How Stars & Journeyman Actors Get Work | Answers for Actors

A rare, extraordinary moment materialized in a recent casting due to one actor’s professionalism. An occurrence that should not need to be heralded for its uniqueness and treasure.

Paul Russell
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A rare, extraordinary moment materialized in a recent casting due to one actor’s professionalism. An occurrence that should not need to be heralded for its uniqueness and treasure. But in our game of entertainment in which egos are flashed hourly like a credit card, it’s wonderful when an actor’s sense of self is not a plastic debit but bankable by the hard currency of craft.

Recent casting of Les Miserables for the Barter Theatre involved last-minute replacement casting for the role of Jean Valjean (The original actor cast had to remove himself after vocal chord polyps were discovered.)

Of the 90 men I scheduled to audition for a principal role that stands aside Sweeney Todd in musical theater star stature, a fair number of the actors set to come in for the creatives had played the role either regionally, on tour and/or on Broadway. But I wasn’t comfortable that I had on my computer screen the one actor who would keep me from having to go a second round. Call it casting insecurity; I have it in spades despite history continually proving my ever persistent pre-audition day worries wrong.

There was an omission on the schedule. A highly visible, industry name missing. An actor who had captivated Broadway and international audiences with over two-thousand marvelous lyrical singings of ‘Bring Him Home.’ Mention the actor’s name to industry, as when I did to my partner who owned a talent agency, and eyes widen. He’d never come in for a regional production, I thought.

Upon my contacting his agent I received an e-mail reply within minutes. The actor had already reached out to his representative and had asked (yes, asked) to be seen!

That doesn’t happen in casting. It simply doesn’t. When an actor has played a role on Broadway and famed stages abroad, the agent and/or the actor often reply, “Offer only” even if the director and/or other creatives involved in current casting have never seen the actor’s work or know of the performer. It just doesn’t happen… often.

But the actor auditioned. And yes, his rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ and the opening Sweet Jesus soliloquy were gifts unwrapped for us in the room.

Unlike… another actor.

Let me explain by sharing an excerpt of a thank you I sent to the star’s agent:

“My deepest gratitude to Mr. ******* for the first-rate professionalism he displayed that is rarely matched by his peers. I, and the Barter team, was impressed and grateful for his generosity at coming into the session. His good grace would have been a valuable instruction to the young actor who came in unprepared without music from the show while demanding that he only be considered for Jean Valjean and not the cover. I bow to ******’s professionalism which is vastly opposite of the younger actor’s limited spectrum for career longevity.”

The younger arrogant actor who had refused to come in for the audition unless we only consider him for Jean Valjean and not the cover position gave a less than stellar audition. But that’s not why I won’t be calling him in again for future projects. Instead, I won’t want to see him in an audition room unless he grows balls, develops maturity, and tames his ego which is as meticulously guarded and stiff as is his finely manicured coif.

I have had actors of stature audition before for projects that lesser known actors would rebuke.

As recounted in ACTING: Make It Your Business, multiple EMMY and Golden Globe award-winning actress Sharon Gless (Cagney & Lacey, Queer As Folk fame) auditioned for me in a dilapidated closet turned office for a one-act play at Ensemble Studio Theatre.

An actor having to audition is a necessary evil of the casting process. The actor who responds to an offer of an audition with, “I’ll only audition if considered for…” or the actor who passes on an audition stating, “Don’t they know who I am?” need to look to Sharon Gless’s and the Mr. *******’s examples of professionalism as the paradigm of an actor’s actor.

And here’s the kicker folks. Don’t assume the casting outcome of the auditioning aforementioned actors. This business is very subjective with many uncontrollable variables. Egoless actors understand such. No one is guaranteed any future advances in life because of a history.

Our business needs more fine role models of an industrious and respectful work ethic. I bow to Ms. Gless, and the star actor who played Jean Valjean more than two-thousand performances world-wide, plus the many actors alike—who have an equal respect for the business and colleagues—as they do for themselves.

Bravo / Brava!

My Best,

Read advice from legendary talent agents,
plus Hollywood & Broadway actors in Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit

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ACTING: Make It Your Business

Author: Paul Russell

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