDB, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, audition material and choice of representation. And when all of that screams one essential message, you do amazing work in the room with confidence and you audition twice as much.
Because all of that work is the underbelly of what you walk into the audition room with; it is also what gets you representation, the audition, the opportunity to meet casting directors and the ability to get them on your team because they feel like they know you, your spirit.
That's the secret really.
April Yvette Thompson