Why the Most Talented Kid Doesn’t Always Get the Role

As an acting teacher, my job is to train young artists. In my thirty years of experience, I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredibly talented young actors.

Unfortunately, talent and skill isn’t enough to win roles. Just because a young actor is the most talented one in the room, it’s not guaranteed they will get the job. This is undoubtedly frustrating—in many other industries, if you study hard and develop natural talents, you’ll likely find work. But that’s not the case in show business. In fact, there are many other factors other than talent and skill that determine who books a role:

A poor attention span: Even if your child can sing like an angel, dance like Fred Astaire, and act proficiently, if he can’t be trusted to take direction properly or remember cues, he won’t be cast.

Physical characteristics: If your child is taller than the actress playing her mother, too heavy to be easily lifted by other actors who need to carry her off stage, or doesn’t look like the other actors cast to play family members, she will not win the role.

Bad luck: Maybe the casting director was just exhausted during your child’s audition after sitting through hundreds of others. Or maybe the needs of the production change.

It’s important to remember that the real job of a young actor is to audition to the best of his ability, not to win the part. Being cast or not is outside of your (or your child’s) control.

READ: What Child Actors Should Expect Over the Years

To help make sense of it all, I spoke with casting director Matthew Maisto, CSA. Here’s what he had to say on the subject:

“Only one person gets the role! Don't make it personal, most actors auditioning aren't going to get the job. Unlike most businesses, our industry is mainly subjective regarding decision making. No grading system in casting means there's no way for an actor to understand what they could have done ‘better’ to change the outcome. Most of the time the answer is nothing.

“Simply put; another actor was more right for the role. Keep in mind that auditioning for a role in a film, on TV, or a play is not a competition with judges and score card to determine who’s the most talented. Usually, we are not looking for the best actor, but rather the right actor. Many factors inform which actor is seen as the most right for a role. Presence and personality are often just as important as skill and natural talent.”

Talent manager, Lauren Singer of Lauren Singer Talent, also shared a story with me.

“I have a client who was objectively not the most talented actor going in for the role on Broadway, and she knew it! Many of the other kids were Broadway veterans with many credits under their belt. In fact, I had another client audition for the same role who was an experienced triple threat. My “less experienced” client got the role because she was good enough and she was the right height and look for the role.

“My other client was clearly disappointed but understood what happened and was able to not take it personally. It is not that you aren't good enough or not talented enough. The more an actor and actor's family can understand this, the better able they are to be able to tolerate and manage the inevitable slings and arrows that come with being a working actor.”

While there are many things a young actor cannot control during the audition process, her level of preparation and work ethic are very much in her hands. More than talent or looks, professional behavior and a willingness to take direction are essential ingredients in casting choices.

Guide your child to prepare thoroughly, approach auditions with confidence and the ability to be herself, and have fun. When she does, she’ll have the presence and personality to go along with her talent and have the best chance of winning that elusive role!