Katie Sims, senior at USC and TMU contributor
It's an overcast but nonetheless gorgeous and miraculously traffic-free Saturday morning in LA. Though I'm flying down the 10 West towards Fairfax Avenue, I'm somehow still running late for brunch at Doughboy's Cafe with my good friend and working TV/Film/Stage actor Will Harris. This column is a great excuse to see him because between my insane class schedule and his work on the upcoming film In Time with Justin Timberlake, Nick Kazan's new play Mademoiselle God, and just auditioning like crazy, we don't get to see each other as much as we'd like. Will is an actor who is constantly auditioning, so after our meal winded down and we put in our order for a piece of Doughboy's Café's killer red velvet cake, I started in right away asking him all about the art of auditioning "Will Harris style." What do you like the most about your job? About my job? That's a trick question for the actor--what they like most about their job. Because my job really isn't to act, my job is to audition. That's true, that's true. We do it all the time. Landing a job is kind of the like icing. Yeah. I take the audition process a little more seriously than I take the acting process--professionally I guess. Because when you are working on a project, like on a play or on film, it's collaborative. But the audition process, it's like my baby. So then that part of the work is probably even more precious to me, you know what I mean? I just really love the audition process. And there are a lot of actors that don't love the audition process. In fact, there are a lot of actors that think that auditioning is the worst, you know? Which can be bad, but I kind of like the idea of going into the room and showing a sketch of something that I've created. Yeah. The good news is that if you have good taste as an actor and if you have a good work ethic and if you work with attention in the right places, then they are going to like your work no matter what. Then, it's just a matter of if they want to use your work. Because I've gone on many auditions, but even if I don't book a job, I always get a positive response. Because the work is tasteful. It's specific. And full. Yes, and full. And in the room. Really present in the room. That's the hardest thing to learn, about the audition process at least, is how to really be in there in the room. I mean the mentality shouldn't be, "Let me show you this thing!" You should have built a character or you should have built a secondary reality, but then instead of showing that, then you just live in that. In the room. That's the difference. And I like that about auditioning. And how do you prepare? Does your process change with each role or, over time, has it become very specific? I have a pretty specific way when I approach the work. I get a lot of inspiration from outward stimuli. Like, a lot of people work from the inside out. I'm kind of the opposite. I work from the outside in. This is so strange, but when I get the script or audition sides, I set up the scene first. I always need to know where I am. Because if I don't know where I am then for some reason my work is not good. I need the place. That's what informs me--where I am, what I'm doing, the person I'm with, even what I'm wearing--down to what's in my pockets. So, I like to audition without my wallet, phone, and keys. What other tools do you use as a way in?
I find if you keep asking, "why?" you get to the middle of it. "Why" as a question is a little like a shovel for the actor. Because if you keep asking why, and if you mean it, you always learn something. The more you dig, the deeper you get. Yup. Oh, and I also rehearse an audition with other people because it's good to get outside of yourself. And it's often really good to rehearse with people who aren't actors. Because they see things that people that aren't actors see. Yeah. It's practical. They get it from the audience standpoint, which is usually what the casting director wants from an audition. Oh, and I read the stuff on the audition sides that is crossed out in big, black marker. That's additional information about the story that you can grab onto in the short amount of prep time you have. And then the waiter comes with our cake. True to form, we each grab onto the nearest fork and dive in. Maybe eating red velvet cake with a dear friend is another apt metaphor for the creative process. Maybe if we, as actors, could be as ravenous in seeking each new piece of the story we are trying to tell as we are for each bite of red deliciousness, we'd all be in business.