Today’s topic is what to wear to an audition. Specifically for movies and television shows. Whether it’s an in person audition, a self taped audition, what should you wear? How much should you dress like the character you are auditioning for? Let me tell first you what I’ve been told most often in my career and then I’ll share some tips from two casting directors.
The advice that I’ve heard most often throughout my career is that you should dress to suggest the character. Meaning you should definitely wear something similar to what your character might wear but not to go overboard. For example, if you were auditioning for a football player, it might be a good idea to wear workout clothes or an Underarmour shirt or something like that to your audition but you wouldn’t want to go to your audition in full pads and jersey and helmet. Another example would be a soldier. You may want to audition with a green t-shirt but maybe not full on combat fatigues.
This is the advice that you will get from probably 75% of the people in the industry. Is to suggest the character but not go overboard with the costume.
The reason is that if you go to your audition in a full blown “costume”, one, it could look like you are trying too hard and that you are using your costume to overcompensate for your mediocre acting. And two, the costume could end up being a distraction and taking attention away from your performance.
So hopefully that makes sense, to dress to suggest the character but not go overboard.
Ok, now that we’ve covered all that, let me tell you what a couple casting directors have to say about what to wear to an audition.
The first casting director is Sharon Bialy out of Los Angeles. She wrote a book called How to Audition on Camera. I highly recommend this book. I’ll put a link to it in the description below.
One of the chapters in the book is titled “Should I Dress in Character?” Sharon writes:
Every teacher And every coach will give you a different answer to this question, but my advice is to “suggest" the character in the way that feels most comfortable to you. If dressing for the role helps you get into character and slide into another persona, then by all means do so.
So she also says to suggest the character but her explanation of it is quite different. She’s saying to suggest the character in whatever way that will work best for you and if that means to go all out and wear the full costume, then by all means do it.
A lot of people will not recommend this approach but this is coming from a very well known and respected casting director in the industry. And I’ve actually seen this work for people. I remember a few years ago I was at a callback for a movie and the role was for a police officer. I distinctly remember there was an actress at that callback who was dressed in full police uniform. And she was the only person at that callback in full police uniform. Most people, including me, just wore a blue or a black button down shirt. But guess who booked the role? The girl who wore the full uniform. Now I’m not saying the uniform is what got her the part but it certainly didn’t lose her the part as some people might warn will happen.
That worked for her. It’s not going to work for everyone. And even though I personally witnessed it working for another actor, I still won’t dress in full costume for my auditions because it’s just not something that I personally think will work for me. And there’s another big advantage to not dressing in full costume for an audition and I first heard this from another casting director.
Recently I was on a Zoom call with Jordan Brown, a casting director here in Atlanta. I asked Jordan what her thoughts were on actors dressing in full costume for auditions. She mentioned one potential drawback that a lot of actors don’t take into consideration. And that is, if you dress in full costume, you make it harder for the producers to consider you for other roles in the project.
Understand that whenever you audition, you’re never just auditioning for that one part. It’s very common for them to say “You know what? You may not be right for this role but we can tell you’re a good actor so can you read for this other role as well?” That has happened to me many times. Or, even better, they could say “You know what? We don’t think you’re right for this role but there’s another role in this project that you’re perfect for. We want to book you.” And boom, you get offered a role without even auditioning for it. That happened to me in 2017 with the movie Venom. I auditioned for a role and didn’t end up getting it. Two weeks later they called my agent and offered me a different role that I never auditioned for. They booked me off of my audition for the other character.
So when Jordan Brown says that dressing in full costume could potentially take you out of consideration for other roles, she means that if you go to an audition in full police officer uniform, they could be also casting the role of a teacher that day. And maybe they would have considered you for the role of the teacher but since you’re dressed 100% as a police officer, it’s harder for them to visualize you in the role of the teacher. But let’s say, instead of the full uniform, you wore a button down shirt and dress pants. Those clothes could suggest both a police officer and a teacher. And many other potential roles.
So, I’m not telling you to never dress in full costume for an audition. Because like I said, I’ve seen it work for people. And Sharon Bialy, the casting director out of LA says you do whatever works best for you. But I just want you to take into consideration the potential drawbacks of doing so.
Alright, that’s my take on “what to wear to an audition?” Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about this and which approach you agree with. Until next time, keep learning, keep practicing, and I look forward to seeing you on set one day.