Remember, oh, about three weeks ago when I went on about how actors who come in early in the day are at a disadvantage, while those that come in toward the end have an advantage? (If you don't, click here.)
There's a mitigating factor, but before I get to it I have to talk a little bit about what you're looking at when you're evaluating an actor's audition.
There are two parts to an actor. There's who the actor is. And there's what the actor does.
Who an actor is involves not just his looks, but the way he carries himself, how he connects, how he moves, and that weird, undefinable thing, charisma. Who an actor is comes from genetics and habit and upbringing and instinct and while some actors actually work on developing this stuff a bit, you can only make yourself so tall, thin, good-looking, or charismatic.
What an actor does means the choices he makes. Is he angry or sad? Interested or bored? Turned on or turned off? A lot of actors give less thought to these decisions than they really should, trusting that their instincts will lead them to the most interesting performances, but I like the actors who take apart a scene and figure out what's really going on. These are the people who can perform a conversation with their mothers about where to park the car, but make you understand that what's really going on is a seething resentment over Mom's not intervening when Dad molested Sis twenty years ago.
In actor-speak, what an actor does is called making a choice. And when the Academy gives out awards, a lot of the praise you'll hear is about the "interesting," "brave," or "powerful" choices made by the nominees.
You don't have to see an Oscar-nominated film, though, to see choices. Actors make them in auditions. Sometimes, you'll see a really neat choice in an audition. Even in, yes, commercial auditions. Auditions where the housewife has to decide which paper towel will clean up the spill or the pizza delivery guy gets a door slammed in his face.
Which brings me back to the point I started this blog to make:
Sometimes, two actors will make the same unusual choice in an audition. When that happens, it's easy to give the first person you see doing it more credit than the second. The first time you see it, it's new. The second time, your tendency is to feel that the actor is copying somebody else's good idea.
But remember, each actor made the choice independent of the other. If what the actors do is more or less equal, then you can always make your decision based on who the actor is.