Every actor, whether they are just starting out or have been in the business for years, is always waiting in hopeful anticipation of the next job. It is the nature of the work. Actors have to be good at waiting.

Because the majority of actors are employed as a result of someone else (often either a director or producer) deciding they are the right for the role, actors just have to wait for the phone to ring. Sometimes it is a long wait.
The Casting Process

IN TELEVISION casting is usually under the control of casting directors, directors and producers.

  • The casting director involved with the production will forward a list of characters required for the show to the actors’ agents.
  • The actors’ agents search their files and memories and recommend/suggest actors who are on their books who may be appropriate for the role.
  • The casting director and often the director (sometimes also the producer) examine the lists the actors’ agents have sent and generally also make up a list of their own. They will probably consult “Show Cast” listings to assist them with this list. (This list may include some actors who don’t have agents but independently promote themselves)
  • From this list it is decided who will be auditioned. (Usually 3 – 5 actors are auditioned for a standard guest role. This means on average an auditioning actor has a 20% - 33% chance of getting any role)
  • If the producer and the director are not happy with the outcome of the auditions they make look further there by decreasing the odds even further.

Casting Directors are either ‘in house’ (i.e. hired by the production to service the needs of the series) or work for a Casting Agency, which is contracted by the production to service the show. A Casting Agency may be servicing a number of TV shows, films or commercials.

‘In house’ casting directors sometimes hold general auditions to provide opportunity to discover new talent.


The process is much the same as above except the plays director and the theatre company’s artistic director are in charge of the selection process. They may simply offer roles to actors who they know personally or whose levels of experience are appropriate for the role.

Some theatre companies do hold general auditions once a year to give new talent the opportunity to emerge.

TV COMMERCIALS are created by Advertising Agency’s. They brief a Casting Agency about the sex, age and type of actor they require. The Casting Agency contacts the Actors Agency and they suggest actors. At the Casting agency the Casting Director selects which actors will attend the auditions. The actors attend auditions (which are frequently unscripted improvisations) at the Casting Agency. These auditions are generally in front of the Casting Director, the Director and the Creative Director.

Casting Agencies will have people on their files who are not represented by an Actor’s Agent.

Occasionally if an unusual casting is required Casting Directors go beyond the normal channels to find the right person. They might search schools, sporting clubs or specific professions for particular skills.

Who Gets Picked

Obviously it is actors who have an agent who get the majority of roles.

An actor who does not have an agent will have to do all their own promotional work. If they are very capable or particularly skilled or have unusual qualities they will have more chance of being remembered and placed on the audition list.

The actor who has the best chance at an audition is the one who has been working the most. Frequent work keeps the skills active and the confidence up.

Three elements will ultimately determine the choice

  • Skill (the ability to play truthfully, to be real)
  • Look (the genetic factor)
  • Publicity /box office value

There is also an element of luck in the casting process so an actor who is not getting a lot of work needs to find other ways to keep exercising the ‘acting muscles’.

Remember, acting is a skill which needs to be acquired and maintained.

Creating Work

Some actors don’t want to wait, so they create their own work. They may organize a play or a short film etc. Such projects usually take an enormous amount of time and effort. Frequently there is a financial cost attached.

However they do provide the opportunity to act.

Others attend workshops and classes.


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