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We just work with the best actors

We just work with the best actors
– diversity doesn’t come into it

But what does “best” actually mean? And does one person’s idea of “best” correlate with another’s? Possibly not.

There are certain key technical skills anyone would probably agree actors need to have. Beyond that we get into the terrain of taste, which is tricky, because taste is subjective. It’s also open to being unhelpfully swayed by our unconscious bias as well as our conscious bias or prejudices.

It is easy for any group of people that dominate power, resources and decision-making to dictate what is considered “good taste” or the “best”. That’s not because they alone possess the ability to detect excellence, but because their platform enables them to have a loud voice – and (often unintentionally) drown out other people’s different but equally valid opinions.

We only need to watch movies and recordings of theatrical productions from previous eras to see that what is considered “good” acting is a movable feast, influenced by shifting fashions and sensibilities. There is no universal, timeless definition of what “good” acting is or looks like.

Any of us involved in the casting process should go into it with an open mind and readiness to experience a different type of “good” or “best” we haven’t previously encountered – rather than an anxiety about finding something that replicates what we’ve already encountered or decided we want.

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Auditions aren’t level playing fields

Different people will perform differently in any given scenario. Take auditions: some actors will nail them. Others will struggle. This may be because the format of a typical audition doesn’t provide an environment in which they can do their best work or show off the best side of themselves. Not everyone is great at responding to notes on the fly or making an impression within the first 15 minutes of meeting a casting director or director. Because of this, perhaps sometimes we end up casting actors who are good at auditions, rather than those who would be the strongest choice for the role.

How well an actor does in an audition can depend in part on their circumstances. If you walk into an audition room feeling rested and well-prepared, and see people who you feel resemble you or with whom you share common ground (“you know so and so, I just did a job with him”) and you feel you are being assessed on your merits you’re more likely to do a good job.

If you head in feeling frazzled and stressed because you barely had time to arrange childcare or your access requirements for a short-notice audition, or you feel on a different wavelength to the people auditioning you, or unprepared because you’ve been working back-to-back shifts to pay the bills, or have concerns your sexual attractiveness is being assessed as much or more than your acting ability, that’s not likely to give you the best opportunity to show off what you’re capable of.

You will never know the exact circumstances of any actor walking into the room, but you can remind yourself that auditions are seldom a level playing field. Are there ways your auditions could be more flexible and responsive to the needs of different actors? How can you enable the widest range of actors to show off their best side in an audition?

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