Overcoming Obstacles in the Audition Room (Finding Focus)

Anyone who hits the audition circuit regularly knows the importance of putting your best foot forward. Be present. Bring your best. Appearance matters!

I worked through a major challenge recently, when I was called in for an audition in Philadelphia. The 2 hour ride from NYC was a pleasant one…. one I’m used to since I appear regularly as a guest on QVC just outside Philly.

VIDEO: H on The Q


But this time, it was one of those “in and out” scenarios. I knew the game. Listen for direction. Show them personality. No matter what I’m going in for, be it a host gig or commercial, I always “bring it.”

On this day, however, I think I brought it … and then some. As in, I had a major allergic reaction…IN BOTH EYES… right before I walked in the door. For reals. Talk about losing your focus!

It went down like this: I parked my car with time to spare, to stretch and do any last minute touch ups. All was well until I got to the casting office door. Suddenly, my eyes (yes both) were on fire. I had no idea what was happening or what got into them, but no amount of blinking helped. No rinsing refreshed them. No removal of makeup was providing relief. I looked like I just watched about 10 hours worth of Sarah McLaughlin videos telling me how to save shelter animals. I was waterworks. A mess.

At some point while I was “on deck”, I ran in the bathroom, took off my lashes (I had a shoot earlier that day so I left the lashes on) and said to myself, “I didn’t drive two hours in the rain to look like a freak show. Suck it up, pull up your big girl panties and bring it for five minutes.”

My vision may have been was shot but NOT my focus. I took a deep breath and walked out to sit back in the hot seat. (Blink blink blink). An actor sitting next to me says, “Are you OK, your eye looks really red.” Within seconds I hear, “Hilary, you’re up.” I walk in and the casting director looks at me. Likely because I kept batting my eyelashes. Not exactly warranted for this gig. I had to speak up. “I think I got something in my eye, but I’m OK. Any chance this product requires me to cry on cue? If so, I’m your gal.” She laughed. I cried. Well, not intentionally. But you get the drift.

We shot the scene. I forgot about my eyes until I walked out the door. Unfortunately, some of my best dramatic tears were brought forth during that moment and were used to push around a vacuum like nobody’s business.

Following the audition I reached out to Diane Heery, CSA of Heery Casting who was casting this project. With over 25 years in the business, I wanted her take on this situation so I could share it with my fellow actors/on-camera talent. Who better to ask then the casting director that saw my tears first hand and truly knows her stuff? Here are a few tips she had to share.*

1. Save the Drama for the Stage/Set
Unless it’s real drama, don’t turn it into one. Like in this instance. OK, an allergy reaction. It didn’t show on camera, you worked through it, and all was well.

2. Be Honest
The best way to handle any “crisis” is to be up front about it.

3. Take Care of You
If it’s real drama, don’t even try to work through that. Let’s say you just heard of a death in the family. Okay, now we’re talking DRAMA. We are all human, and life happens. Sometimes it’s OK to skip an audition. We’re not curing cancer here, and there will always be another audition. We’re not curing cancer here, and there will always be another audition.


It all boils down to this: sometimes life throws you curveballs. As my dad used to say, “make the most of the ball game.” Or in this case, clean the living room with conviction. Tears and all. For one brief moment, I loved that vacuum so much, it brought me to tears. Make it work FOR you. And even when things may seem blurry or not particular clear at first, in time you’ll find your focus.

I know…deep right?

Love & Light

*This article has been revised to include tips from Casting Director Diane Heery. The updated article was published on NYCastings.com on July 15,2014.

About Hilary Russo

Host, Journalist, Spokesperson, Lifestyle & Design Expert: QVC Home/Garden Guest Host, Professor, Adventure Seeker & of course... Renaissance Woman - I'm a city girl with my pedal on the metal.
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