CASTING DIRECTOR G. CHARLES WRIGHT’S COMEDY AUDITION ADVICE
G. Charles Wright, Casting Director (“The Middle,” “That ’70s Show,” “Anger Management”)
G. Charles Wright is a 20 year veteran of TV casting, a career he says he was studying for his entire life and didn’t know it! A graduate of USC with a degree in communications (emphasis on television, critical studies), G. has been on both sides of the camera as an actor, a casting director, a content creator, a producer and a director. In addition, G’s been teaching actors how to audition in his private studio classes since 2002: http://www.gcharleswright.com
G started in casting at 33 years old, interning for Carsey/Werner studios on 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN. Shortly after that, he moved up the ranks from assistant to associate, and finally to casting director on THAT ’70S SHOW, covering 7 of the series’ 8 seasons. G is the original casting director of the PBS and Jim Henson Company animated series, SID THE SCIENCE KID; the FX channel’s ANGER MANAGEMENT starring Charlie Sheen; the ABC comedy series, THE MIDDLE, starring Patricia Heaton; and the IFC horror/comedy series from Dana Gould, STAN AGAINST EVIL. All in all, G has over 500 episodes of television still running in syndication and streaming.
What do actors need to remember in their preparation for a TV comedy as a opposed to a TV drama audition?
It’s mostly the same, specifics, but with comedy you also need to be conscious of where the jokes are and how your role plays into delivering those jokes. Too often, actors try to make things funny while ignoring the actual jokes. This shows a lack of experience and simple understanding of comedy.
Do actors have the freedom to improv during a TV comedy audition as opposed to a TV drama audition?
No, absolutely not. Improvising dialogue works well for commercial actors most of the time, but not in a scripted television format. There are many reasons for this, including the timing and execution of jokes, which is crucial to verbatim dialogue. Additionally, TV shows are rigidly formatted and timed to fit into a pre-determined window of screen time between commercials and other scheduling. Adding dialogue can mess up that timing. On occasion, an actor will be allowed license to improvise a word here or there, but it’s impossible to know which writers will be open to that during your audition, so the best way to proceed is to prepare just like you would prepare for a theatrical stage audition and learn your lines as written. What should actors remember as they prepare to audition for a single camera TV comedy as opposed to a multi-camera TV comedy?
The big note is volume and pacing. A multi-cam show plays a bit like a stage play where volume and pacing rule the momentum. The trap, though, is moving around a lot. Try to keep your audition performance body-language simple and with very little movement. Which background do you think benefits an actor most as they pursue a career in TV comedy: stand-up, improv or sketch comedy?
I’m not sure that any background benefits over another, but the way one approaches it is important. Not being lazy; showing up on time; doing more work than is required; giving it your complete and undivided attention; and being easy to work with and get along with are the secrets to success anywhere. In this business of show, you must be excellent at all of the above, because these jobs are all self-motivating, meaning these fields do not move you along on a trajectory by themselves. It’s entirely up to you and your ability to stay afloat during long periods of industry inactivity. What is the most important quality an actor should bring to a TV comedy Lead character?
Specifics, specifics, specifics and… the “it” factor. It’s an intangible quality and you either have it or you don’t. Sometimes, you have it with one character, but not another. When do you feel confident to audition a dramatic actor for a comedic role?
When they have extensive stage comedy experience. What do successful comedic actors do well in order to stand out in such a competitive comedy landscape?
See my answers to questions #4 and #6 above. Stay active on the stage, or in your own streaming video projects. Never stop performing, even if you aren’t being paid. Keep working at the craft. You only get worse through inactivity, or better through hard work. You never stay the same. How important is doing theatre for a young comedic actor?
Acting starts on the stage; the lessons and academics of this cannot be duplicated. It is crucial. What are some things you don’t like actors to do at auditions?
I don’t like when actors are rude, don’t listen, under-prepare and/or get locked into a memorized “by the numbers” performance that cannot be adjusted. I don’t like when they leave trash in the lobby. Also, go easy on the perfumes and body sprays. Do you think that there are good comedic actors who are not particularly good at auditioning?
Tons. It’s why I’ve been teaching audition technique classes privately for over 17 years. Getting good at auditioning can make a mediocre actor a working actor while a good actor sits at home. Get more information on signing up for my classes at http://www.gcharleswright.com What do you enjoy most about casting? The artistry of finding the right combination of actors for a show is my favorite part of my job. I love the chemistry of it and the interactions with performers, writers and directors. I also love the on-set catering. A lot. Finally, what are your tips for comedic actors?
Study comedy every day. Make friends with comedic actors that possess a strong work ethic. Surround yourself with positive, passionate performers. And take my classes. Seriously.