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Adam Scott Talks About Audition Room Nerves

October 7, 2016

Adam Scott’s career has grown consistently yet somewhat sporadically over the course of many years. But since portraying characters like the ultra-confident, jerky Derek Huff in Step Brothers as well as the brilliant but socially awkward Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation, the actor’s career has taken a leap forward. Indeed, his career is currently hitting full stride. In a recent interview with Sam Jones on The Off Camera Show, he spoke about audition room nervousness he’s long battled as well as the effect these jitters had on the kinds of roles he landed.

“I auditioned for ‘Scream,’ and for ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer,’ and all those…I just didn’t get any of them. I was always so nervous,” Scott admits. Describing himself as pretty bad at auditions, he adds, “But I’d be good if the character was supposed to be nervous. So for a long stretch, I would get all these nervous guys.”

When he first arrived in Los Angeles to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, Scott quickly auditioned for a part in the movie Wild Bill. Much to his astonishment, he was invited back, but this time to read with the lead, Jeff Bridges. “I came back and I mean the nerves were insane. Jeff Bridges…in full ‘Wild Bill’ character–it was amazing. I was 19, I guess, standing there going, ‘If I get this part, a lead in a Walter Hill-Jeff Bridges movie, like what’s going to happen? I just got here.’ And I choked tremendously.” He is certain that Walter Hill took pity on him. “And I always wonder like how different would my life be if I actually like sucked it up, and figured out how to relax and do a good job there.”

But being able to voluntarily relax when you want is not so easy for actors or non-actors for that matter. In the long run, what helped Scott turn down the volume on his audition room nerves was to use what had long worked for him–in fact, ever since he was a kid. Even after being introduced to a number of different acting approaches, Scott largely relied on his natural acting instincts, which he describes as “basically doing what I used to do in my bedroom as a little kid: pretending.” The habit of watching hours on end of TV shows inspired him to love make believe–and the thought of becoming an actor for that matter. And pretending was what helped him in the audition room: He learned to fake self-assurance before casting directors. Soon, he wasn’t a sure bet for the “nebbishly, nerdy loser” types, but was instead cast as what he describes as “overconfident a–hole types.”

But he still insists, “I still get nervous on TV sets or movie sets.”

Nevertheless, in 2015 he starred in the film Black Mass alongside Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch following the career of the infamous mobster Whitey Bulger. Scott’s upcoming projects include portraying a disabled person in My Blind Brother; and he has roles in Netflix’s biopic film The Most Hated Woman in America, a spoof on the X-Files called Ghosted, and he will star in a coming-of-age feature Flower.