Audition Lessons from Working Actors

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There is a saying: “The most valuable lessons aren’t taught. They’re experienced.” In a “Film Courage” series of interviews, several working actors recount lessons they learned from audition experiences at pivotal points in their lives. The performers include Chad Lindberg (“Fast and the Furious”), Zack Ward (“A Christmas Story,” “Transformers”), Steve Tom (“Dumb and Dumber To”), Michael Galante (“Boy Meets Girl”), and Douglas Spain (“Line of Duty”). Here are their stories and the resulting nuggets of wisdom they garnered:

Appreciate the opportunities that come your way.

Chad Lindberg remembers twice passing on an audition opportunity for a film titled “Redline,” which would later come to be called “The Fast and the Furious.” “I had in my mind I wanted to do something completely different with my life at the time,” he recalls of his 23-year-old self. Chad even resisted when he received two calls from his agency urging him to take the audition. “I was being a brat!” Lindberg admits. Eventually, he did audition, and ended up booking the job. Then when arriving on set, Lindberg felt pretty sure the movie was going to go nowhere. “I was just so locked into this brain of mine,” Lindberg remembers. “And lo and behold, it became like a huge phenomenon and changed my life instantly. And it taught me again that you never, never, never know. Don’t turn down an audition…Keep your mind open. Appreciate what you have. If it comes when you’re 19, if it comes when you’re 40, just appreciate that moment.”

Be ready for the unexpected.

If you’ve ever watched the holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” it’s hard to forget the bully Scut Farkus who demands of Ralphie, “Say ‘Uncle’!” That unlikable character is played by “Transformers” actor Zack Ward. Young Zack was selected from a group of 300 boys to play the bully’s sidekick with two small lines. Once on set in chilly Ohio, the wardrobe supervisor took both Zack, and the child who was originally cast as the bully, over to meet the director Bob Clark. “I guess that was the first time Bob saw the height disparity,” Ward recalls. In fact, Ward towered a good foot above the boy who was set to portray the bully. “[Bob] looks up and he’s like, ‘Oh, oh, uh, you get his lines; he gets yours. Great!…Action!”” Ward remembers. So it was: Ward became the infamous bully just like that.

Don’t bother trying to assess your own audition.

Steve Tom was first up in auditions for “Dumb and Dumber To,” and everything seemed to be going awry. He felt thrown off by casting’s series of questions beforehand, and then his scene partner had the wrong sides. Then there was a wait time until the updated sides were located. Next, a technical problem forced the two actors to start over again. Tom just wanted to bolt out the door as soon as the audition finished. “I was fuming! Smoke could have been coming out of my ears…All these things had gone wrong that I had no control over, and I felt it was the worst audition of my life. Of…my…life!” He later learned he booked the job. Tom reflects, “There’s an old saying, ‘You cannot feel your own handshake,’ meaning I am in no way capable of evaluating how other people see me.” As it turns out, Tom was the only actor who made the creative choice to use a loving, patient tone with his character’s adopted daughter, and that was exactly what the director was looking for.

Nerves aren’t always a bad thing.

After his first “Law and Order” audition, newby Michael Galante was sure he’d bombed the audition as his nerves had gotten the better of him even though he’d prepared for the role. Feeling terrible about the whole experience, he then recalls, “I got a call the next day and they’re like, ‘You booked it, they love you.” Perplexed, Galante asked how it was possible that he was selected after such a poor audit. “It turns out they were actually looking for this nervous, young police officer to play the role, and I guess that’s what I came off as,” he says. It was Galante’s first principal role on a TV show.

The worst thing you can hear is “no.”

“Line of Duty” actor Douglas Spain recalls one audition for which he had to battle Los Angeles traffic for an hour and a half. As luck would have it, he arrived just as casting was closing up shop. Dejected, Spain left the building. But he remembers: “I was becoming more frustrated with the fact that I just took ‘no’ for an answer. So I went back, and I said, ‘Listen, I’ve been driving for an hour and a half in LA traffic just to make this audition. I’m not late intentionally; It’s circumstantial. So please see me.” Casting had a heart and allowed him to audition. Spain booked the job. “Sometimes you just have to push all that stuff aside. Because the worst thing that he could have said was ‘no.’ That’s fine.”

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