How to Light Up The Audition Room With Just One Line (And Get Asked Back For Bigger Roles)

Forget everything you’ve learned in acting class.


Yup, don’t erase it; just push it to the back of your mind for a minute.

Because when we’re talking about small role auditions, you need to forget what you’ve been trained to do when it comes to creating a character, a backstory…

Forget all of it.

Because for small role auditions, 99% of the time, none of it applies.

Freaky, isn’t it?

The reasoning is simple though. Your training up to this point – no matter how good – has been focused on fleshing out bigger roles.

And that’s awesome.

But what about the smaller roles?

  • The ones that you can use as a stepping stone to larger ones.  
  • The ones that seem so simple and are anything BUT.
  • The ones that trip up even the most skilled and experienced actors…

Your regular acting and auditioning skills just don't apply.

These auditions are a different animal entirely.  

Not only that but, they might even be the hardest auditions you ever have in your acting career.

WERID FACT:  The smaller the role, the harder the audition.

If you’ve ever auditioned for a small role, you’re nodding in agreement right now, aren’t you?

And when I say “small role”, I’m talking about the one or two liners, the featured roles, the co-star roles…

The one’s that aren’t about you.

And this is exactly what you need to remember when you get the sides and try to nail one of these tricky parts…

1. It's Not About You

These kinds of smaller roles—which make up 95% of the small role auditions that you go for—they’re not about you.

They’re about lending credibility and reality to a scene about some other (bigger) character….

The guest star, the series regular, the large supporting or starring role in the project.

It’s about them, not you.

Their character, not your character.

So don’t make it about you or your character.

The biggest mistake you can make in a small role audition is making it about you.Click To Tweet

It’s understandable that you want to come in to your audition and make it about you.  Afterall, it is YOUR audition.

And you’re trying to stand out so you can book it!

But when it comes to landing a small role, the most effective approach to take is the one that is actually counter-intuitive from everything you’ve learned before.

And it’s going to feel weird.

Here’s why…

When you do it right, you’ll walk into your audition and say your line as if you were simply talking like a real person in real life…

…and definitely not “ACTING!!”

From all my experience in casting, I can tell you…

This is what books: subtle, quiet, simple, REAL.

At first, you’re going to feel like you didn’t do anything.

GOOD! If it feels like that, you’re in the zone.  

Truly, when you start doing less and getting callbacks from it, that’s when it all clicks and you’ll believe every word I’m saying to you now.

But it won’t be easy. It takes guts.

Speaking of guts, here’s the next tip for nailing more of the small role auditions you’re already going in for…

2. Have the Guts Do Nothing

Typically, “doing nothing” is not a method you’re familiar with when you’re trying to book it.

Let’s talk about what it really means to “do nothing” when it comes to your audition.

Remember Seinfeld?

Remember how they categorized that show as being a show about “nothing” and it became a running joke?

But it really wasn’t about nothing, was it?

It was a slice of life. A heightened comedy about the “excruciating minutia” of every daily event.

See where we’re headed with this?

When you’re auditioning for a smaller role, oftentimes, your lines are the “minutia”.

You’re listening, and saying lines – words that aren’t “drama”, per se.

The purpose of which is to simply serve the scene…

To lend reality to the main characters whose lines ARE moving the story forward.

For example…

Maybe you’re auditioning for the role of “Secretary” in an episode of Blue Bloods and your character walks into the Police Chief’s office and your whole line is, “It’s the Mayor on line 2.”

Can you see how this line is not about you?

It’s about the Police Chief and his reaction to the Mayor calling.  His conversation with the Mayor moves the story forward.

Your line lends reality to that.

So, having the guts to do nothing in your audition doesn’t mean you become a lifeless automaton.  

It’s just that you have to have the guts to show up and simply and naturally say those words – no backstory, no homework.

You’re simply saying something like a regular person would if they wanted to let someone know they had a phone call.

And you have to be willing to “do nothing”, meaning NO ACTING!

When you’re auditioning for a small role, ditch the acting.Click To Tweet

Now that you know it isn’t about you and you really have to have the guts to do nothing, there’s just one more point to keep in mind…

3. Breathe Life Into YOU, Not Your Character

Again, this isn’t going to feel natural… at first.

You really have to train your mind to let go of  your prior acting training here and deploy this new skill of “doing nothing”.

You have to trust yourself.

You’re taught in acting class that your whole focus is to breathe life into the character…

But a small role audition is different. You’re not creating a character in the traditional sense.

For a small role, you need to breathe life into you, and let their words just come out of your mouth.

Sounds crazy, right?

But this is exactly what the Casting Directors are looking for.

They're not looking for an interesting secretary with a backstory about how she ate Cheerios for breakfast and got in an argument with her husband before she left the house. It’s irrelevant that she hates her boss or that all she really wants is a promotion to Office Manager.

None of that applies.

What really matters is that you show up, and you simply and naturally say the words.

 You say the line the way you would if you were the secretary…

No backstory required.

And I said you have to trust yourself, because you have to trust that this isn’t boring…that you’re not boring.

In a small role audition, when you do less & think you’re being boring, you’re actually interestingClick To Tweet

Think about it.

In real life, when you’re having a conversation about the minutia of daily events, you’re basically talking about nothing – but you’re still interesting to the people you’re having the conversation with.

My point is…

You don’t have to infuse every single “pass the coffee” with scintillating backstory.

This is what the Casting Director means in an audition when they ask you to “do less” or “be smaller”.

They’re not asking you to lose your energy or be boring.

You can do the simplest and most subtle audition and still be infused with tons of energy.

It may take some coaching, but it’s really important for you to learn what that feels like and make a “muscle memory” of it.  

You need to have the courage to “be boring”, and yet also have the awareness that you’re actually not.

It all comes down to your mindset.

Approach every audition with a mindset that supports you and you’ll have way more success.Click To Tweet

When it comes to smaller roles the bravest thing you can do is to show up, be you, and simply say the words without acting.

This is what books.

Trust yourself.

Do “nothing”.

Stop “acting”.


Do that right, earn their trust and that's what gets you asked back for the bigger roles.


Your turn! Was this tip on how to nail small role auditions helpful? What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to co-star auditions? Tell me about it in the comments below… :-)

You DESERVE the Red Carpet!

P.S. Want to learn  more about how to nail small any role audition with ease? Check out my “Unstoppable Co-Star” video class and learn the simple 5-step system to rock any small role audition like a pro (and never waste another opportunity to nail it in front of an important Casting Director again).


Did this post on how to nail a small role audition help you? If so, I would greatly appreciate if you commented below and shared on Facebook.

Amy Jo Berman - Acting Coach
Amy Jo Berman's Tips On Acting & Auditioning Blog
Email: Asst@AmyJoBerman.com

“I show actors how to be better, book more jobs and live The Red Carpet life!”

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52 Responses

  1. Katherine McKalip says:

    Thanks for the remeinder. Less is More!

  2. Thanks Amy for the words of wisdom. This is very helpful. I went to an audition I had 2 lines. After the audition i did feel i did too much.

  3. Pacey says:

    Great info! Thanks so much for making this seemingly challenging thing so much more simple :)

  4. Peter says:

    This was very helpful and interesting. I once heard Bobby Deniro say in an interview that sometimes you have to do nothing and it will take on a life of its own.
    You explained it very well and gave it a lot of insight. Thank you

  5. Noah A. Solomon says:

    Reading this in 2020, and I have to say: this threw me for a little loop. It never occurred to me to “not act” when it come to auditioning for smaller roles. All of my theater/acting training has always said to breathe life into your character, or make your energy/stage presence fill the room. This is telling me the exact opposite, but it’s another standing-on-my-desk-AHA moment. I’ve always thought that less was more in my life; now I need to start thinking about that in my acting. =^.^=

  6. Donna Catton-Johnson says:

    YES! This makes so much sense–something to keep firmly in mind!

  7. Mary K Riestenberg says:

    Thank you, Amy! This makes so much sense. I’ll be auditioning tomorrow. It’s just a non-speaking part in a commercial but they want “natural” so that’s what they’re going to get!

  8. Celeste Frazier says:

    Thank you!

  9. Heather Charron says:

    Awesome information; as usual. Very helpful. Thank you Amy.

  10. Cliff Samara says:

    I will definitely remember this next time.

  11. Vikie Collett says:

    Thank you for the excellent & usable information!

  12. Jeffrey Holsman says:

    Thank you, Amy! Great insight on preparing for day player roles!!!!

  13. Ingrid says:

    Yes! Totally makes sense :)
    I got booked for a Co-Star role on a FOX show (my episode airs Friday) by keeping it simple as a conversation continuer.

  14. Thanks Amy for the reality check…it makes SO MUCH sense – yet never would have occurred to me! I’m hoping for a real “live” opportunity to use this approach. Keep up the great work! Kind regards.

  15. Paul Garner says:

    Thanks, Amy! I wouldn’t have thought to just be me in this case. Greatly appreciate the advice.

  16. Avu says:

    Thank you Amy Jo Berman for sharing tips and reminders like you do.

  17. James Karnes says:

    This is the best advice I have seen from you actually.

  18. Florin Șumălan says:

    Thank you!

  19. Lynelle Paulick says:

    Well, I was simply going to reply to the email with a big Thank You just for sending this material out! So, fine, I’ll comment here and say the same thing. Thanks so very much; I’ve come to rely on your blogs to always-tighten my connection to the field. It is massively important. Your passion and your focus are very very much appreciated, both Amy and everyone else on the “team”!

