An actor’s life for me

Each month Joe McGann explores the ups and downs of an actor’s life…

Joe McGann actor

The audition.

I’m often asked the question, “I’d love to get into acting, how can I get a job?” and when I can give an answer, I usually say, “First you need to secure an audition.”

It’s an odd thing, the audition. Peculiar to my profession at least in its frequency, and one which will always bring with it both hope and fear in equal measure. It’s widely known that there are many more actors than jobs, so it’s easy to see that those jobs are going to be oversubscribed and therefore highly competitive.

Imagine if two hundred plumbers turned up to give you a quote and a short demonstration of how they would do the job on offer, and you can begin to understand the logistical nightmares and plethora of choices which surely only serves to make any decision more difficult rather than exacting.

Those lucky actors who actually get called to be seen are issued with the information about the role and usually a script, or at least a scene or two from the project to be prepared for the meeting, along with the songs and sheet music if required and, most importantly, the time and place of the audition.

On the day, all prepared, you go to the meeting. It’s difficult to tell how many people you’ll be seeing at the meeting – sometimes there’s just one casting assistant, other times it can be you, the director and an actor employed to read in with the hopefuls.

Auditions for big musicals will be split into three – dance, singing and acting – which will involve learning routines in front of the choreographer, then performing a prepared audition song – if you get through those rounds, you get a crack at some acting.

All auditions involve the conundrum of trying to guess what it is you can do that will catch the eye of the decision makers and so will land you the job. There are some obvious things that can help; you can dress like you believe the character would (difficult if you’re auditioning for Lion King or Game of Thrones), or style your hair, grow or shave a beard, but you need to be subtle, if only to preserve some dignity.


I had a friend who once used makeup to alter his blonde, blue eyed, Caucasian looks because there was a larger part than the one he was being seen for that he’d spotted in the script – a character who was described as Asian. He didn’t get either part, and the story went round the business faster than a cute kitten meme on Facebook, to much hilarity and many nervous coughs of recognition.

Every now and then there will be an open audition, literally open to all comers. We’ve all seen the long lines of hopefuls queuing for the X-Factor try-outs, so you’ll have a fairly good idea of the cattle market these things can be.

Hundreds of desperate people, of various degrees of talent, all hoping for a big chance. The idea makes me shudder, and I respect every single person who has ever got a job that way, and readily admit that I couldn’t hack it.

So, there you are, that’s how you get an acting job. See you at 9am sharp at the audition room, bring two prepared speeches, a song with sheet music for the accompanist, your tap shoes, a packed lunch, your most winning smile and join the queue. It starts round the block.

Hi Diddley Dee.

T: @JosephMcGann