A reader is essentially an assistant. Someone who solely exists to aid the Casting Director in whatever they need throughout an audition process. You bring in the talent, you setup their mic (if the audition is being taped) and, obviously, you read with them. Usually this is an unpaid gig that makes for a fairly long day. Now, as an actor you’re probably thinking this doesn’t sound too ideal, right? You most likely would rather be the one auditioning. Well I’m here to tell you just how valuable being a reader actually is for your career.
I recently had the opportunity to be a reader for two incredibly established Casting Directors during pilot season. One of them was Marci Phillips, the Executive Director of ABC Casting and author of The Present Actor: A Practical and Spiritual Guideline to Help You Enjoy the Ride. Working with Marci was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had as an actor thus far. When I spoke with Marci she explained that, among other things, “e;being a reader allows an actor to see the audition process from a safe vantage point.”
This brings me to the first reason why every actor should be a reader:
1. NO PRESSURE. Think about it – there’s absolutely nothing to be nervous about. You’re able to go to a professional audition and act, without the fears and insecurities that usually attack your mind. People would PAY for such an opportunity. It’s like therapy. You can sit back, relax and observe. Eyes are not on you. In fact, for once you’re one of the eyes watching. And usually it’s a pretty well known actor. “e;It’s (being a reader) also a fun opportunity to act with actors that you may admire”, says Marci. Who knows, maybe you and your favorite actor could even become friends during your reader stint. Which brings me to…
2. NEW FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES. Talk to everyone you can! Being a reader gives you access to a whole network of connections. Don’t be jealous of the actor you’re seeing perform a 2 minute scene. Instead, try to ease their nerves before bringing them in and maybe even get to know them! Besides, there’s no reason to be jealous, because you’re the one who gets to hang out with the casting director ALL day. Be sure to chat with them too. This way they’re not only able to hear you read countless times, but can see your personality. Ultimately, no matter what, you’re going to be on their radar. Making a connection with a CD is pretty invaluable as an actor. “e;We always strive to get the best actors possible as Readers — I’ve had at least a few who were later cast in Series that I taped them for!” says Marci. Even if you don’t get a job out of it, I can guarantee being a reader will change your outlook on the Casting Director population as a whole and therefore make auditions look a hell of a lot less scary.
3. THE OTHER SIDE. Perhaps one of the coolest elements of all is that you’re on the opposite end of an audition. You get to watch all different actors come in and out of the room. You’re able to see a variety of acting styles, looks and a ton of nerves. After a while you start to realize that you’ve probably looked like some of these guys at an audition or three. The actor who fumbles words, the one who dresses the part, the person who clearly didn’t prepare enough, but instead thought they’d wing it! (props to the people who can do that successfully). My point is you may see yourself in one of the actors auditioning and learn what you like or don’t.
Marci explains that, “Watching the same scene done all day by multiple actors can illustrate what works in the room and what doesn’t. Everything from the way one handles themselves personally to how important it is to give a unique take – these are all invaluable lessons.”