How To Guarantee A Win Before You Start Acting


The audition story of how Emilia Clark booked Game of Thrones has become the stuff of entertainment industry lore. Clarke was auditioning for the president of HBO and asked what she could do to lighten the mood

“…David [Benioff] asked, ‘Can you dance?’ And without missing a beat, Emilia did the robot,” [D.B.] Weiss said. “She did it with commitment and she did it well…and even the president had no choice but to smile. She got the job 10 seconds after she left the room.”

So many actors would have never considered posing such a question (what can I do to lighten the mood?) in an audition because most actors would be so focused on regurgitating their rehearsed performance. These actors would totally miss the human needs of the room and the opportunity to connect. Furthermore, many actors would never dare to engage in a dance move as dorky as the robot because they would have thought: “but no, I am a serious actor and I cannot do such silly things.”

Such a notion takes the humanity out of this industry and neglects to acknowledge that actors work with other people. These people frequently become stressed and have needs as well—such as the need for levity and childish humor.

Some of the most useful and exciting meetings an actor can go to are general meetings with producers, directors, casting directors, etc. These are meetings where virtually no acting ever takes place. So how do you show you are the best actor for the job if none of your acting is being assessed?

Invest in an acting preparation that doesn’t compel you to whip yourself up into a state in the hallway before you walk into an audition room. Otherwise, you will miss a crucial moment where you can establish that you are someone who is fun to play with and that others personally like.

Below are three elements to focus on to conquer the pre-audition conversation.

1. Harness Self-Awareness to Showcase the Winning Aspects of Your Personality

Producers know that they may spend years working with you, so we arrive at a place where your personality becomes your greatest asset as an actor.

A casting director friend of mine who recently spent about seven years as head of C.S.A. (Casting Society Of America) recently told me that he can tell which actor is going to book a role in a particular project based on the personal interaction that he has with them prior to any formal auditioning actually taking place.  

You need to foster enough self-awareness of the aspects of your personality that people actually like when they meet you and lean into those aspects during the “personality audition” portion of the audition. One client of mine knows it is his sharp wit that he can tag anything said to him with some of the funniest one-liners, yet in that effortless way that doesn’t look like he’s trying to be funny.

Another client has an indescribable quality of validating people through her smile and eye contact. She is able to sense the fears and insecurities of those around her and, with her warmth and grace, reassures them that it’s all going to be okay.

All of these clients have enough self-awareness to understand the aspects of their personality that people gravitate towards. They lean into these innate traits to show the human being underneath the actor during the audition.

2. Zero Desperation.

Part of being someone that others find fun to play with is the ability to project zero desperation.  People don’t want to feel that one wants something from them, both in life and in the industry. In this state, there’s no investment in the outcome. The actor arrives knowing that their life will be great whether or not they book the role.

Some people call it confidence. In reality, it’s the inner knowing that, no matter what happens, your personal happiness is not dependent on this job.

3. Connection to Your Silliness.

You’re silly. Yes, you! Everyone has things they get silly over (Star Wars, conspiracy theories, Real Housewives drama). Embracing your own silliness and not being afraid to share it with others is the pinnacle of confidence. It’s endearing and it makes people trust you instantly.

This brings us back to the brilliant courage of Emilia Clarke. If she had been more attached to a sense of self-importance, superiority, or the narrow notion of audition conduct, she might never have gotten her famed role as the Queen of Dragons. By sharing her silliness with the room, she showcased her confidence, her lack of desperation and the rare aspects of her personality. Winning combinations like these give the production team no choice but to hire you.

This article was originally posted on Backstage.