Actors – How Not to Fail an Audition

Paul Russell
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We all make mistakes.

I’ve made plenty (even here openly on this intermesh thing).

After three decades of working with, and for actors, I’m still surprised by the career destroying fuck-ups that some actors will willingly and without-thought-to-consequences do with what little gray matter may pulse within in their cranium.

This week as I was sitting at a talent agency I witnessed a first-rate screw-up by an actor that jeopardized his relationship with a Broadway casting office, director, producer and agent all in one simultaneous, mind-blowing shoot-themselves-in-the-career crash. It also made me never want to work with the actor as well.

For this exercise we’ll tag him as Actor-Withholding-On-Logic; a.k.a. A.W.O.L.

A.W.O.L. dumped his agent, via a weekend e-mail missive, for he felt that his life was quote “boring” and he needed a change (no, that’s not the main mistake for my mussing here, although being bored and leaving your agent because the Prozac dosage is no longer controlling the mood swings could be considered a career careening crash).

As I was chatting in the talent agent’s office a call came from another casting director’s office (one that I once worked at). The casting director, along with a well-known director, choreographer and several producers were sitting curious at a casting session for an upcoming Broadway production. They were left waiting for an actor who had not shown up to his scheduled appointment for a leading role within the production. The M.I.A. actor? A.W.O.L.

A.W.O.L.’s former agent got off the phone with the now irritated casting director and called A.W.O.L. to ask why he had not shown up to the appointment he confirmed to attend. He had gotten the audition appointment via his agent well before trashing said talent rep. A.W.O.L. informed his former champion that he felt he no longer had to attend the audition because he had just left the agency. Excuse me?!?

So here was an unemployed actor who had just dumped his agent while also dumping upon a casting office and a production team for Broadway. Can someone explain to me, especially in this economic climate why such arrogance (and obvious ignorance) exists? Wait, I may have answered my question; arrogance and ignorance are close cousins.

BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteWhat’s the moral here? No matter what your relationship with your representation, an actor is to keep their commitment to confirmed audition appointments. And not only audition appointments but also commitments to commissions on projects that your representation helped get you seen for and negotiated the contract(s). One of the few pardonable excuses on making a pass on a confirmed audition is passing, literally, as in six feet under or oven-ash time. Even then you’ll need a doctor’s written note.

Be considerate of others. Don’t become known as problematic. The number of people working in this industry is very small. We talk. We share stories. Don’t become a story that you would not want to be a part of.

My best,

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

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 writes a column for Back Stage and 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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