Embrace the Crazy

As an actor, it is your job to be what most other normal people would see as a total weirdo. We’re professionally insane. Whether we’re playing a starship captain who breaks down into tears when he’s failed to save the innocent Garlocks from the Zebu Federation, or a woman who just revenge murdered the men that abducted her daughter, we have to buy in. We have to fully believe that we are these people and that these things are actually happening to us. Then we have to do it again and again, take after take, mind-fucking ourselves to believe that we’re experiencing it all fresh, for the first time, discovering it moment by moment. If you don’t buy in 100 percent, there’s no chance the story will ring true and the audience will believe it. 

It’s absolutely crazy. It’s absolutely amazing. It’s absolutely addicting. 

You have to do whatever you need to do to book work and to be proud of the work you did in the audition and on set. A key part of that is being intentional about your prep process, but also how you use your time before auditions and before going to set to perform. 

I ask my students, “After you’ve prepped, how are you spending the hours before your audition? How are you spending the time in the car on your drive there? After you park, how are you spending the time walking across the lot or through the building to the trailer or office where your audition is? How are you spending the time before you sign in? How are you spending the time after you sign in? Finally, how do you set yourself up for success in the few seconds in the room before you begin your audition?” 

If you don’t have an answer to each of those questions or haven’t thought them through and experimented with what works best for you to set yourself up for successfully doing what you wanted to do in the audition, you should. We’re all different. Some of us need to stay immersed and use that time making sure the words are there and prepping character thoughts. Some of us use music to calm or excite or summon the emotional space we need to do what we need to do. Some of us meditate. You need to know what works for you and be committed to doing that so you can do your job to the best of your ability every single time. 

I’ve learned what works for me (parts or all of which may or may not work for you). After my prep—which is a 12-step process you can read in my previous article series—I try to clear my schedule of anything before my audition so I can relax and be focused. I usually run lines and character thoughts in the car, just to make sure they’re there and organic and fresh every time. I call a friend or loved one to run lines over my hands-free if I need it. 

After I park, I continue to run lines and thoughts while I walk to the trailer or office. I always time it so that I’m at least 20 minutes early, but I don’t sign in early. Instead, I find a quiet spot close by on the lot, or down the hallway from the office, and I let myself arrive. I let my body calm itself and acclimate to the space. You might also have found that no matter how prepared you felt at home, being in a new space can affect your body and performance, so I need to let my body calm and arrive the closer I get to the audition room. So, I patiently run my lines and thoughts until I know they’re there, regardless of whether I feel nervous or not. 

At my scheduled sign in time, I’m usually ready and sign in. I look for the person who signed in two ahead of me and see if I can identify who that actor is, which is usually easy to do. Then I go back outside the waiting room and stay in my character headspace until I see that actor walk out, which means the actor ahead of me is now in the room auditioning, putting me on deck, so I head in. Within moments, the actor ahead of me comes out and I’m brought in. If I time it right, I spend little to no time just waiting around. I go seamlessly from my prep and immersion to performance. In the room, I pick out my points of focus, slate, if asked, and then rock it. 

If you saw me running lines while driving, or prepping to a wall outside the stage on a lot, or in the hallway or parking lot outside the office, you might think I am a crazy person. Well, I’ve got news for you. This industry was built by crazy people just like you and me. Embrace it. Do what you know you need to do to do your best work. Don’t let fear or concern for what others think of you stop you from doing what you know you have to do to do your best work. Yes, that’s a weird sentence, but you know what I mean. Having found what works for me has helped me book 14 separate network shows and shoot 18 episodes in just the last nine months. 

Acting well is very hard. That’s why production takes such good care of us on set. They give us the respect and the space to do whatever it is we need to do so that we’re ready to rock it when we’re called to shoot. Not doing what you know you need to do to be prepared is a form of self­-sabotage. 

Embrace the crazy. Buy in. Be prepared. Live your dream.