"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dear Struggling Actress

I got an email from Aisha the other day:
I saw a breakdown on Actors Access that said: "Early to mid 20's. The ethnicity is open. White or Hispanic is preferred." This REALLY bugged me almost more than the "Nudity Required" in student films. Almost. Anywho I am disturbed because I feel like if a director wants a specific type, he/she should just say that and stick to it. Why even have the ethnicity open then? It seems like an, "I prefer this type, but I'll settle for this type". It sounded like a good character to play, and I couldn't decide whether or not to submit for the role. In the end I submitted myself (I'm black by the way) but now I'm regretting it. I mean wouldn't an actor feel inferior in the audition room knowing full well that they are really not being considered unless by some stroke of bad luck they weren't able to find a White or Latina actress? Am I making a bigger deal out of this than necessary? Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this.
 This is an excellent question and I'm glad you asked. I'm sure you've actually had a similar experience already when you go to a commercial audition and the room is filled with everyone from the rainbow. In fact, I had an audition a few days ago where there were two women with short afros laughing with the session runner that the copy actually read "A mostly Caucasian woman..."  What does that even mean!? And what did it mean to those giggling women who were coffee colored, the Asian actress, and the rest of us milky ones?

It means: options.

Directors, producers, and advertising companies don't even know what they want until she walks in the door, acts her socks off, and is perfect for the role. "She's exactly what we're looking for!" they say, even though the breakdown they put out says the complete opposite.

For open ethnicity, I say submit away. Be the option they didn't even know they wanted. Because if they bring you in, if ANYONE brings you in to an audition, they really are hoping that YOU are the one who books the role.

You ask, "wouldn't an actor feel inferior in the audition room knowing full well that they are really not being considered...?" But you are being considered. 

Maybe I am wearing a pair of beautiful rose colored glasses, but when I was casting a few projects, and we had open ethnicity, I brought in everyone from modelesque, to pretty, to character, to extreme character. It gave us a wider net, and all the reads were different based on who was reading. 


And if you ever feel inferior in the audition room, remember - even in a room filled with other African American women, I guarantee you are the only one who looks like you. So every single time you are in a waiting room, be it filled with others your type, or where you're the other option, know that no matter what, there's only one Aisha who looks like you. Act well, show all your acting strengths, and they won't see a black woman reading her sides...

They'll see an Actress who's perfect for the role. 

Break a leg at all your auditions!


  1. Thank you for this post. I am a "person of age" and not thin, not obese. I am healthy and fit, but, casting agents mean thin when they call for "fit." When I go to an audition that calls for ages 25 - 45 and everyone is younger than I am and wears a size 2, I feel strange and a bit awkward. I speak Spanish and French. If the person they are seeking needs to be Hispanic or French, I know I have at least a shot at the part. I have been getting a lot of gigs due to my "Latina" look, but I am of Swedish and Jamaican heritage. I have never seen a call for an actress with my background. So, I am always winging it and stretching the possibilities and the boundaries, trying to get seen by as many casting agents as possible. We cannot afford to be negative! But, we also must, in our hearts and souls, be realists.

  2. Bad answer. You really should refrain from describing people's skin color like that.

  3. From describing people's skin color as colors like coffee and milky?

  4. To add to Lira's response that the producers and directors really don't know what they want: A 35 year old white male acting teacher of mine was submitted for a role that oddly enough stated "black or African American woman 50s-70s." Now, you're thinking this was probably a mistake by his agent but actually it was on purpose just to mix things up for the CD's day. Know what? HE BOOKED IT. Not only was he the only male there he was also literally the EXACT opposite of what the breakdown stated they were 'looking for'.

    You can make any role yours and own it better then their target groups and this just goes to show that even if you think you don't match their specs, do it anyway and kick ass. You just might be surprised at how little they know about what they want:)


Play nice.