New York Women in Film & Television presented Your First Co-Star Audition, an all-star
panel of casting professionals on May 18, 2015 at Madiba Harlem. A “co-star” is
generally a one-to-two-line credited television role which can provide
excellent exposure for an actor and often represents the next big step in her career.

The room teemed with excitement as the panelists filed in. Five
casting directors and one talent agent participated in the event, each one
sharing his or her own perspective on the audition process. Those who sat on
the panel included casting directors John Andrews (The Good Wife, Person of
Rosalie Joseph (The
Mysteries of Laura
, Body of Proof),
Kim Miscia (Gossip Girl, Gotham, Mad
Kimberly Skyrme (House of
Cards, Unsolved Mysteries),
Meredith Tucker (Veep, Boardwalk Empire, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and talent agent
Shirley Faison. From props to kissing scenes, the speakers covered a wide range
of “dos and don’ts” every actor should know when fine-tuning her strategy and
honing into her inner waitress, bartender or flight attendant.

The definition of co-star varies from project to project,
depending more on budgeting concerns than the size of the role. Many co-star
roles are in fact multidimensional characters representing a wide breadth of
challenges, allowing actors to demonstrate and explore their own range. As
panelist John Andrews suggested, casting talent is often akin to finding “a
needle in a haystack,” and as a result, a wide range of individuals may be seen
for a given role. In this instance, courtesy goes a long way when standing out
from the crowd. Arriving early, printing out your sides in advance, and waiting
to put on your coat and other belongings once you leave the audition space can
go a long way in any casting director’s book.

Much as it is essential to prepare for an interview through
research, learning about the project beforehand is crucial to scoring a great audition.
Learning the correct pronunciation of major characters’ names and understanding
the mood of a program not only signals an actor’s commitment to the role, but
may also guide her choices when delivering lines in the audition space. Many of
the panelists stressed the importance of watching the program before coming
into the audition, as it is nearly impossible comprehend the essence of a show
without first experiencing it as an audience member. Additionally, dressing to
acknowledge the time period or role may help further convince a casting
director that the actor is good fit for a particular project. This is not to
suggest, however, that an actor should arrive wearing a hoop skirt and
pantaloons. Instead, choosing smart pieces that could work for multiple
different roles, like a simple blazer for a lawyer or a business woman, is
enough to suggest a commitment to the part without taking out a second
mortgage. Panelist Rosalie Joseph suggested that certain simple props, such as
a water bottle or cell phone, can also aid an actor in painting a more colorful
picture during an audition, so long as it does not ultimately detract from the

Once an actor has chosen her wardrobe, and perhaps a
tasteful prop, what then? Portraying a character can often be challenging, especially
when the character is limited to one or two lines. “Every actor at every level
can succumb to nerves,” offered panelist Kim Miscia. To aid in this, a casting
director or assistant may suggest an activity or give insight as to what a
character was doing moments before, to ease an actor into a more natural
performance and state of mind. Many of the panelists also suggested memorizing
the sides when possible. As long as the actor does not completely depart from
the script, improvising a few lines to lead into the scene may also be
acceptable. Of course, it is important for the actor to make a strong choice as
to how to represent a character, but remain flexible to suggestions when they
are given. “Don’t be married to your choice, [be ready to] make adjustments” panelist
Meredith Tucker said. If a callback is granted, don’t use it to deviate from
the original performance: a callback is usual given because a casting director saw
potential during the original read.

Finally, conduct outside of the audition room can make or
break an actor’s reputation within the casting community. Submitting yourself
to projects or roles is frowned upon, but sending an occasional postcard with
your headshot is a good way to keep in communication with casting directors
without overwhelming their office.

While walking into an audition room may be intimidating, it
is important to understand that for a casting director, casting is what Miscia
called a “personal business,” one which depends on mutual respect, appreciation
and collaboration. Hard work pays off in the end, even if you don’t always book
the part. As panelist Kimberly Skyrme suggested, “You may not be right [for the
role] today, but you will be remembered for the next time.”

-Allison Pittel



nywift New York Women in Film & Television supports women calling the shots in film, television and digital media.

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