Last week, I participated in a panel discussion of casting directors for a local film festival. One of the other casting directors on the panel said something that I’ve always said, in some form or fashion, when it comes to actors and getting cast.

“If the role is yours, there is nothing you can do that will keep you from getting it. If the role is not yours, there is nothing you can do that will help you get it.”

This is so similar to something I included on page 172 of the first edition of Self-Management for Actors, that I audibly gasped when I heard this casting director say it.

If we, as casting directors, know this to be true, then why is it that actors have such a hard time believing it?

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Perhaps you have seen this phenomenon and simply don’t realize it. An example of a “meant to be” situation occurred on-camera in Bravo’s Showbiz Moms and Dads. One teenaged actor whose family was profiled by the Bravo show had a legendarily sour attitude on most days. She seemed resentful of many of the choices her mother was making on behalf of her career and frequently chose not to rehearse prior to an audition, preferring to “wing it” in the room.

On one particular day, the child actor woke up with a headache. Her mother instructed her to go to the medicine cabinet, get some aspirin, and get in the car, as it was time to head to an audition for a supporting role in an indie feature film. What we learned, watching her next move and the interview that followed, is that she had inadvertently taken Tylenol PM (two of them. I don’t know about you, but a half of one knocks me out for six hours). She was groggily furious. She spent the drive to the audition complaining about her mother’s suggestion which had led her to do something that would certainly cost her the role for which she was about to audition.

The family got lost on the way to the audition and showed up late. After signing in, the girl (who was more annoyed than ever by this point) got a call from her manager. She left the waiting room to take the call downstairs but chose not to tell anyone affiliated with the film that she was just away for a moment. Of course, while she was downstairs, she was called in to the audition room. Cameras caught the casting assistants assuming that she had bailed on the audition and going to the next name on the list. Meanwhile, the young actor was in a yelling match with her mother, after having finished the call with her manager. Apparently, something had gone wrong and the manager was calling to straighten something out. We weren’t really let in on much of what was going on here, but suffice it to say that this actor was nowhere near prepared to walk in and do her best work by now.

By the time she returned upstairs to the waiting room, the girl’s face was streaked red from crying and her attitude was filled with defeat and embarrassment. The casting director asked her, “Are you okay?” and the young woman took that opportunity to empty all of her emotional baggage out into the room, complaining about everything that had gone wrong that day. She was unfocused, depressed, and wishing she were anywhere but in that room at that moment. After her audition, the cameras stayed behind to ask the casting director and the director of the indie film, who was in the room as well, what they thought of the girl’s audition. The single line the director delivered was, “I really liked her voice.”

The cameras continued their tailing of this family and several others and eventually we got the punchline: she had been cast in this role. She ended up working for several days on this indie film.

And she did everything possible to prevent herself from winning that role.

“If the role is yours, there is nothing you can do that will keep you from getting it. If the role is not yours, there is nothing you can do that will help you get it.”

Back to my recent panel experience: the casting director loved that mantra so much that she had the actors repeat it back to her, upon closing of the event. I hope they heard it (really heard it) and know that it is true.

The next time you do the best audition you’ve ever done (you arrive early, you are well-prepared, you have your extra headshots and attached resumés, you do amazing work, you take direction well, you make everyone laugh at the right moment in the script, and you get that special wink from the casting director as you’re leaving the room, filled with confidence that you have nailed that read) and then crickets begin to chirp, as you wait for the phone call that never comes, please remember that this role was not yours. There is nothing you could’ve done to make it your role. You walked out of that room and the director said, “That actor looks like my ex! I hate my ex!” and you were immediately dismissed, even though you were perfect for it. But you will likely never know why you didn’t book that one. Nor will you know why you booked the ones you book.

It’s not important why. That part has nothing to do with you.


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 http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000046.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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6 Comments

  1. Pingback: International View: Can living abroad make you a stranger at home? | A Younger Theatre

  2. Avatar Kelli Maroney January 7, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    So true! I booked a contract role on a soap, two weeks after hitting NYC, with no agent or anything, and I also booked the female lead in a film while I was in Big Sur trying to think of what else I could do with my life, again with no agent, no nothing. On the other hand there have been projects that I’d have given anything to do that I couldn’t even get seen for–more often than not. So, I always feel that this career is more of a ‘spiritual path’ than anything else. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie January 7, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Preach, Kelli! I think it might be one of the best tests of patience and grace (this career of ours) and if that’s not the sort of thing spiritualism teaches you, I don’t know what is!

    Reply
  4. Avatar E N January 7, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    While I love this montra for not destroying yourself when you hear nothing after a great audition I think we’re discrediting everything us actors go through in building a career. We do need the right role to come along but to say there is nothing that we can do to get it when it’s there is not true. That implies that casting, directors, networks etc never make mistakes. Never miss the person who is right for the role. Yea there are hundreds of “I tanked that audition and still booked it stories” and I believe if it’s yours, it’s yours but you gotta be prepared as well. This “mantra” seems like shooting craps to me. I think we just don’t hear all the “the person right for the role came in and I missed calling her back cause I was on the phone” stories from casting. We just hear “there’s no talent left out there” stories. Maybe I’m wrong but I like to always be prepared and let everything else go crazy. Don’t make your acting the problem in your acting career.

    Reply
  5. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie January 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Hiya Eric. Definitely, that’s what this is about: Let yourself off the hook when you don’t hear. It wasn’t YOURS to book. Let it go. Focus on what you can control (getting the next opportunity, building relationships with people in the industry so they’ll think of you when the next “right” role comes along, being a great person with a professional attitude so that everyone wants to work with you, etc.). Exactly!

    Of course, there are missed connections. Of course, there are misjudgements (I can’t tell you the number of times a producer will call me after the shoot to say, “Bon, you were right. We should have used your top choice, instead of ours”). Of course, these are all human beings doing the best they can.

    It’s great you don’t need to use the tools in this particular post to help you get over feeling like there was more you could’ve done. I wrote it for all the actors who stay stuck in wondering — after they’ve done everything right — why, oh why, they didn’t book this one. THEY need help letting it all go, and this helps. It just wasn’t theirs to book! 🙂

    Reply
  6. Avatar Allie January 7, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    My favorite quote from SMFA has always been, “If the role is not yours, nothing you do can make it yours. If the role is yours, nothing will keep you from it.” 🙂

    Reply

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