How far does one go to arrive “in costume” (so to speak) for an audition? I had an audition for the role of Queen Isabella. The place was filled with actors dressed up in period clothes. I went in jeans. Bad move on my part?

Over the course of interviewing 200 or so casting directors (specializing in everything from studio blockbusters to low-budget indies, commercials to theatre, network TV to cable), I learned that the majority of casting directors on the planet do not want to see you in costume. They also do not want to see a headshot photograph of you in costume. They also do not want to see you using props in auditions.

Does that mean that all casting directors feel the same on this issue? Certainly not. But it does mean that the majority of the casting folks you’ll meet would prefer that you take a minimalist approach, when it comes to props and costumes.

The best advice I’ve heard on the subject was, “come ‘in-character-esque’ when you audition for me.” Great way to describe it! Suggest the character. Wear black jeans and a dark, button-down shirt if you are reading for the role of a uniformed police officer. Wear a suit if you are auditioning for a lawyer role. And if you’re auditioning for the role of a homeless person, be a little disheveled. Use your wardrobe to help you get to the character, but do not hit us over the head with it.

You have to trust that casting directors have enough imagination to “see” you in costume, even when you’re showing up for the audition in street clothes. We know that the crew for this project includes a costumer, hair and makeup, stylists, just as we trust there is a set designer and DP. Just as you wouldn’t show up for an audition with a camera to show us that you can do the camera person’s job, there is no reason to show us that you can do the job of a costumer or makeup artist. We get it.

The exception would be if you were registering with an extras casting service. Those groups like to have photos of you in your various costumes, since you may very well book an extra gig because you own a tuxedo or an LAPD uniform. When you walk into an extras casting office, you’ll see loads of photos of people in costumes ranging from hospital scrubs to diner waitress gear. That’s a different situation altogether.

I recall one casting director telling me that she went out into her waiting room to call in the next actor during a commercial audition for all sorts of types and realizing it looked like a reunion of the Village People! Funny? Yes. Necessary? Definitely not.

Choosing to go to the audition in jeans is fine. You did not make a bad move. The goal is to go in and show the auditors that you have a grasp of the character, that your craft is in good shape, and that you are the right type for the role. Showing them that you have the costume, if you have none of those other elements only shows them that you have the costume. And they’ve already hired someone to take care of that.

Have fun. Do good work. Stay focused on your job.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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