Keys to Booking a Procedural

June 13, 2016

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Procedural dramas, loosely defined as shows where a problem is introduced, investigated and solved in the course of an episode, are taking over television. Not only are there more than ever before, but there are more types than ever before. We have crime, legal, medical, (three new hospital dramas this season) military and science procedurals as well as procedurals that go all season long in the solving of a single crime.

In this landscape, you’ll have opportunities to audition for procedurals more than any other type of show. It is essential for you to have a way of working that allows you to recognize the genre, sub-genre, the type of role, the requirements of that role, and that also gives you the skills to still bring your singular point of view and voice to role.

Let’s take a brief look at three of the roles most commonly cast on crime procedurals as well as some tips on how to audition for them:

Booking a procedural role

Suspect:

These roles are usually comprised of a scene or scenes in which you are being questioned/interviewed by detectives. There are almost always two people doing the interrogating. It’s very important when auditioning for one of these roles to establish different relationships with each of the detectives – it’s a rookie mistake to lump them together. You can tell from the lines if there’s a good/bad cop dynamic taking place. If not, it’s up to you to decide, for example, which of the two you find more understanding and who you find more threatening. If you watch crime procedurals, you’ll notice during these scenes that the camera spends a lot of time on the suspects face, gauging their reaction to each detective’s questions. It is essential they see in the audition that you have the ability to have two separate relationships and sets of reactions.

Listening is paramount for the suspect. These are reactionary roles and casting directors will need to see that you can be just as interesting in your silences as you are when you’re speaking. Plus, there’s a lot at stake! If you’re the killer, you have to hear exactly what they’re saying in order to not step in a trap. And if you’re innocent, you need to prove it to them, by answering their questions believably. There are plenty of reasons to be active in your listening when you’re auditioning to be a suspect.

Witness:

When you’re auditioning for a witness to a crime, you need to bring a very strong intent to the story that you’re telling. You can’t just recount the incident. If you book the role you will be responsible for delivering the emotional content of the event, as well as the facts. A personal intent that resonates deeply with you will drive you through the description of the events and give the incident a heartbeat. It’s that heartbeat, so personal and urgent that will show the people in the room that you’re the strongest and most compelling choice for the role

Expert:

As our detectives move through their investigation they may seek the help of a forensic examiner, a coroner, a professor, a legal scholar or some other type of expert. These can be really fun and challenging roles to play. Here are some tips on how to “book the expert.”

You have to be believable in the profession that you’re auditioning for. This means having a sense of natural ease with any of the technical dialogue. If it doesn’t sound like a second language coming out of your mouth, you won’t get the job. When you’re preparing, have fun getting to know the sounds and feelings of the words, from how they feel crossing your vocal cords to where they resonate in your body. If you simply memorize the lines you’ll sound like an actor reciting. If you take the time to embody the words, you’ll sound like an expert speaking.

In order to bring all of that expert dialogue to life requires that you have a compelling relationship to your job. These roles often have no backstory and little emotional content and yet you are a person and people come alive in relationship to what/who is important to them. Really dig into the feelings you have for your job, how secure or insecure you are in it, if you’re passionate or tired etc. Make it interesting to you, so that the words contain the life and weight of the career as you feel it and as the expert lives it.

Also, as with the suspect, the relationships with the detectives are also key. Does the fact that you’re talking to detectives make you feel smug, enthusiastic, and defensive? And which one of them really bugs you?

When you watch crime procedurals you’ll see that the people who book these roles always have a strong point of view on what they do and how they share their expertise to the people in front of them.

Experts are easy roles to go generic on in an audition– don’t! The information that the expert conveys must be clear and memorable. It’s often the case that the outcome of the show hinges on something the expert said in the first 15 minutes of the episode and the audience needs to remember when and where they heard it. So, while you won’t be going into the audition to put on a huge show, you need to have great commitment to the specific decisions you’ve made for the piece. Your audition hinges on it


CraigWallace

Craig Wallace’s background in script development combined with his 16 years of coaching actors enables him to find the job getting moments that others miss. His expertise in breaking down text and years of coaching experience has made him “L.A.’s go to private coach.” Sign up for his group or private classes at wallaceauditiontechnique.com