Give Something

Alyssa Mooney, our social media editor, shares a bit of advice from the indelible Bryan Cranston.

Bryan Cranston, of Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle fame, is on tour to promote his new book, A Life in Parts, and I attended the lecture, secretly hoping to get a little inside knowledge on Walter White and whether he’ll ever be on Better Call Saul.  (No confirmation there, darn it.) However, what I ended up with is one of the best pieces of auditioning advice I’ve encountered.

A grad student asked for advice on what is the most important step in beginning your artistic journey after graduating and Cranston jokingly replied, “The first one.” He went on to explain a mindset he started to take early on in his auditioning process: stop thinking of auditions as if they are job interviews.  

From his book, A Life in Parts:

“…[it was suggested that] I focus on process rather than outcome. I wasn’t going to the audition to get anything: a job or money or validation. I wasn’t going to compete with the other guys.

I was going to give something.

I wasn’t there to get a job. I was there to do a job. Simple as that. I was there to give a performance. If I attached to the outcome, I was setting myself up to expect, and thus to fail. My job was to focus on character. My job was to be interesting. My job was to be compelling. Take some chances. Serve the text. Enjoy the process.”

Cranston went on to talk about how freeing this was, how it gave him confidence, and how it allowed him to be truly happy for other people who got roles from good auditions.  

Sitting there in the small auditorium, it struck me how simple this advice was but also how it helped eliminate a big roadblock to many young (and seasoned) actors in the audition process. Actors are constantly told to relax in auditions, to have confidence, but it can be a grueling and scary experience that wears on your self-esteem. Chorus Line even has a song about it, with dancers joining as one agitated voice in the key of A minor, “God, I hope I get it. I hope I get it. How many people does he need?” Cranston’s idea allows the actor to let go of that anxiety and to stop worrying about getting it and care about doing it and doing it well.

Like most good advice, this is blindingly simple but also difficult to master; especially if you’re already an established actor who need the audition to go well so you can pay rent. However, educators can help their students to start to incorporate this into their mindset early on, so they’ll find it easier to do when the stakes are higher than OAP or the spring musical. If actors learn to treat their auditions as not a prize to be won but a gift to be given (without arrogance) then who knows…maybe one day they’ll be the next Walter White or Dr. Tim Whatley, Dentist to the Stars.

 

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