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.


Jimmy Fallon’s Advice: “It’s Good to Be Scared”

August 18, 2016

For aspiring comedians, the thought of bombing in front of an audience can be enough to stop them from pursuing their dreams altogether. In this web exclusive of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy gives advice to comedians beginning their journey in stand-up comedy, and specifically addressing how to move forward after a failed joke or performance.

When an anonymous fan writes to ask him what he was afraid of before or during his first stand-up show and early career, Fallon responds:

“When you first start out bombing, you’re afraid of bombing onstage, and not being funny onstage. But if you look back on it, and that’s the whole fun of it, it’s just getting the nerve out there to just go up there and do your act. And the more you do it, the more you will bomb, the more comfortable you get at doing stand-up. And then, sometimes I’m not kidding, you look forward to bombing because it’s just something different, and it’s like, ‘How do I dig myself out of this hole?'”

Fallon shares one example of when he found himself unable to move beyond a failed joke. “I did one once in the Catskills at some resort,” he recalls. “Some dude got up to go the bathroom or something. And I made fun of him, I don’t know what the joke was, I was trying to work the crowd. And I was like, ‘All nerds: Report to the bathroom’ or something bad like that.” The unamused and intimidatingly large audience member stood confrontationally before Fallon and asked him, “What?” People were booing before Jimmy was reminded to continue telling jokes. Reliving that painfully awkward moment and rubbing his face, Jimmy admits, “I just couldn’t get out of it.”

Keep in mind, comedy was everything to the aspiring comic. He was obsessed with becoming a cast member of Saturday Night Live since he began watching the late night comedy show during his teen years. He once described the singularity of his career ambitions this way:

“This was my ultimate goal. If I ever cut into a birthday cake and made a wish, I would wish to be on SNL. If I threw a coin into a fountain, I would wish to be on SNL. If I saw a shooting star, I would wish to be on SNL….I had no other plan. I didn’t have friends, I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t have anything going on. I had my career, that was it.”

Fortunately, all the times he performed comedy in various shows and contests during his teen and college years gave him plenty of experience with success and failure onstage. Eventually, he dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles. Once there, he performed stand-up at The Improv, and joined classes with The Groundlings.

As luck would have it, in his early twenties, he was given the opportunity to audition for the Holy Grail: Saturday Night Live. However, much to his heartbreak, they passed on the young talent. But alas, he was given a second chance to audition for the show. This time he passed with flying colors. In fact, he even managed to make the notoriously straight-faced creator of the show, Lorne Michaels, laugh aloud. In 1998, Fallon fulfilled that SNL dream, and remained a cast member till 2004. Of course, he continues to have a prolific career as a comedian, television host, actor, singer, writer, and producer to this day.

Addressing the fear of bombing onstage, Fallon says, “I bombed so many times.” But he concludes, “Don’t be afraid to be afraid. Eventually you look back and you’re like, ‘Oh, I remember when I used to be scared of those things.’ And it’ll help you get strong.”


Matt Damon on Nerves

April 25, 2016

The late great thespian Laurence Olivier was said to be so nervous before stage performances he needed a bucket in the wings in case he lost his dinner. Robert Pattinson has admitted to hating auditions with a passion because, “I get so nervous, like cripplingly nervous.” And Emma Stone has confided that she often needs to use coping strategies to deal with occasional panic attacks. There are many ways to deal with nerves and anxiety in relation to auditions and acting including deep breathing, positive visualizations, vigilant preparation, listening to soothing music, and consistent sleep, exercise and meditation. But, possibly the simplest and most effective advice in regards to acting nerves comes from the one and only Matt Damon. Matt is an Academy Award winner, and A-lister, and he’s acted alongside many legendary actors in his young life. Not to mention he’s kicked serious butt as the unstoppable Jason Bourne! Matt’s advice to deal with nerves is to simply “make a decision to not be nervous.” This is actually advice he received from Tom Hanks on the set of Saving Private Ryan. In this Australian ABC News interview, Matt shares the first time he heard this helpful approach:

“I was asking [Tom] about the movie he did with Jackie Gleason. I said, ‘What was it like to work with Jackie Gleason?’ And he thought about it for a second and he said, ‘You know, I made a decision to not be nervous.’ And I went, ‘What?’ And he goes, ‘I knew everyone was so nervous around him. And I just said I’m not going to be nervous around him. And once he realized I was treating him like a fellow human being, we really had this great working relationship.'”

Turns out, this was the strategy the star-struck Damon tried to use when interacting with the celebrated Tom Hanks on set as well. After all, we’re all human, and certain people–maybe a big-time producer, major star, or renowned casting director–can trigger a serious case of the butterflies right when you’re hoping to be on top of your game.

This uncomplicated advice illustrates the enormous personal power you possess as an actor. The mind is a powerful thing; consciously controlling your thoughts might make all the difference in the way you approach people and situations. And if you can make a decision to not be nervous, what else can you make a decision to do?

What Could You Have Done Better in Your Audition?

February 11, 2016

When you exit the audition room, do you find yourself mulling over what went well and what went “wrong?” Actors really put themselves on the line in auditions regardless of their skill and experience levels. And the pressure to get it “right” amidst all the competition can potentially wreak havoc in the actor’s mind. Maybe you’ve noticed this with a fellow actor who calls you up after an audition to give you a play-by-play description of exactly how it went.

Now, Bryan Cranston has spoken about a revelation he once had in his career which inspired him to stop going into auditions “trying to get a job.” Rather, he changed his focus to creating “a compelling, interesting character that serves the text, presented in the environment where your audition happens, and then you walk away–and that’s it. Everything else is out of your control, so don’t even think of it….And there it is; you walk away.”

By emphasizing the “walking away,” it sounds like Cranston highlights the finality of the audition process, and whatever happens in there doesn’t consume him after he leaves. This is practical advice to keep things in perspective, and indeed Cranston attributes this outlook as a breakthrough in his career. But what about if you’re an actor who’s still working on your skill set? What if you’re very much in the midst of finding out which techniques work and don’t work for you whether it be in the acting-skills or self-confidence department? Choosing not to reflect upon the audition experience could be a valuable missed opportunity.

So where’s the balance between, on one hand, overdoing the self-reflection, and on the other hand, self-assuredly letting go of the experience? Master Talent Teacher Carolyne Barry has some constructive advice on how talent can review experiences that occur in the audition room in a healthy way, and keep your overall skill set advancing forward. In this video clip, Barry states:

“…Most actors after the audition tend to either forget about it totally or beat themselves up. Neither one of those scenarios is healthy or productive or even creative. I suggest that after your audition you walk away thinking, ‘Okay, what did I do good?’ I’m sure that if you really analyze it you will know what you did well. And then that could be reinforced. But then you think about two or three things that you could do better–not that what you did wrong–but what you could do better. And then you go home and you practice those two or three things. You get a camera whether it’s an iPhone or a regular video camera, and you shoot yourself practicing what you could do better–not lines, but certain things that you could have done better. And so that your acting keeps improving.”

Barry asserts that with this practice, your acting will improve with each audition you go on. When you enter the audition room doors with the frame of mind that this is a learning process, maybe that can help minimize nerves as well.

Have you ever tried this exercise? Have you ever used your cellphone or tablet as a tool to improve your techniques? How do you handle your thoughts after exiting the audition room doors? Please share.