Casting directors often audition nearly a hundred actors (or more) a day. Assistant Casting Director (formerly of As the World Turns) Kate Martineau Adams gives us an insider’s view of what the casting directors look for and how an actor can stand out in the crowd.
Susan Dansby: Can you talk about how many people you might see for one role on a soap opera?
Kate Martineau Adams: Well, for roles such as Reid Oliver (a major recurring role), we would only see New York actors in that case; or people, possibly, who live in LA but would make themselves available as a New York hire. So, in that case, Mary Clay [Mary Clay Boland, Casting Director for As the World Turns] would usually be seeing around 80 actors for that role.
For a contract role, she would be seen 200+ people from New York, LA, Miami, Canada, Chicago. We would get tapes in from everywhere. And, back in the old days when we had real money, she would fly to LA. But then, after that, we just started having people put themselves on tape and send it. It would be an exhaustive search for a contract role.
Susan Dansby: When you’re looking at 80 actors who are reading the same scene, what’s the percentage — just in a ballpark — of how many of those people are giving you exactly the same, surface reading?
Kate Martineau Adams: Probably mid-90%.
Susan Dansby: Exactly. So, that’s where that training really does come in, in terms of adding texture and uniqueness.
Kate Martineau Adams: Usually we’re setting up one big session; so, we’ll see maybe 60 people in a day. That’s a full day of us seeing the same five-page scene, over and over. When you’re getting the exact, same reading, over and over, at some point you just kind of start to check out a little bit. So, it really jars you back when somebody comes in and does do something a little different.
So many people don’t actually make choices when they get their scene, they are so focused on having it be natural that it ends up just being — it’s a natural delivery; but it’s totally boring because there’s nothing going on underneath. So you get the exact, same thing.
But when you have somebody who thinks about the character, thinks about where that person is coming from, and what they bring to it as their own, individual person — that’s when you get somebody who makes these very specific choices and has an answer for everything that’s going on in that scene. Whether it’s an obvious question or if it’s something more subtextual.