Do the research. Who and what are you coming in for? Specifically, if you’re coming in for a show that is a series, watch a couple of episodes and become familiar with the style of the show. Is it half-hour or one-hour? Single-camera or multi-camera? Know the differences. What network is it on, and what’s the style of that network? If it’s a film, who’s the director, what type of films does he/she do, what is his/her style, pace, actor preference, etc.? Do research on the casting directors, what kinds of films they cast, the types of actors they favor, etc. This will make you better equipped when preparing the material.
Dress the attitude, not the part. Don’t come in an elaborate costume. That’s just distracting, and it takes away from the audition. For example, I had an actor come in for an audition where the scene called for his character to be smoking. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it. First off, it’s illegal to smoke in a building, and secondly, it’s inconsiderate. You don’t have to go to this extreme to dress the part. Don’t come dressed or made up to look so different from the character that we really have to strain our imaginations to envision you in the role. But you can help us out a little in terms of the vibe of the character. As a bonus, what you are wearing can help you feel closer to the character.
Show range. This is especially true for a dramatic part. Some actors make the mistake of keeping a one-note intensity to their reading. Instead, design your reading with a more naturalistic dramatic build. Show us a range of emotion. A moment of intensity is much more effective than hitting us over the head with an overly drawn-out dramatic reading. Once again, less is more. Layer your performance with subtlety and nuance.
Timing is everything. This is especially true for comedy. Know your lines well enough to deliver them at the appropriate speed and with the right rhythm. Many a funny line has been butchered by a laborious delivery.
Don’t get discouraged. Most auditions will not lead to you getting the part. That’s the unfortunate reality. The trick is to take each audition experience, learn from it and maintain your dedication and enthusiasm. I had an actor come in once who was obviously a little discouraged by the business. He let his bitterness overtake him, and he made an obscene gesture that was directed at the people in the room as he walked out. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job. Every audition is a new opportunity, and a career can take off in an instant. Bring as much enthusiasm and self-belief as you can to every reading. It will brighten the energy in the room.
These tips are simple, but they’re important. And they work. You may be tempted to think it’s wasted effort if you don’t end up scoring the gig, but the opposite is true: Every time you put this work into an audition it informs and strengthens the next.