I’ve been an actor for a long time and I’ve watched and acted in countless movies and television shows. I’ve stood on set observing other actors do their scenes wondering, why was this actor cast for this role? At one point it became my obsession to figure out the one quality a casting director or director is looking for when they want to hire someone. Amazingly enough, I was able to piece together what the most inexhaustible quality for any actor to have if they desire to continually work and be cast on a regular basis. But before we get into that, I feel the need to share with you the significance of what not to do when you’re looking to book a gig, especially in film and television.
One of the drawbacks I’ve noticed when watching audition tapes for a lot of actors is the need to overact or underact. This is usually a result of nerves or a lack of understanding of what true acting is. True acting becomes a matter of being able to relax into your role and embody it’s essence. The best way you can do that is embody your own essence completely within the character you’re playing. This leads us to discover what is the most irreplaceable quality that gives you the best opportunity to be cast as an actor and potentially be a star: SELF AUTHENTICITY. Self authenticity is the ability to be you, be relatable, but still be your character within the world in which the film or television show exists. I want to share with you a quote from the great James Cameron that shows you how important this quality is in the hearts of casting directors and directors.
“Casting is critical. There were 92 speaking roles in Titanic and it’s through the casting that they all seem so unique and have a past. What I wound up selecting out of all of the various possibilities of actors, were people who had something inherently interesting about them which gives you an illusion of back-story.”
What Cameron is basically telling us from this excerpt is that it’s important to bring all of the qualities that make you who you are within your acting. Your past, present and future are integral components to every character you will ever portray. Tap into it as much as you possibly can. Because if he can see that, then he can easily see you in the role. It’s just that simple. When you look at all of the top actors and actresses of all time, they are paid top dollar to be themselves. Sure they have talent, but talent can only take you so far if you’re unable to make people feel something towards you. Not only as an actor, but also as a person, find out the best qualities about yourself that can help you jump off the screen. It’s not something you have to try at, but just allow it to emanate from every part of your being.
I’ve got a perfect example to share with you of someone who has used this to have an amazingly successful career. I had the pleasure, a few days ago, of meeting Taylor Kitsch, star of Friday Night Lights, John Carter and American Assassin at a lunch I was attending. I talked to him for a little bit of time and then something struck me like a lightning bolt. As we were having our conversation, I felt like I was talking to Tim Riggins. For those of you who are unaware, Tim Riggins was Kitsch’s character on F.N.L. that made him a star. But what I got from our conversation was, Tim was actually Taylor in every way. So why so many people were falling in love with Tim, they were actually falling in love with Taylor. He made them feel something towards him, and by doing that he became a hot commodity. Just so you know, this works when you’re playing the villain also. An audience will remember you for one or two things: love or hate. All things aside, you have to make them feel one or the other if you’re going to succeed at a high level. I also gathered from my meeting with Kitsch was, that his success was a direct correlation to his self authenticity in all of his roles. He’s quoted as saying:
“In the end it’s about energy. If you put half your energy into something, you’re only going to get that back at the end of the day. By putting the energy into being the best version of myself, I’ve seen a lot of success come from that.”
Our goal as actors should always be, what can we do to always be true to ourselves? What brings out the very best in us and our performance? How can we continue to allow this to grow on and off camera? Figuring out the answers to these questions is an absolute game changer for any performer, because this is what will keep you working for a long time. One of my favorite casting directors, Valerie McCaffrey (American History X) said something that sticks with me to this day and is something every actor should always be aware of.
“You can be any shape, size or look as an actor. It’s what comes off from inside of you. It’s how connected you are to your humanity and your craft. When we say, “He’s not right for this part,” it has nothing to do with talent. It’s the essence of the person. That’s what makes them so interesting and that’s what makes them stars.”
This wisdom is timeless and is something that you can use to your advantage. There are qualities about you that are so lovable, so relatable and are needed in the numerous productions taking place right now as we speak. When you walk into your next audition, take with you an unlimited level of self authenticity and before long you will become an irreplaceable asset to every project you are fortunate to be apart of.
Shaun Grant is a dynamic “entreperformer” that is a recognized authority in personal performance and transformation. He is also the creator of The Vibrational Actor and hosts his own podcast called The Actor’s Area. Shaun has been acting, writing, and coaching for the past ten years. He teaches the concept of vibrational acting and vibrational consciousness to performers around the world.