I had the pleasure of sitting down with Director Kevin Emmons to discuss his unique insight on auditioning actors. The full exchange is in my new book, "I Booked it", but this info was too good not to share online too! Enjoy!

Judy: What can actors do to improve their auditions?

Kevin: Look, feel, and dress the part, from the moment you walk into the room with your head space in the part. The agency people are watching. If it is comedic, then by all means be funny. Who are the people that stand out? The ones that make eye contact and make a connection as a human to human. Ultimately, you are not only auditioning, but you are showing who you are as a person.

My number two pet peeve is when actors rush through the slate and profile, and they don’t smile. We want to see you, whether or not you're out of shape. Sometimes that is why you get picked. Embrace who you are . . . all your quirks. It is not about being perfect. We often look for the quirky. Present yourself. Take your time in the slate, in the understanding of the role. And if it is a scripted part, take the time to know it. Not in a memorized robotic fashion, because we don’t want to see a reading, either. But understand the script and know the content. When someone blows us away in a casting, it is because they took the time to become familiar with the material. That is your homework. Everybody has some kind of homework in life. The actor is usually a very undisciplined person. I see actors who book all the time, and it is because they are working hard.

Don’t worry about the run of the spot. You are making connections. Do the work and the rest of it will fall into place. I think the most frustrating parts of the process of selecting and finding talent are:

  • How often actors are unprepared. Someone who does a lot of commercial work gets better and better at it.
  • How they don’t understand the role they are seeking. What does it say? The agency and the director come up with specs for the casting office, so they will write the description of the character. Pay attention.
  • How they don’t dress for the part. Come to the casting appropriately dressed; you would be surprised how often people come dressed inappropriately. Do you know what a hipster looks like? He’s not a conservative 60-year-old in pinstripes.
  • Callbacks! Let’s say 100 people auditioned, I have six favorites and the agency has eight favorites. Sometimes they overlap and you have commonality. Now, if they have eight chosen for callback, and I have eight, and they are completely different, I get concerned that their vision of the commercial is different than mine. Still, if 16 people come to the callback and you end up with a great actor, it’s excellent!

This is an excerpt from Judy Kain's book "I Booked it" - now available online or at Keep it Real Acting.


Judy Kain has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television.

Some of her more well-known credits include a Television Series Regular on The Jackie Thomas Show and a Recurring role on the Emmy-winning show Mad Men, a role which won her a SAG Award.  Her other favorite recurring credits include Married with Children, For Your Love, Grosse Pointe, and Manhattan, AZ with Chad Everett.  She has done numerous guest appearances on the hit shows Modern Family,The Middle, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, The District, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Friends,and The Drew Carey Showjust to name a few.   Her teaching career has also lead to immense success, being voted BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE ON-CAMERA COMMERCIAL TEACHER IN LAin 2010 and 2011.  Her other acting classes have won BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE IN LA as well, and continue to produce amazing results for her students. She teaches Advanced Callback, Commercial A to Z and Commercial Wednesday Workouts.

Kevin Emmons

Kevin Emmons

Kevin Emmons is a Director & Cinematographer who has shot everything from documentaries in China, Russia & Tibet,  to the advertising world of autos,  fashion, sports, athletes, celebrities, effects and lifestyle spots.

One of the few commercial DPs inducted into the prestigious Society of Operating Cameramen (SOC) and working with an extensive list of top directors, Kevin has been cinematographer on well over 1500 national television commercials for such diverse clients as Reebok, Ford, Kraft, Coke, McDonald's and Budweiser - with spots that have made it on air during the coveted Super Bowl. His images have won awards at local and national levels including Addys, Tellys and Clios. He has written articles for several industry publications, is a Director of Photography in the local 600, and is a member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA).