It’s not about you… But it is about you.

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We do some incredible things to protect our egos.

We can weave the most fantastic, cock-and-bull stories to convince ourselves of anything, good or bad.

Today I want to talk specifically about acting, and auditioning, and the weird blend between when you don’t get something and it’s not about you, and you do get something and it is about you. To do this properly I’m going to delve into a bit of psychology. I promise it won’t be boring.

Have you ever had an audition where what you did felt fine, and then you didn’t get the part, and you were told that it wasn’t about you? Then maybe you went to see the show, or you saw the episode, or you met the person playing the role, and thought “Why would they cast him/her? I would’ve done it so much better…”

So what happened? Sometimes you wonder if you did something wrong. Sometimes you think maybe that person is sleeping with someone on the team and that’s what happened. Sometimes you blame the director, or the casting director, or the producer. They must’ve hated your shoes, or your hair style, or the way you say your name. All those things you practiced over and over again in school, slating, dressing the part, make up, your material, there must be something wrong with all of it… Or maybe, (and if you have never come to this thought as an actor, don’t worry, it’ll happen soon) maybe you’re just not good enough.

Honestly, it’s possible. Maybe you’re not good enough, maybe your audition wasn’t good enough, maybe those shoes are horrible. Casting is such an involved and difficult process and if you’ve never sat on the other side of the table I recommend you do. There are some things you don’t have control over. They’ve already cast the guy playing your husband and you’re too tall for him. That guy who was the lead in that series has expressed an interest and they can’t pass up on bringing his fanbase to this project. You’re older than you look in your headshots and they didn’t know until you walked into the room. There are all sorts of things that aren’t your fault. There are also all sorts of things that are your fault. But there are millions of things that actually have nothing to do with you, that you may never have even dreamed of.

The biggest mistake actors make is pretending to be someone else. We have a uniquely difficult job in that we need to be hyper aware of the subconscious process we have, in order to modify it to the process of the character.

How long ago were you in theatre school? How long since you’ve spent that much time and energy working on your acting? Hell, when was the last time you even did a proper warm up, as an actor?

Acting is not a ladder, you don’t climb to the top and then get the special badge that says you’re an actor. It’s an ongoing, daily process of self-excavation and analysis. Without doing that, without knowing what you’re clinging to or carrying you’re bringing subtext and subconscious that you don’t know about into an audition and into your character. Unless that subconscious is exactly what the character is feeling, it feels not quite right.

So it’s not about you, but it is about you. It’s about the you that’s underneath it all, the stuff that needs to get out. It’s not about getting rid of it, or getting over it, it’s about knowing that it’s there, so you’re aware of what you’re using.

This is your job as an actor, more than lines, more than blocking, it’s knowing who you are. Click to Tweet.

When you get to that place, you can go into any audition thinking: “This is who I am, and this is my art. Either you’re looking for this, or you’re not.” And then if they go with someone else, it’s truly not about you, it’s about them, and that’s ok.

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2 Replies to “It’s not about you… But it is about you.”

  1. Erin!
    Absolutely right it’s an “ongoing, daily process of self-excavation…”

    I was fortunate to be invited to sit on a panel for auditions just last week!
    The people who caught our attention the most were people who got past their hang ups and their nerves to show us a little bit of truth about who they are. Sometimes that was even while they were fumbling or screwing up. They just didn’t let that shut them down, and so we saw a bit of who they were–and what they would be like to work with!

  2. Exactly! You can’t manufacture that stuff. Sitting on a panel is one of the biggest eye openers, I know a lot of actors who’ve shied away from it, but it’s truly invaluable.

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