Big No No’s in the Audition Room

Auditioning is a very vulnerable process. I doubt that it is any actor’s favourite pastime, but it is an inevitable process in order to get cast. As an actor, the product that’s being sold is yourself and as a result, the process of auditioning often seems to go hand in hand with fear of rejection.

The following interview with Bryan Cranston however, shed a different light on the process of auditioning:

“An actor is supposed to create a compelling, interesting character that serves the text, present it in the environment where your audition happens, and then you walk away – and that’s it.” – Bryan Cranston

Auditions are an opportunity to act. The casting directors aren’t there to bite your head off, but they want to see your interpretation of the character.

So, in order to make it a pleasant experience for you as the actor and for the people behind the desk/camera, here’s a list of fundamental don’ts in the audition room:

  1. DON’T shake anyone’s hands unless they initiate it.

Remember that the casting director and producer meet hundreds of auditioners within a short amount of time, and if every single one comes up to them to shake their hands, it can get a bit nasty… It would not be an ideal start to the audition if they do not reciprocate the handshake…

  1. DON’T appear in a costume.

Turn up with appropriate clothes. That means, dress decently, not too fancy, and not sloppy. You want to be presentable and approachable. Your clothing shouldn’t distract from your performance. Also, you don’t want to come off as desperate in your attempt to wear a costume. Only use props you would normally have on you e.g. water bottle, pen etc.

  1. DON’T be in character when the camera is not rolling.

While the casting director is primarily looking at your performance, he/she will also be looking at you as a person. They want to know if you are easy to work with, if you can take direction well and are a person of good character. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Your value is the same before and after the audition.

  1. DON’T touch the reader.


The reader is not there to act with you. He/she is simply there for you to be able to respond to with your lines. Don’t rely to react off of the reader’s performance. The casting director is evaluating your performance and interpretation, not theirs. Also, don’t touch the reader if there’s any physicality involved. Simply make gestures that would indicate what is happening in the scene so that you don’t jump in and out of the frame. Most of the time, the framing will be a medium shot, so the physical actions or props won’t be seen on the footage. Take a look at Evangeline Lilly’s audition for Lost. She does not actually have anything in her hand, but she makes you think that she has a radio in her hand.

  1. DON’T turn up without your script.

It is not wrong to know all the lines off by heart, on the contrary, it is encouraged, but avoid giving off the impression that you have settled with your interpretation of the scene. By bringing your script, you are not only indicating that you respect the scriptwriter’s work, but that you are open for direction.

  1. DON’T look into the camera – unless you’re slating.


When slating, state your name, and the role you’re auditioning for confidently and naturally. When doing the scene, don’t look into the camera, but look at the reader. Small tip: Hold your script in the hand closest to the camera, so that the camera sees the full range of your face, instead of only seeing half of it when you turn to look at your script.

  1. DON’T take rejection personally.

There are so many factors that play a role in you getting the part or not. Your performance may be amazing, but you may not look the part, or they decide to go in a different direction, or… the list is endless… You are there to present what you do. Give it your best, and then move on. Comparison kills.

  1. DON’T be afraid to ask relevant questions.

The key word is relevant. No one will blame you if you have questions about the setting of the scene or if you want to move a chair or whatever the case. Be respectful and don’t be apologetic about everything. If you have excuses for everything, that comes across as either insecure, needy or unprepared.

9. DON’T be afraid to make the space your own.


Just because there is a chair in the room doesn’t mean you have to sit on it, if you think your character would be standing, restless or standing up from a seating position. Don’t be scared to make bold choices, but make sure that you communicate it with the camera operator so that he/she is prepared. Avoid sudden movements though. You’d still want them to see you in the frame when they go through the footage later on.

  1. DON’T do it for the job – Do it for the joy of acting.

Even though it is disheartening to hear one ‘yes’ among hundreds of ‘no’s’, don’t forget why you’re there. Acting is a beautiful art, but it loses its authenticity when it is driven by desperation or fear. Don’t let anything rob you of that joy.

I hope these tips were helpful. Take courage and share your talent with those around you and know you are already as valuable as you will ever be.

Remember, whatever happens outside of the audition room is outside of your control, but what you can do is present yourself and your art.

The audition is an opportunity to make the character yours.

Hang in there and don’t lose the joy!

  • Annette is part of the acting team with The Initiative Production Company. She is a German South-African, loves the smell of freshly baked bread and constantly has a list in her head of countries to visit and more languages to learn.

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