Your Turn

You say a casting director will have more information about a role than an actor. Can you give some examples? Sometimes on film or television auditions, the advice we are given seems to go against what the role indicates. In the back of my mind, sometimes, I’m wondering if the casting director is guessing what the producer or director wants to see. I would love to know the detailed information they give you before a casting. I feel that knowledge would make me better in the room. Thanks for the insight.

For the most part, you’re not going to have read an entire script prior to auditioning for a role. The casting director has read the entire script at least once and has more information about the character than you do based on that fact alone.

Additionally, prior to prereads, the casting director most likely had a pre-casting meeting with the producers, director, and writer to discuss the vision for the project. Everyone involved in the decision-making process will share a little bit about what it is they’re looking for (and this is where it gets sticky for the casting director, if equal partners have contrary visions for certain roles).

At this point, the team will discuss prototypes for each role. For example, I’ve been told, “We need a Kevin Spacey type for this role.” My next question is always, “Do we go after Kevin Spacey?” Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Depends on the budget, how high-profile the project is, whether our existing relationships with his manager are strong enough to get the script in front of him, and so on.

After several hours of meetings, phone calls, and emails on the subject of casting this project, the casting director will either write a character breakdown or have Breakdown Services’ writers do so (in which case, they too will have read the entire script, rather than just the characters’ sides). There will be conversations between casting and Breakdowns to be certain the information is accurate.

Now, if you see the breakdown on Actors Access, you get a first-hand glimpse of the couple of sentences that best describe the character. If your agent or manager sees the breakdown and alerts you to the audition appointment later, you may get less-than-a-glimpse of what we’re looking for. When you are given sides and a one-sentence description of a character, you have to trust that we know more than you do about what the producer or director is looking for. In fact, there may be specific instances in which we do not put everything we need in the breakdown. We may be vague and wait to see what the actors bring into the room for us.

If you are given a callback, try to get notes from the casting director. Of course, if you have an agent or manager, your agent or manager should be the one to contact the casting director to get those notes, not you. So, again, there could be room for misinterpretation, but the information you are given could strengthen your chances at callbacks. You generally should do what you did to earn the callback in the first place, but if you are given a note to change something, do so.

Why would you get a note between prereads and callbacks? There may be rewrites going on. There may have been a casting decision made in one role that now impacts how your character will need to come off. We may have seen something in you at prereads that was exactly right, but also need to see something at the other end of the spectrum and we want you prepared to show us that at callbacks.

That said, even when we have lots of information, we still may get caught off guard. I had prepped actors for an additional scene for callbacks on the feature film I just cast. The producer and I had discussed this additional scene when deciding who would come to callbacks and that scene is what I prepared the actors for. The director, however, had other plans and asked to see a different scene, once the camera was rolling. Oops.

Bottom line: be ready to improvise, think on your feet, ask to take a moment if you need it, whatever it takes to do your best work.

Having more information certainly doesn’t mean having it all. Be ready for anything.

Do good work! Thanks for writing.

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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