Inside the mind of a casting director

I picked up Michelle at LAX and drove her to a hotel in Hollywood, giving us plenty of time for conversation. She worked as a casting director for TV shows on a major television channel. 

“So what is casting for a show like? Are you looking for people who have unique personalities?”

“Well, if its reality TV, you know… we go for stereotypes: the hunky guy, the ditzy blonde, the nerd, the flamboyant gay guy, the spicy Latina, and the token guy/girl. Depending how the rest of the casting goes, sometimes that token character has to be a white person instead of a person of color.”

“Oh, so you can’t have it looking like The Wire up in there?”

“Exactly.  Sometimes you need to throw a white guy in there.”

Since I know there’s a lot of aspiring actors/actresses in Los Angeles, I asked, “What are some of the more common mistakes people make when auditioning?”

“You need to be yourself. If you’re playing a character and it’s not really you, we’ll figure that out quickly. We’ll ask questions to piss you off to see how you react… and if you hesitate – and don’t have that spontaneous natural response – it’s over.”

I followed up with, “So for example, if a guy is playing the flamboyant gay guy, but it’s a character, you’ll spot it because he’s acting. You want… no acting… like Keanu Reeves.”

“100 percent. Or like Denzel Washington. Play the same character in everything because it’s real. That’s what we want is real.”

Again, I asked what other mistakes people make when auditioning for a part. 

“Sometimes you get a person who’s really reserved, and it’s like pulling teeth to get them to say something. To those people I just want to ask, ‘Why are you here?'”

My final question for her was does she target someone who’s… a villain? “Oh, the star?  Of course. If someone makes me want to punch them in the face in the audition tape, that’s when I think, ‘Ohh! That’s the one.'”

“Why do you think that is, that reality TV needs a bad person/heel?”

“I think it’s because if someone can provoke strong emotions out of the audience, it makes them memorable and then people get attached and have to tune in.”

So there you have it, folks. If you’re auditioning for a part in a reality TV show, embrace your inner Joffrey from Game of Thrones, but only if that person is your true self, and not a character you’re playing. Otherwise, work on refining your character stereotype. Good luck!