You had a great audition. You killed it. And then, you didn’t get the role. You ask yourself, “Why? What did I do wrong? What does the other guy have that I don’t?”
Can I tell you some truth about the casting process? Not getting cast doesn’t mean you aren’t “Good.” Not getting the role you wanted doesn’t mean you weren’t “Good enough,” please know that. I have said this many times, but casting a show is like putting together a puzzle, it’s not about if the pieces are good enough for the puzzle it’s about if the pieces fit. My hands-down best actor I’ve ever had the pleasure to teach only got the lead role once in his four years at HHS. Why? Because I needed him to play the more challenging minor roles of evil King, killer pirate, cyclops, etc. He could have hands down been the lead in every show but then I wouldn’t have been able to fill the much harder role of character X. My most talented actors receive the hardest roles, those roles just don’t have the most lines. Chew on that for a bit…
If you stop thinking, “I’ve got to get this role,” and make it your mission to walk into every room being über prepared and do what you came there to do, you will succeed.
Now, let’s dive into reasons why you didn’t get the part….the pure, unvarnished truth about why you didn’t get the role.
1. MOST COMMON: You’re just not right for it. I know this sounds like a massive cliche, but it’s absolutely the truth. A director walks into the room with a character conceptualized in a certain way and is looking for the person whose type or energy matches the character. Every conceptualized character has thirteen adjectives that describe them. Every actor has thirteen adjectives that describe them. Casting is about finding the best match. I pass over actors I flat-out adore all the time because the fit isn’t right. For example, a director might have Orlando conceptualized as a man in his 20s with a gentle, soft-spoken energy, while your audition presents a man in his 30s with a bright, aggressive energy. While your audition might be fantastic, you’re not going to be that director’s Orlando.
2. Your skillset isn’t developed. This is the second most common, and the one people like to think of as “not good enough.” That way of thinking is total bull#%&$. How do I know? Because year after year, I see actors grow and develop. I see actors go from maybe having the skills to handle a small supporting role to being ready to carry a play in one season. Either they took a class that unlocked something, or worked with a director who stretched them or went on a spiritual quest in the New Mexico desert, whatever. But I see it happen all the time because dedicated actors are constantly working on their skill set.
3. A director was unable to get you to deliver what they wanted to see. Directors sometimes try to give you direction as you’re auditioning. Take this as a compliment! The director is working on two levels here – they have seen something in you that works, but would like to see if you can change what you’re doing to better fit their idea of the character. They are probably also checking to see how well you take direction in an effort to determine how easy you are to work with. If you get direction and then go on to do the scene exactly the way you did it before, you flunked the test.
When the director asks you to change your interpretation, do it! Listen carefully and ask questions, if necessary, to make sure you’ve got the idea he or she is working for. This applies even if you’re asked to do something totally off the wall, like play a death scene as if it were written by Neil Simon. The director is not necessarily telling you that your interpretation is wrong, he or she just wants to see what you can do and if you are flexible enough to work with easily.
4. The role went to someone they’ve worked with before. This is incredibly common. You know an actor’s work, you have a shared language, you understand how to work together. The problem is that nobody knows you, so change that by getting involved in some way other than acting. Volunteer for behind-the-scenes jobs: assistant directing and working stage crew are particularly good ways to get to know the cast and the director, and to let them get to know you. If you are given responsibilities and carry them out well, you’ll become known as a team player and a hard worker — two characteristics that directors value in actors as well as in crew members. Make yourself indispensable and fun to be with, and folks will be actively trying to cast you because they like having you around! On the flip side, if your only interest is acting, you’ll probably continue to get the cold shoulder — many theaters are usually too shorthanded to keep handing out plum roles to people who are interested in taking a bow but give nothing back to the organization.
