From “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” to “Under Suspicion,” casting director Kim Williams has some strong credits under her belt. And with that experience comes invaluable insights into the audition process. Williams took time from her busy schedule to share them by tackling the questions that actors need to know.
What’s something an actor can do to stand out in a positive way?
“Come in prepared. And I don’t just mean with the material. Sometimes, you get the material last minute, or it changes when you come in for the audition. But you can be prepared regardless in terms of having done your homework to get there. That means that you’ve been taking classes and watching shows and movies. You’ve been constantly living and breathing this animal that is acting. If that is the case, you’ll be able to pivot when things change up in an audition. You’ll be able to tap into yourself and deliver those words to me. That’s another thing that stands out: owning who you are. Approach roles as different versions of yourself. Then you’ll be able to bring the authenticity I’m looking for. Because my job as a casting director is to take written words and transfer them into real people so that when audiences watch them, they don’t see characters reading lines.”
What about general advice for the audition process?
“Make strong, confident choices. If you go a little bit bigger than necessary, it’s okay. We can pull you back from that, but at least we know there’s something there that can be worked with. And it’s important to come in with the right mindset. There are so many things that are outside of your control as far as booking the role, but your job is to give a good performance. If you do that, the producers, directors and I will remember you and think of you for future projects. Rushing is a huge thing too. I find myself often giving the note to slow down and think of what you’re saying. Remember to take your time so you can listen and be in the moment.”
Is there any story you can share that you think actors should hear?
“On a pilot I did, we were testing a really well-known actress and a completely unknown actress for the female lead. I personally liked the unknown actress better for the role because I thought she was interesting and fresh and different. We were testing for network, and the famous actress came in and gave a fantastic read. The whole network loved her performance. The unknown actress was waiting outside, and when I opened the door to bring her in for her audition, I think she caught some of the energy from the room. It was that popping, crackling energy that comes after a great audition, and I could tell it put her on edge. Before I brought her inside, I said to her, ‘Okay. Here’s the thing: It’s your turn. You can’t let anything that’s come before this affect you. You’re about to walk into the room. This is your moment; do with it what you will.’ When her audition finished, they didn’t even remember that the well-known actress had come into the room before her. That’s how good the unknown actress’s audition was. I told her to do what she came to do, and she did it. She got the role.”
With Williams’ advice in mind, you can go into your next auditions with the right mindset. Focus on giving your best, most authentic performances. You’ll have done your homework by not only preparing the material, but by also honing your craft in your day-to-day lives. And as Williams remarked, when an actor lets go of everything else and fearlessly seizes his or her moment, amazing things can happen.