As actors, we land roles through auditions. Ask any actor about auditions, and they’ll all say the same thing: We love them, and we hate them. It’s a complicated relationship.
I got an email from my manager, McKenzie, saying I had an audition. It was a show I had never heard of….they were using a code name.
I was asked to ‘self-tape’ my audition — to record at home and send the video file to casting. It used to be that when you got an audition, you grabbed a headshot and resume and went to the studio lot or the casting director’s office. It still works that way much of the time.
But in these digital times, a new trend has popped up: actors recording their own auditions. At first, I hated this, but after a year of doing it, I’ve had some great results and several bookings on films and TV shows. (You can see other Film and TV Shows I’ve done here on IMDB)
They didn’t have sides for the audition. (SIDES are a short scene or scenes from the script casting asks the actors to prepare). It happens, but not too often. Usually, casting gives a specific scene for each character from the script so the director can see how you fit their vision for the role.
But of course, the studio didn’t want to let the word out that Stargate Origins was casting. In fact, Connor Trinneer told me that after he got cast, several of his friends wished they had known so they could have auditioned.
Let’s Do This
As I said, there were no sides for the role, so instead, they asked me to do some physical comedy. Sounds great, I thought. I love comedy.
I was auditioning for a German character, so I came up with a simple scene as a German soldier and I shot it at home with the help of my wife.
(It is important to note that this improvised audition scene has nothing to do with Stargate Origins… it was simply my attempt based on the limited information I had to show myself as a German soldier, and work some physical comedy into it.)
It made me laugh, but it was way too long. I felt it should be a minute tops to keep their attention, but I had recorded a 3-minute scene! I was going to re-record something shorter, and my wife said “It’s great. First, send it to your manager and see what she says.”
So I did. I emailed McKenzie suggesting it was too long and asked if I should shorten it or re-tape. She responded with “Love it! Don’t’ change a thing!!!” So I trusted, and I let it go.
The next week, she texted me that I had a callback. Hooray! So, McKenzie and my wife were right. They are clearly smarter than I am. And this time, they had sides from the script that I could prepare.
In preparing from the script, I had no idea this was a scene from the 1st episode of Stargate Origins. I arrived at the production office in Glendale with headshot and resume in hand. Callbacks can be tricky; you know they liked you enough to bring you back, but because they bring in several others for the same role, anything can happen.
Walking into the hallway, there was a sea of male actors. German-looking actors, actors speaking with British accents, and a guy with glasses, who didn’t look much the others, leaning up against the wall….Connor Trinneer!
Funny thing was, with his glasses on I didn’t’ recognize him as the actor who played Michael Kenmore in Stargate: Atlantis and Commander ‘Trip’ Tucker in Star Trek Enterprise. My wife and I had just finished the full Enterprise series only months ago, so I should have recognized him, but alas I wasn’t wearing my glasses. Curious, at one point I asked him which role he was reading for. And only then at very close range, when he looked right at me, I recognized him as the actor I knew from the screen.
As I wandered back over to my seat, I thought, “No, way! This just got real.”
Phillip and Justin
Phillip Alexander was there too. I didn’t know him yet, but I remember hearing his voice. “Good British chap,” I thought. I wonder how he’ll do?” (Spoiler alert: he did really well and landed the part of Beal.) I don’t’ remember specifically seeing Justin Michael Terry at auditions, there were so many actors present… but Justin and I agreed on one thing when we spoke later: we had the same thought when Derek walked in…
As I was waiting, seated comfortably, another actor walked in holding a script for the same role I was reading for. It’s a moment we dread at callbacks, the guy with the same sides who looks much more like I imagined the role than I do. Its bad news, mentally… as an actor, I try to stay focused on what is under my control, but sometimes it is hard. This guy looked exactly like the description of the role I was auditioning for. Ahahaha! This was Derek Chariton. Justin and I thought the exact same thought: “He’s perfect for this.” So I had to buckle back down, and focus on what I was doing in the scene, and worry about making my audition time the best it could be.
The casting associate called my name from the sign in sheet. They brought me into a large room with a white cyclic floor (rounded corners for shoots). I met Mercedes, the director, for the first time. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was surprised by how young and friendly she was.
The casting directors, Jami Rodolfski and Christy Faison were also both very kind and professional, which was really nice because the casting process can be a rattling one.
I stood in front of the camera with my sides, they pressed record, and I did the scene.
Mercedes was complimentary and wanted me to add a new element to my read. This is almost always a good sign. So I repeated the scene, this time working her direction into my read. She seemed to appreciate my adjustment and had me do a short speech in German. Luckily, I spoke enough German to pull this off.
So, I did the speech, in German, directly into the camera lens. I finished quickly, and that was that.
Then there’s that awkward moment… where the actor stands ready to repeat the scene with new direction, or to be asked to do something else, or simply to leave. And sometimes you just have to wait for them to see which one it will be.
Mercedes, Jami, and Christy all looked at each other… looking to see if anyone needed to see anything else. Nope, they had seen enough (Sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing!) They kindly thanked me for coming in, so I headed out, beginning my long walk back to my car.
This is where the actor’s brain starts judging how well they did… even before leaving the room! Did I give it all I had? Did I make it easy for them to cast me? Did I screw it all up? So on my way out, I did something a bit risky. I handed Mercedes a copy of one of my films, “Saints and Soldiers Airborne Creed”.
It’s a film that I co-wrote and acted in from 2012. It’s one of my absolute favorite films that I’ve ever worked on. I still get jobs from it, and 95% of my dialogue is in German. I had a really good feeling about this project I was auditioning for. I wanted to show the director another reason to cast me. I had no idea that this project, Stargate Origins, would become another one of my all-time favorite on-set experiences.
I don’t’ know if Mercedes ever watched it. I never asked. But…I got some very good news a few weeks later: I got the part!
Lincoln Hoppe is an actor, writer, and filmmaker in Los Angeles, CA.
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