“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”—Seneca
I’ve had a string of good luck lately. I’ve gone from acting job to job for the last couple of months—did a pilot for a web series called In2iton, the episode of Two and a Half Men (read below) and now I am doing House M.D. It feels absolutely wonderful to be working and I am so grateful. For each of these jobs there were at least five other women who could have done the role as well as I, but I was lucky in that I matched the producers and/or directors visions for these roles. But I wouldn’t have been lucky had I not performed to the best of my ability at each of these auditions.
Before I booked these roles there were several auditions that I didn’t book. My auditions for those roles were just as strong as these last few. It’s not like suddenly I have changed—suddenly I have discovered some kind of booking “trick” or “formula” or “right” way to audition. Well, actually I am doing the one booking “trick” that I teach—the one I have always used in my thirty-year-plus career as a professional actor—the one “booking formula” that gives you the best shot at getting the job. Do great work. Always act to the best of your ability every time you get the chance to put your work out there.
Now I know that this probably sounds obvious, but believe me it’s not. I was talking to a Talent manager friend today and he shared with me a story about a client. This is a client who doesn’t often get a shot at series regular roles and my manager friend was thrilled that he was able to get this client an appointment for a regular role on a top series. He emailed the client the appointment and the sides two weeks ago and then today, the day of the audition, the client calls the office and says, “I can’t open the attachment that contains the sides.” My manager friend said he was absolutely speechless. He is considering dropping the client.
A few times a year I bring in a working professional from the entertainment industry into my Acting Studio for a seminar. I have a dear friend who is a top Talent manager, and she agreed to do a Q & A and then let my students read for her. I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to hone their audition skills in a safe environment and get their work seen at the same time. I pulled scenes from TV and Film for each student—doing my best to tailor them to each student’s strengths and I gave them the material a week before the she came out for the visit. The night of the seminar I found out that at least half of them had barely looked at the material!
When I was in classes when I was a young actor, if an industry guest came out and I had the chance to have my work seen I always did everything I could to make sure my work was as good as I could possibly make it. I was shocked when so many of my regular students didn’t’ do the same. I knew these students. Most of them had been with me several months--even several years. I knew they were hard workers, so what could explain their apparent laziness? And then I realized, it looked like laziness—but it wasn’t—it was fear.
Fear has many disguises: It can show up in the form of not putting enough time into preparation for auditions; not dressing appropriately; not keeping your PR tools (photos, demos, etc.) up-to-date; missing class; resisting direction; or being late for professional appointments. Recently I suffered from this last one myself. For a while last year I just could not seem to show up on time for my auditions. After a few weeks of this, I took a hard look at my behavior. And I realized that I was sub-consciously withholding from really doing my best at my auditions. I hadn’t booked in awhile and I was feeling frustrated, so, like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum, I was acting out by being late. But of course the only person being hurt by my tantrum was me.
If I pulled my punches, if I didn’t give my all, I was not really putting myself completely on the line. If I didn’t play full out--to the best of my ability--and got rejected, a part of me could think, well, I didn’t really show my best, so therefore it’s not a complete rejection, if I show my best and don’t get the part—that really hurts. But of course that was wrong thinking.
For me the worst feeling is when I have a chance and I don’t grab it. When I don’t make the best of each and every opportunity. Of course it hurts when I give it my all and don’t get the role, but at least I gave it my best shot. I can live with that. When I don’t do my best, that’s what eats away at my soul. So, I have to be willing to go out there and put myself on the line, over and over again for as long as it takes. And then of course, I may get lucky