Actors, why do you do this? Why do you change your read between prereads and callbacks? Why? If you do something at prereads that gets you invited to callbacks, why would you go and change anything at all?

This topic came up due to a discussion on an Internet forum about whether actors should wear the same thing at callbacks they wore at prereads. My take on that is that it’s not that anyone cares or doesn’t care about the outfit you wear to prereads or callbacks, it’s that you earned a callback because everyone liked what you did in the preread. So, coming in for a callback, you should do what worked to get you that callback in the first place.

Wearing something different could throw off the casting director’s perception of your work. She may not know why, but something is different about you this time (could be the hair, could be the outfit, could be the mood you’re in, could be that you worked with a coach and changed your choices in the audition material, could be anything really) and suddenly you’re not at the top of her list anymore.

So why do anything that might cause your callback to be anything less than as wonderful as your preread was? I wish I knew why it is that actors make adjustments after getting called back. I have a theory that it’s about wanting to show a deeper understanding of the material, having had more time with it. Or perhaps it’s about wanting to try something different, in order to show the CD your range. Maybe it’s a case of nerves (the stakes are higher at the callback and the actor translates nervousness into some other take on the material). Who knows? But if you’ve ever been a part of the audition process from inside the room for more than a few hours, you would see this pattern over and over again. This happens all the time. The actor who was the front-runner before callbacks walks in the door that day and shoots himself in the foot. It’s really sad to watch.

It’s so important that you not set up more obstacles to winning the role than may already be there. Everyone knows how hard it is to get cast. Being cast is the ultimate conspiracy of so many events happening a certain way at once that it is essential to stack the deck in your favor. If wearing the same thing at callbacks that you wore to prereads is a way to do that, then do it. But most importantly, don’t change your work. If you were given notes after the preread, by all means incorporate them into your work, but don’t throw out what it was that got you that callback in the process.

If you doubt the importance of delivering in callbacks the “goods” we fell in love with during prereads, let me share an analogy that I like to use, when talking with actors about the importance of consistent performances. This analogy actually begins as a way for underscoring the importance of looking like your headshot. Please forgive the “actors-as-food” comparison enough to note that I’m using this analogy specifically because it puts you, the reader, in a very familiar situation (at a restaurant) and helps you to understand how we, in casting, feel when you change your performance.

I’m at a restaurant. I’m looking at a menu. I see a description of an item that I think I’d really enjoy. I order that item. I get really excited about what I’ve ordered. I’m having polite dinner conversation but I’m really eager to get the item I ordered, because it looked really good on that menu!

It shows up at the table and is nothing like the depiction in the menu. I exclaim, “This isn’t what I ordered!” And the waiter says, “Oh, yes it is. It’s just been changed since we wrote up the description on the menu.” What do I do? I send the dish back! Even if it’s even more delicious than what I ordered, the point is, it’s not what I ordered! I was looking forward to that dish and that’s why I ordered it.

Now, let’s shift from the “looking like your headshot” part of the analogy to the “keeping your performance the same” portion. Pretend that I actually got exactly what I ordered in the analogy above and now I’m bringing folks with me to enjoy the same meal.

I’m at that same restaurant and I’ve taken my boss out for dinner. I have the producer, the director, the writer with me at the table and I am raving about how wonderful this particular menu item is. I spend the whole drinks-and-salad stage of the meal talking about how much I love this item and how happy they’ll all be for having ordered it. I was just here last week (during prereads) enjoying this item and I know they’ll all just love it. How embarrassed am I when the menu item is not at all what I raved about? Embarrassed? Heck! I may be in big trouble. I’ve just risked my job by raving about that particular dish!

So, when you change your performance between the first audition and the callback, that’s the situation you’ve created for yourself and everyone else involved. Not only does it not get you the job, it potentially gets you on a list of “dishes we don’t order when we go out to eat next time.” Again, forgive the “actor-as-food” concept enough to get the point of the story. If you want repeat customers, be consistent in what you advertise and deliver. We’ll come back for more again and again — and especially when you are exactly what we’ve got a taste for. Isn’t it great to be known as the best dish of your kind in town?

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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