AUDITIONING can be invigorating for performers. More than a mere opportunity, an audition represents hope. Whether auditioning for the newest play, hottest television show, or most fantastic superhero movie yet, an actor’s natural inclination is to imagine playing the part and everything wonderful that goes with it. Almost instantaneously, a fully formed fantasy springs to mind.

That fantasy is wonderful … when you get the part. The reality is that if you’ve chosen performing as your profession, then you must be equally comfortable knowing that, more often than not, someone else will get the role.

Even Academy Award-winning actor Brie Larson spoke of the sting of rejection early in her career. When she read for the part of Toni Collette’s daughter in the Showtime series The United States of Tara, she didn’t get the job. She likened this rejection to being “left at the altar,” because she had come so close. Fortune later found Larson when she was awarded the role after recasting. She points to her time on that series and her connection to Collette with giving her the confidence to continue pursuing her dream of acting.

Let’s not gloss over how Larson landed her role on that series: She had a pre-existing relationship that came into play. Handling rejection gracefully and moving on from it is an important journey all young actors must learn to make.


To be successful, actors rely on playing similar characters throughout their careers. This might be referred to as someone’s “type.” It stands to reason that, based on your physical appearance and acting range, you will be seen repeatedly for similar parts. In my career, I’ve often been cast in guest-starring roles where I’m seemingly unassuming but nefarious beneath the surface. Let’s just say, I’ve committed many a TV crime over the years.

What those roles have in common is that they have similar beats in the audition scenes. While I would never advocate imitating a previous performance, you can draw from it to craft subsequent auditions.

What does that mean? Building on the example above, let’s use crime dramas, which are prevalent on both broadcast and streaming networks. Imagine you are the main suspect of the case, and the good guys are on your trail. Often, the first audition scene is filled with denial, while the second features a confession. If you’ve successfully auditioned for a similar role, you can apply everything that seemed to work then to the new part. What tools did you use in the denial scene? Did you challenge, persuade, or pacify the people running the interrogation? In the confession scene, did you rely on self-pity or sympathy? Make these tools available to you as you prepare your next audition.


Brie Larson received a call to join the cast of The United States of Tara after originally losing the part. Although the initial audition did not go her way, the network, studio, and producers remembered her when they decided to make a creative change.

When you audition, make note of who is in the room. The core team of the producer, director, and casting director should be your focus. Store this information and remember it when an opportunity arises down the road. For example, I’ve shot episodes of CSIGrimm, and Without a Trace with the same director because of a positive experience in an initial audition. Mentioning to your representatives or the casting director that you have a prior relationship can lead to an opportunity you might not otherwise receive.

Young woman auditioning
Plan to follow up with the director or casting director following your audition. Photo by Susan Doremus.


You’ll audition for many more projects than you book. While it can be challenging to remain supportive of a project you were not chosen for, it’s important to follow that project closely and see if a new opportunity presents itself. For example, watch the finished film and send congratulatory notes to the creative team expressing your continued interest in working together in the future. If the project was a television show, watch casting announcements for opportunities to fill new roles on the series. Speak with your agents and alert them to your connections. If a casting director brought you in to audition for a show once, they are usually more apt to do so again if reminded.


This is a tough but critical lesson. While we would all love to hear that we absolutely nailed every audition and there is nothing we could improve, that is not reality. Reality is that the creative team probably read a lot of actors for the same part. And while some factors that knocked you out of contention are out of your control (such as physical attributes), others — namely, every acting choice you made between the time the director called “action” and “cut” — can be adjusted. Speak to your representatives and ask them to solicit feedback from the casting team about your appointment. While many times you may simply hear “They were great,” every now and then you’ll get useful information that can inform how you approach the next audition.

For example, after a comedy read, you might learn that a choice you made was too big or too broad. You’ll know to temper your choices next time. In drama, you might hear that you were too small or internalized. This is code to make bigger choices. So much of auditioning is getting your point of view across to the creative team. Adjusting the scope and size of your choices can help you achieve better results.

High school students audition for a play.
Asking for feedback after an audition can help inform your future choices. Photo of Thespian Playworks program auditions from the 2019 International Thespian Festival by Susan Doremus.


Upon hearing that Netflix canceled his show One Day at a Time, writer and producer Norman Lear said, “I can testify that, at my age, you’re never too old to have your heart broken.” I understand his reaction. If Lear still feels that way in his mid-90s, then the sentiment is, for better or worse, ingrained in the profession.

The bright side is that, unlike other industries where change can be slow or movement inflexible, artists have a new opportunity every day of the year. There is always a new project. Get back out there and find the next audition.

I’ve often said that to be an artist, you need to have a baseball memory. A baseball player never thinks about his last at-bat. He only focuses on the next plate appearance, using skills and knowledge learned from his past and applying them to his next swing.

When you don’t get the part of your dreams, remember these five tenants, get back in the box, and take another swing. You won’t get a hit every time, but if you remain committed to your craft and hone your talents, the law of averages will balance out in the end.

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