We’ve tallied up your questions for Lisa London, a seasoned casting director who casts for Kimberly’s show Hit The Floor.
There were so many good questions, and we narrowed them down to those that were most relevant to the majority of people interested in a career in acting.
Lisa and her partner Catherine Stroud have a casting career that spans over twenty-five years. The team has cast many notable actors and actresses early in their careers, including Miley Cyrus, Jonah Hill, Emma Stone and Katharine McPhee, Selena Gomez, and Jennifer Aniston in her first feature.
Lisa recently wrote a fantastic book on the subject called From Start to Stardom, and it was an honor to be able to be a liaison for all of you and bring her your questions as you pursue your dream.
Tips On Becoming An Actor From Top Hollywood Casting Director
KimberlyElise.com: Lisa, why did you decide to write From Start to Stardom?
Lisa: Bottom line, because I love actors and I wanted to help them. I get asked all the time from parents, kids, teens and adults question after question about how to get started in acting. I decided I would put it all down in a book to answer all their questions and to help them reach their goals.
KimberlyElise.com: A lot of actors are terrified of casting directors because they see them as the gate keepers to their dreams and their future. This fear follows them into the audition room. Can you address this fear so many actors carry.
Lisa: The reality is when an actor comes in and does a really good job, it makes us both look good! I want you to do well. I look at us, the actor and me the casting director, as a team and together we are collaborating to show the producers and director the best you there is to offer for the part. Actors shouldn’t be afraid of casting directors, we want to help you!
KimberlyElise.com: How prepared should an actor be at an audition? Should I have all my lines memorized?
Lisa: As far as memorization goes, you should be prepared and know the lines well enough so that if I, the producer or the director gives you direction, you can change up your reading without having to think about what your next line is.
When you come in for a pre-read (the initial audition for the casting director) you don’t have to have it totally memorized, it’s no problem to have the script in your hand to refer to if you need to. But as you progress in the audition process and perhaps have a screen test for a part, you should definitely have the scenes completely memorized.
Remember, part of acting is reacting, so you don’t want to have your head buried in the script and then I can’t see how you are playing off the dialog or another actor. The more familiar you are with the material, the freer you will feel in your audition and the more opportunity you will have to show me your talent.
KimberlyElise.com: Should I wear a costume?
Lisa: A hint, a suggestion of costume for the character is plenty. If you are coming in to read for a surgeon, don’t come in wearing full scrub gear, with a scalpel and plastic gloves. But if you are coming in to read for a lawyer, it would be a good idea to wear a suit as opposed to jeans and a t-shirt.
A hint of the character in your wardrobe helps the director or producer visualize you in the world of that character. But no need to go overboard with it-too much costume, in fact, can be a distraction and take away from your reading.
KimberlyElise.com: What if I mess up, is it okay to start over?
Lisa: If you mess up and feel like you really didn’t do the creative choices you wanted to make, its ok to ask to do it again and if the casting director has the time, they will let you. But, make sure you actually do the scene differently, please don’t do it the same! Now, if you make a mistake on a word or stumble, just keep going. Save the request for a do over if you felt your whole choice was off.
KimberlyElise.com: If I don’t get the part I auditioned for, will you remember me for other projects you are casting?
Lisa: Absolutely. That’s why I tell actors to give every audition 100 percent of their focus and to really go for because you never know what I will be casting next. You may not be right for this one role,but you may be perfect for the next one! Or the next! Make every audition count.
KimberlyElise.com: I live in a really small town. Do you have to live in Los Angeles or New York to break into acting?
Lisa: If you live in a little town and there are no acting opportunities there, you may have to go to the next big neighboring city.
You can go out to Los Angeles or New York for a couple of months and see what it’s like. But in this day and age, even if you live in a small town, if you are tuned in to acting opportunities,you will hear about auditions that you can submit yourself to over the internet.
I don’t advise just jumping to the big city, however, instead I think it’s important to really take advantage of what your small town has to offer- be it in local theater or acting classes- so you can better hone your skills and prepare yourself before making that big move.
KimberlyElise.com: How does one find a reputable agent or manager?
Lisa: Rule number one, an agent or manager doesn’t take any money from you until you book a job. You NEVER have to give money upfront to legitimate representation.
If they ask, turn and walk away. You can contact the actor’s union, SAG-AFTRA, to find the names of the union affiliated representatives in your area – that’s a great resource to start with. http://www.sagaftra.org
KimberlyElise.com: Have you seen more desire by studio/producers to cast more diversity in their programming?
Lisa: Definitely! There are so many shows with African American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, and actors of all colors. You see more and more with each new television season.
It’s very exciting to me! I am seeing more and more studios and directors and producers making a concerted effort to create shows that reflect the diverse human experience that we have.
KimberlyElise.com: Lastly, Lisa what is the ultimate thing that the casting director is looking for when an actor walks into an audition?
Lisa: I am looking for an actor to show me both their talent AND personality. I want to see who you are as a person – I want to see your natural personality shine through just as much as I want to see what your talent is.
Thank you to all who submitted such great questions. We enjoyed taking them to Lisa for you. It was really wonderful to sit down and talk to Lisa, such a positive source of information on pursuing your dreams.
But, really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you are serious about your dream of being an actor and how to make it a reality, we highly encourage you to pick up Lisa’s book, From Start to Stardom.
In the book, she covers every possible aspect of how to become a successful working actor in the business.
Now, go live your dream!!