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Throughout the duration of your acting career, you’re going to do a lot of auditions (hopefully!) and take a lot of meetings. As actors it’s part of what we do. Meetings might be with agents and managers, and as your career progresses, directors and producers. And unless you are well known and have celebrity status, someone is going to say to you you “So, tell me about yourself.”
I remember the first time a casting director asked me this question; I was totally unprepared for it, but I got very very lucky! The casting director could see that I was caught off guard and awkwardly nervous. He was incredibly helpful and kind. He joked around with me for a bit and asked me a few more prompting questions to get the ball rolling. Trust me, that is almost never the case! That was 25 years ago and I’m still friends with that casting director today!
But more often, the way things go down is quite a bit chillier than that. It may be the casting director asking, or in a commercial audition, even the client.
WHY: There are 3 reasons why they do this:
1. The casting director, director or client is trying to get a sense of your personality and what you’d be like to work with on set. Casting decisions aren’t made just on basis of talent alone – these are real people and real relationships.
2. They want to see how your personality translates to the camera. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “The camera loves her/him.” Some people just have a better on-camera and on-screen presence than others. This question gives everyone a chance to see that.
3. Everyone loves a good story! Actors are story tellers, we’re entertainers. Be mindful of this when giving your answer and be sincere but keep it engaging. Also, the client wants to see how you handle story telling. Chances are if you can tell your own story well, you’re going to be able to tell their story too.
WHAT: Now you know the why, so what do you say?
1. If you’re a young actor, under the age of 18, you’ll probably want to give your age. If this is a virtual audition, as many are going to be in the coming months and probably years, be sure to tell people where you live – city, town, country, state or whatever is appropriate for the audition.
2. Talk about something you are passionate about! Enthusiasm is contagious and you’re going to be much more engaging if it’s a topic you really love. Also, keep in mind, these people are seeing a lot of auditions and they want to be entertained, not just look for a human puzzle piece that’s a good fit.
3. Talk about something you’ve just done or that you’re going to do. For this one, if you can make it somehow relate to the role or character you are going out for, that’s even better. And everyone loves a funny story, but if comedy isn’t your strong suit, skip the humor and jokes. Try and keep this recent, relevant and interesting – seriously, nobody wants to hear about you high school or college sports championships if you’re in your 30’s.
DON’T: There are also some pretty big things that you SHOULDN’T do…
1. Stay away from anything that is political, controversial, potentially inflammatory or provocative or just plain gross. This is not the place to go for shock value. You may get a kick out of watching everyone in the room react, but almost certainly it will cost you the job.
2. Don’t talk about anything negative. Yes, we all have drama in our regular lives, and sometimes, more than others, but this is neither the time nor the place to vent. Even if it’s a subject you are passionate about, like lets say your prize winning orchids, and gophers just ate them all, don’t talk about it! It’s just going to bring down the energy in the room.
3. Avoid looking desperate. There is nothing sexy about being needy. Stay away from telling people how much you need the job, begging or pleading your case. Don’t say things like. “You can count on me. You won’t be disappointed. I’m so reliable. I’ll be great at learning my lines.” People can smell need a mile away and as one coach very helpfully said to me years ago “needy is creepy”, and it’s just not going to instill the confidence in people that they are looking for.
4. Steer clear of the acting conversations. Everyone knows you’re an actor. They have your headshot and resume and you are doing an audition. Everyone at the audition has lives outside of that room; they have families, pets, problems, hobbies, and normal day to day routines. Now they want to know what you’re like as a human being
It’s always a good idea to have an answer to this question ready to go, maybe even two so you can swap the stories out. And hey, if they don’t ask you, you’ll have peace of mind in knowing that you were prepared.
Also, keep your answer short – no more than 30 seconds to a minute!! They just want to get a sense of who you are but everyone still has a job to do and wants to keep the day moving.
Keep in mind that this is part of your audition, so make sure you practice this before your audition. The first time the words come out of your mouth should not be in the audition room, whether in person or virtual.
I hope this really helps you and has shed some light on the “tell me about yourself” question that actors get so often. If your like it or love it, please consider sharing it! Post it on Facebook, tweet it, pin it and send it to your actor friends. It’s a tough business and we all need a little extra help.
If you have questions or feedback, head to the comments section below – I answer every one.
Until next time, break a leg out there! xo Hunter