You’re up for a role that requires chemistry with another actor. If the chemistry is not right, you could lose the job; whereas, if you two convincingly hit if off, you’re that much closer to landing the part.

How I Met Your Mother‘s Cristin Milioti is familiar with the pressure of establishing chemistry between acting partners. “You feel kind of like a courtesan,” she explains. Cristin describes her rapport with one past fellow actor this way: “We had the chemistry of two chairs,” although she says he was a “very lovely” person. In that instance, she lost the job. But this season Milioti is co-starring on a new NBC romantic comedy series, A to Z, about a couple who is falling in love after meeting through an internet dating site. It’s safe to say, she and co-star Ben Feldman convinced casting and the producers of their supposed mutual attraction. She told Vulture, “When I read with Ben, I felt like, ‘Oh, I’m with a friend at a bar.’ It didn’t feel like I’m in a room full of executives. It’s just like when you meet a new friend. You meet the person at a party and you’re like, ‘Wait a second, you also think that?’ of ‘You also laugh at poop jokes?'”

Milioti says she believes that chemistry is “absolutely innate.” She’s not alone in feeling this way. But whatever your thoughts on chemistry are, don’t allow the lack of personal chemistry rule you out for any role in the audition room. Instead, give it all you’ve got. Here’s why.

Whether casting is seeking a romantic bond, a best-friend pairing, or a believably competitive relationship between co-workers, actors don’t need to rely on what actual chemistry they have with the other actor–although it certainly helps matters when things come naturally. But when chemistry proves to be an uphill battle, it’s your job to convince casting that you’re deeply invested in the relationship even though you’re not, and even if your partner’s skills are lacking, he or she is unhelpful, or if the pairing is awkward. Fortunately, your job description does not require you to actually like the person. Think of I Love Lucy‘s friendly neighbors, Fred and Ethel Mertz, who exhibited exceptional chemistry and comedic timing; in real life the actors, William Frawley and Vivian Vance were reported to loathe each other, and Vance would immediately skim through scripts to count how many scenes she needed to perform with “that stubborn-headed little Irishman.” Debra Winger and Shirley Maclaine in Terms of Endearment are another example of feuding actors who needed to work hard to achieve onscreen chemistry–as well as Debra Winger and Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman. But now, that’s acting!

Just as you can act as if you’re enjoying your tenth bottle of cola on a commercial set like it’s your first sip on a hot summer day, you can act as if you are truly drawn to that person for whom you feel absolutely nothing. Ask yourself: What you would do if you were actually in these circumstances with the love of your life or with your best friend? Together you two can use the flaws of you actual relationship and purposefully weave them into your performance. After all, romantic relationships often have layers of emotions–not all of which are warm and fuzzy. That’s what makes them real. And remember, casting usually looks first for individuals, and then experiments with a variety of pairings during callback times. So, even if your partner in first calls doesn’t seem to be pulling his or her weight, as long as you’ve done your part, you have a decent chance of being called back. Directors and commercial executives are known to spend hours at callbacks mixing a variety of actors. There are instances when an actor may be asked to be partnered with several different actors. If that’s you, show them how adaptable and reliable you are. And when you eventually land a role, don’t be surprised if you arrive on set and discover you’re paired up with a different actor from the callback. Just keep doing your thing.

Here is an example of that magical chemistry coming together effortlessly.

And here’s an example of chemistry that didn’t come so naturally. Richard Gere and Debra Winger were said to have argued constantly on the set of An Officer and a Gentleman. Winger described it as one of the worst experiences of her life–and then went on to be nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her performance.

Have you ever found a way to transform a lack of personal rapport with another actor into onscreen chemistry? Please share!

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