What a Casting Director Wants

Feb 2, 2024 | Acting, Auditions

I have had the good fortune of teaching alongside some of the best casting directors in NY. These industry professionals are responsible for deciding who is cast on Broadway, television, and major motion pictures. Teaching these classes has been my personal real-life version of being a fly on the wall. 

Casting directors will be the first to tell you there is no magic bullet to being cast. Yet, throughout years of teaching alongside them, I have picked up three universal pointers that come up again and again. 

1.) Know who you are

The first tip is the one that comes up the most: know who you are and bring that essence out in your work. A high-profile casting director from film and theater who will remain nameless once said to me, “Don’t show me that you’re talented. What am I supposed to do with that? Show me who you are and tell me what to do with it.” 

In other words, your first job as an actor is knowing yourself. Ask yourself: what do I bring into the room? Be honest; pick what others see, not what you want them to see. If you walk into the room and people feel you’re bubbly, find material that brings that “bubbliness” out. Don’t come in with “Deadmom” just to show off your belt. Show them your whole self unapologetically, and they’ll know where to put you. 

2.) Make Strong Choices

The casting director’s medium doesn’t matter; this one always comes up. A choice is what you do with a beat or moment. It’s how you choose to tell that character’s story. Action is character, and the choices you make as an actor are how you, as an artist, tell that character’s story. Casting directors want to see you take risks and make bold choices that bring characters to life and reveal their humanity. 

3.) Don’t Worry About What They Want

Casting teams see actors come into auditions trying to be exactly what they want all the time. There’s only one problem: there’s no way to know what they want. Do yourself and the casting teams a favor, and stop trying to guess. Even if you knew what they wanted, you would still just be cleverly trying to approximate their preference. Instead, pick strong material that brings out who you are and make strong choices. You never know; what you bring into the room might change their mind about what they want. 

4.) Be “good in the room” 

When you audition for a creative team, they decide if they want to spend weeks, months, and years with you. An audition isn’t a talent contest. It’s an interview. Come into the room with intention, openness, and kindness. Take your time and work collaboratively with the accompanist, reader, and everyone you work with in the room. 

5.) Be Prepared

This one sounds obvious. It is! You would not believe how many people take this one for granted. It’s a privilege to be in the room. Treat it that way. Come off-book, warmed up, and ready to work. You need to know your material cold to be fully present for the audition. 

As the unnamed casting director said, auditioning has no magic bullet. However, following these five easy steps will set you up to succeed. 

Break a leg! 

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The Danny Greenberg Studio is a professional performing arts studio for children aged 5 to 18 in New York (Brooklyn and Manhattan!) and online, focusing on vocal and acting training.

 Our students star annually in numerous Broadway shows, national tours, and feature films. Our studio welcomes students of all levels between 6 and 18 to foster their love of performing. Once they’re ready, we also help connect students to top agents and casting directors.

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