  20. Kathryn says:

    I have always tried to outback Story in fir small roles. Thank you for giving me this Advise. Can’t wait to try it

  21. Amy, thank you very much. I’ve never had this thought in my mind until now :-) It will be very helpful to me from now on.

  22. Michel Euliss says:

    Thanks for the reminder! Easy for me to forget the ‘easy’ things :)

  23. Lisa Kerr says:

    I was offered a chance to send in a self tape for a role in a feature film, by a well known CD…it was 3 different scenes, each with only 1 or 2 lines…I wish I had read this BEFORE I sent in my audition! Now I KNOW what I did wrong. I did too much! UUUGH! BUT, lesson learned! Now I know what to do, or more importantly what NOT to do for the next time! Thank you Amy!

  24. Stan Lackey says:

    I appreciate this information Amy.. I will definitely apply it to smaller roles. I’ve heard it before.. but now hearing it from an industry professional like you.. I got to work on it and try it. Thanx!!

  25. eric s williams says:


  26. ROBERTO says:

    thanks for the tips and looking for work in Tampa Fla .

  27. andi wagner says:

    Less is more!

    Thanks for the reminder Amy! Love all your words of wisdom.

  28. Mike says:

    When I do do nothing, I’ve gotten some good roles, so I completely agree. Unfortunately, it really is hard to let all those things go for every audition, especially when you live in a smaller market and auditions may be quite far apart.

  29. sal d says:

    Now I know when an agent says, “You’re very natural” its a good thing. Thank you for clarifying and for reminding us all.

  30. Bj Wieland-Doucet says:

    Have an audition today so this is perfect timing. Already know the CD from some of her classes I’ve taken over the yrs & some BG work I did for her.
    Can hardly wait to apply these tips to this audition! Thanks Amy Jo

    • Lou Cuaresma says:

      Thank you Amy for the great advice. Coming from a theatrical background, the transition from stage acting to film acting parallels to a college student transitioning to the real world expecting to understand financial responsibility when finance was not a required part of college curriculum. The wisdom you provide is huge as it provides great insight into a much needed curriculum for mastering the art of filmacting.
      Thank you,
      Maria Cuaresma

  31. Gertie Bates says:

    Amy this have been so good for me , I was doing it all wrong. I managed my 12 old granddaughter she went for some small rolls and I was telling her to really act I see now that not the way to do it. But can you tell me how do I find a real agent

  32. Jenny Robb says:

    Thanks Amy. As you say, it takes courage to do nothing. There is always the background dread that they might think that is all one can do and never look at you with a view to giving you a bigger part.

  33. Landon Shaw says:

    Thank you, Amy! This was such a great topic that I don’t think enough actors think about. It’s something that in theory should be so simple…but, as you laid out beautifully here, can be more difficult than you think at first. Your breakdown of this topic was spot on and as always, you nailed it! Thanks again.

  34. Frankie P says:

    Gr8 stuff!

  35. pamelamcneff says:

    Yes, ma’am. That will be so much easier.

  36. Anny Anny Washington says:

    Thank you Amy. That actually makes a lot of sense.

  37. Ken Wharton says:

    My agent reminds me of this ALL the time. ? “You’re a supporting player,” he’ll tell me; “you help move the story forward, that’s all.” It SHOULD be natural but after several years of great Meisner training and showcasing, it’s anything BUT easy! Love your wisdom Amy! Thank you.

  38. HBJ says:

    Thanks Amy, your wisdom comes through here, many thanks

  39. Vincent Ticali says:

    On the money, as always, Amy. “Do nothing”. Not easy but definitely the way to go.

  40. Matt Connors says:


  41. Brian T Shirley says:

    Great advice and very informative. Makes me rethink a little about a doctor I played in a recent Indie film. I think I would have played him a little differently had I read this first, it was literally 2 lines.

  42. Aenne Barr says:

    Really good advice. I especially liked your reminder that “smaller” doesn’t necessarily mean to loose energy. Gonna bookmark this. Thanks Amy!

  43. trialondude says:

    Of course. It should be obvious . . . but it’s not. Yes, the story is not moved forward by you, it’s not your scene. Excellent advice. Thank you!

  44. JC3808 says:

    BIG mahalo (thank you!) for this! Will deffinately rethink my delivery for the next audition!

  45. Glenn Povey says:

    Very interesting insight on how casting views these ‘smaller roles’. Very helpful advice. Thanks Amy

  46. monie lee Perez says:

    <3 <3 <3

  47. Don Appleby says:

    Thanks Amy, once again you knocked it out of the Park!

  48. César Salvater Júnior says:

    Thanks Amy. Great article.

  49. Thanks Amy Jo- Good reminder!

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