Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Over 1,000 times I have auditioned and did not get the part. Not once was it a failure.
Sometime last year, I ran into my friend Paul in Midtown. It had been a couple days since I had auditioned for this Showtime series and I was on edge waiting for casting to get back to us. Consumed in self-doubt, fear, and desperation, I wanted to get out of my head and asked him how he was doing. We began talking about where we were mentally and emotionally. The already established network TV actor said it had been a hard couple of years struggling with depression and hardly any acting gigs. “I decided to live in my darkness” he said, “to accept it and to recognize its existence and allow it to pass whenever it decided to do so.” Then his eyes lit up and he quietly confided he had just booked the biggest role of his life on a new series. He didn't have to say it - I knew. We had been up for the same role and he got it. And for the very first time in my life I was happy I didn't get the job. This run-in was no coincidence.
"I didn’t lose the role.
It was never mine to begin with."
I couldn't be angry! I was far too engulfed in his joy because I was let in on the darkness he had lived through. I finally experienced what most people in this business will never taste: Acceptance. I didn’t lose the role. It was never mine to begin with. That part was destined for somebody else. Someone who was more right for it. Who needed it more than I did. Someone else’s number was called that day. I was simply included as an additional option. I couldn’t help but be delighted the part was his. He endured the inevitable but temporary misery that accompanies the day-to-day pursuit of this craft. And he was subsequently rewarded with the release from that deep dark god damned place where we’ve all been or soon will enter. It was a profound thing experience. It changed everything for me. It's been easier ever since.
J.K. Rowling endured years of depression and poverty, and after Harry Potter had been famously turned down by 12 publishers, Bloomsbury decided to take it on... What if she gave up after the 12th "no"?
This may be a shock to you...But I firmly believe that not booking a role is just as much a part of acting as booking one. It teaches you humility, and patience. It gives you character, adding to the struggle which makes your story victorious. Who came up with “rejection”? What an asinine term we tag to every opportunity that we think is ours for the taking. Rejection suggests we are not accepted, we've fallen short, and we're not good enough. What a lie! Considering it rejection robs you of the oh-so-important experience an audition offers regardless of the result. So every time I don’t book a job, I’m “rejected”? What about when I kick ass and they ended up going with a name or someone who has 500,000 more followers than me? I’m not supposed to book every role I go out for. In fact, incorporating the principles of probability, I’m not supposed to book most roles. There are 2000 people who couldn’t even get in the room, so I’m lucky just to be an option. An actor auditioning is like a construction firm throwing out their bid for a new building, pitching them a presentation of what they we can offer should their services be employed. After that, it’s up to the director and producers to hire them or not. I’m not rejected, I’m simply “not chosen”. Someone else was more suited for it than I was. There are countless variables completely out of my control. Perhaps the person who booked it reminded the director of their brother. Maybe I reminded them of their ex. He was closer in height to the costar. He had lighter hair or darker eyes. Perhaps they were looking for someone with a specific distinguishable physical component. They went with someone of the opposite sex. The fact is, it wasn’t me. Do I waste my coveted energy denying reality? No. The minute I step out of that audition room, I forget about it. The sides are immediately thrown out and I’m off to the next opportunity that will inevitably knock on the door. The universe hates desperation. So do casting directors, by the way.
Most everything is out of our control. However, there are some things that are in our control that can improve the chances of a booking. One of these is keeping up our appearance by taking care of our skin, bodies, and voice. If you’re hung-over they can tell. Being mentally clear allows us to be present. If you’re not in a good emotional state, they can tell. Preparing the sides well enough to navigate the piece freely is essential. If you’re not prepared, they can tell.
If I don’t book a role, perhaps it’s not a total success, but it’s definitely not a total failure. I got practice, worked that muscle, I learned something, and someone in that room now knows who I am. I logged one more day that I didn’t throw in the towel. And when I do book a job, I’m more responsible and grateful reflecting on all those days that I didn’t.
Tommy Beardmore is a NYC-based Film and TV Actor with appearances on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Chicago PD, BULL, and Shameless. @TommyBeyond