Green Shirt Studio

3 Tips for Dealing with Rejection From Auditions


I just finished casting for a play at a college where I teach. I’m very excited about my cast, a bunch of eager actors looking to get some stage experience, and I can’t wait to get started. But this morning I had to sit down and do what is, in my opinion, the worst part of directing any project: I had to send out the audition rejection emails.

I had about 100 people audition for the show and there are 11 roles. So, quick math test, that means about 90 percent of those who auditioned didn’t get cast. And that’s a pretty low percentage to be honest. I know of plenty of projects where more like 95-98 percent of those auditioning don’t get roles. I tell you this to say that, if you are an actor, rejection or at least not getting cast, is going to be a regular part of your life. So the question is, how are you going to learn to deal with it? Here are some tips.

  1. Remember that not getting cast does not equal not being good, not having talent or that they didn’t like you. This was the hardest thing for me to get through my head when I started acting. I used to take every instance in which I was not cast as a referendum on my ability and self-worth. I didn’t get cast? Well, that means I’m a bad person with no talent. How do you think that worked out for me? Yup. I made myself miserable and started to avoid auditioning. And that’s a good strategy for minimizing rejection, but a really bad strategy for ever acting again ever.The big shift in my thinking came when, in an audition class in grad school, we did mock screen tests for a bartender role in a film. All of my classmates and I read for the same part and then watched the auditions one after the other. Afterwards, our teacher asked us who we would cast given what we’d just seen. We all agreed and picked one of our classmates, a guy who struggled a lot in the program, and who, if I’m honest, I felt I was better than as an actor. But I had to admit, watching our auditions next to each other, I would have cast him as that bartender because he was just a more natural fit for the part. Here’s the point: You walk in the room with a look, an energy and a personality that you can only shape so far. You ultimately are who you are. Unfortunately, that means you are not right for every role. No one, and I mean NO ONE gets every part they audition for. Not Meryl Streep, not Lin Manuel-Miranda, not Denzel Washington. We have to learn to take care of the things we can actually do something about, like preparing our audition thoroughly and our professionalism in the room, and let go of the intangibles we can’t control.
  1. Make your own opportunities. There is something so few of the actors I know are willing to accept: You can always be working as an actor if you are willing to make that work for yourself. In a business full of closed doors and gatekeepers, there is nothing quite like putting in the work and getting to express your own artistic voice on terms you set. Have a role in a play you’re perfect for? Put together a group of passionate friends who inspire you, raise a bit of money and put it on yourself. Steppenwolf started that way. Have an idea for a film or pilot? Write it and shoot it. Cameras are more affordable than ever. You have no excuse. It takes time and energy and dedication, but so does doing anything worthwhile. Get in there and make it happen.
  1. Connect with your community. If you let it be, acting can be a crazy-making, lonely experience. There are so many times you will want to compare yourself to other people, bemoan the injustice of other people’s successes and generally make yourself feel insecure and petty. I’m certainly guilty of it in my own work and I know so many people who have given up on acting after a few years because they found themselves miserable. But what I’ve learned over the years is that the antidote to my own character defects, my penchant for making myself miserable, is surrounding myself and being a supportive member of a community of artists. The more I connect openly with my peers and friends, the more I am able to revel in their successes because I am proud to be a part of such a talented bunch of incredible people. And they support me in return and revel in my successes. Taking classes together, going to watch our friends’ shows together, and preparing for auditions together makes living the life of an actor all worthwhile on its own. When I get cast, it’s just a bonus. The real meaning comes from being a part of something bigger than myself.