5. You are perceived as unreliable. So you’re late once in awhile or have to miss rehearsals because you’ve got a lot going on and inevitably there are scheduling conflicts. No big deal, right? Wrong! Being consistently late wastes everyone’s time and makes you look less than serious about the show. Missing rehearsals can throw off the entire schedule, especially if you have an important part. Do it often enough, and directors are going to cast someone who has a better grasp of exactly how short the rehearsal period is. If rehearsals start at 7:30, be there at 7:20. If you have a night class every Tuesday, let the director know at auditions so they can plan accordingly (and don’t take it too hard if that conflict puts you out of the running for a part). If you must unexpectedly miss a rehearsal, let the director know as soon as possible. Above all, do not ever drop out of a show without an extremely good reason. If you must drop out, tell the director in person, ASAP, and be prepared to tell them why you have to leave. If you leave one director in the lurch, not only will that director never cast you again, but no one else will, either.
6. The other total faux pas is not learning your lines. OK, so maybe there was one show where you really had a lot of other things going on in your life and you gave the part short shrift. Or maybe memorizing lines is just not as easy as it used to be, or it’s never been really easy, but you manage to muddle through somehow. Whatever the scenario, the fact remains that for one or more shows, you had trouble with the lines. Rarely is this problem somebody else’s fault, even though actors with line difficulties sometimes try to lay the blame elsewhere (“Well, she was supposed to be standing next to the credenza, not in front of it! She threw me off!”). If you can’t remember the lines, you’ll have difficulty developing your character, and everyone on stage with you will be very, very nervous — not exactly a situation conducive to turning in a great performance. Directors will do anything to avoid casting actors with line difficulties.
7. Conflicts. You may have been the best person for the role, but since you’re planning to be in Oklahoma for Baton Twirling Nationals during tech, they’re going to go with someone else.
8. You have a reputation for being difficult to work with. If every director you’ve ever worked with was an idiot, if in every show there’s someone you just can’t get along with, or if the green room magically empties when you walk in, you need to do some serious thinking about how you interact with others. Producing a play is a team effort, and if one member of the team is consistently not part of the program, that person will not be asked to play again. The best policy is not to earn the reputation in the first place. You can do this first of all by remembering that what the director wants is paramount. Don’t argue about blocking or interpretation, especially in front of other cast members. If you disagree with what you’re being told, do it anyway, then talk to the director afterwards. If you lose the argument, do what the director wants, and don’t gripe about it. The same goes for the stage manager and any member of the crew. Don’t hang out in the wings just because you like to watch the show – you’re an obstacle to the stage crew.
9. You have a history of treating fellow actors or crew disrespectfully, making unreasonable demands, deciding closing night is the time for GAGS! and IMPROV!, badmouthing the show on social media (“This play is going to be total %^&$!”). I’ve seen every one of these examples firsthand. Don’t ever badmouth the show or the other actors. Don’t point out others’ mistakes, particularly those that have no effect on you personally: that’s the director’s job. If another actor consistently makes a mistake that affects you and the director doesn’t catch it, let the director know afterwards so they can correct it.
10. You tanked the audition. Oh, man, this one is a heartbreaker, and I see it all the time. Auditions are weird little creatures, artificial and forced. Like standardized testing, which only measures how good you are at standardized tests, auditions often measure how well you audition and little else. While callbacks are theoretically meant to correct for that, you don’t always make it to the callback to show them. I’ve seen plenty of actors give me a crap audition and then give a beautiful performance in someone else’s play. They had a bad day, or memorized a new monologue they thought would be “better” for the role the day before, or were too nervous. There are a million reasons why a great actor would tank an audition. Don’t let it discourage you. Take an audition class or work with a coach if this is a common problem for you. Do what you need to do. But KEEP TRYING. Invite artistic directors and casting directors to see your work. Don’t give up! You won’t tank them all.
And that’s my main piece of advice: Don’t give up. If this is your dream, persevere! Nothing is insurmountable. FALL DOWN SEVEN TIMES, GET UP EIGHT.
And guess what? You not getting the part is ok, why? Because that’s life. We need to learn sooner rather than later that you will be disappointed and you will be angry. You might not get everything you ever wanted and you will fail sometimes. It’s ok. Get back up and continue moving.