Under-5 does not mean Under-whelm

This is a longer blog – read it all for the little nuggets I’m revved up about!


Tis the season for Under 5 auditions for Television and Film. In the audition world, this means an audition for a character that has “under 5” lines.

I have been seeing these a lot in my coaching sessions and am interested in the psychology that permeates these type of auditions for actors. There seems to be something that is happening that is actually whittling away at the actor’s self-confidence and preparation skills, very subversively. These Under 5 auditions are sneaky like that.  


Under 5 auditions can make the actor disappear.


Here is what I observe actors think about Under 5 auditions.

1. It’s not that important, so why rehearse it.

2. It’s only based on my look.

3. I need to just get in and get out, fast.

4. A small role is no role.


Here is an outside perspective to consider when building your Under 5 roles for auditions and performance.


Each character is a person made of flesh and bones.  Actors breathe life into a character with or without lines.  The Tramp Charlie Chaplin made us cry and laugh without a single word uttered.  Your character is a representation of a living and breathing person.


How detailed can you be about the backstory of your character?  If this is a real person, alive, then he/she had a day already!  Was it a good day or a bad day?  What were you doing right before the scene started? If you are a prison guard on Orange Is The New Black, then what are you thinking about while at work?  (One of my alumni told me about her actor friend who does this exact role on Orange and spends all day on set thinking about the life of this character before the one line the actor has in the script on that day. That’s committed to your character!)


“Get In and Get Out” is such negative reinforcement of the value of the actor!  Yes, be efficient in the audition room.  Correct, the scene is not about you because you are a supporting character in that moment. BUT, how can an actor not make it about him/herself?  Of course it is about you.  YOU are there.  No one else.  So you have to invest in the moments and not check out.  Yes, throw your focus to your scene partner.  But that is very different than trying to disappear into the woodwork.  Don’t undervalue yourself as an actor – this whittles away in general at your self-worth in the biz.


But back to the “get in and out” advice that floats around and has permeated your subconsious.  Casting Directors say this because they are pressed for time.  And, yes, some actors abuse the audition and try to stay in the room excessively.  But, please, don’t rush through the audition so that we don’t even get a chance to take you in!  Know your value.  Don’t be a flash of a memory.  Engage fully.  Simply.  Be present.


Every audition is based on how you look.  The creator has a look in his/her mind and you are always unknowingly battling that preconceived creative vision.  My version of what 1920s midwest looks like is probably different than yours.  Dress suggestive of the part and commit as an actor and you will be in the ballpark.  The rest is simply up to them.  But don’t use that as an excuse to check out!


Create the character’s believability for yourself, and then we will see you standing there.  We will notice you and believe that you can fit into this world because YOU believe it.  Whether you have zero or 5 lines.  I can easily spend an hour coaching someone on 1-5 lines because there is so much to make real in the world of this character!  Commit to the moment that you have to point at a criminal and yell “She went that way!”. And follow that moment through until you hear “cut!”.  Maybe you want to run after her or maybe you’re scared.  Live in the character and then we won’t see the actor, only the character.


Always, treat each audition as an opportunity to be an actor.  Acting is not just the moment in the spotlights.  It is the growth of yourself as a human being, growing and evolving in each role you get the honor to play, even if for a moment.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *