• James Stranahan

The Dreaded “Tell Me About Yourself” Question

Auditions are the bane of every actor’s existence. You’ve got such a short timeframe to convince the people with the keys to Hollywood that you are, indeed, the right person for the part. You’ll be asked a lot of questions, many of which might seem to make no sense at all. However, there is one you’re going to hear often, the most basic, yet perhaps the most important, question of all: “Tell me about yourself.”

How do you answer that? What on Earth is the interviewer hoping to learn about you from your response?

First, Consider the Source.

It can help to step out of your shoes and into those of the interviewer (which any actor can do, of course). Why would they ask that question of you in the first place? Whether you’re auditioning for a horror movie, the part in a love triangle, or an FBI agent in a mystery, the interviewer is going to “get something” from your response. What is that?

Answer: clues to how convincingly you will be able to become the character they are casting and what essence you radiate. Actors are chameleons, after all, and they are adept at assuming the personality of a character that is vastly different from theirs. It’s how a person who is normally shy can transform themselves into a dangerous assassin and shoot up a bank: the actor may have enjoyed hunting when they were younger and so can draw upon that experience to become the character.

So, when you’re preparing for an audition, get ready for that “Tell me about yourself” question. Step into the mind of the interviewer and think about what kind of actor they might be looking for, then analyze yourself and pull out traits and experiences that may relate.

Second, Diversify Your Own Experiences.

The most boring actors in the world are able to play just one part. They’re also the ones who probably won’t get hired very often. They are professionally one-dimensional, and it’s usually because their interests are so narrow. If you want to play a cake baker in a comedy yet have never stepped foot in a kitchen, then how will you be able to relate to the character and play them convincingly?

The more interests you have and the more new experiences you try, the more you’ll be able to relate to the characters you audition for. This will increase your chances of being hired.

Third, Practice What You Will Say.

How obvious is this piece of advice? Okay, very, but you’d be surprised how many actors get tongue-tied when they finally land that big interview. One flubbed word might not kill your chances, but then again, why leave that to chance?

Here are some ways to answer the interviewer:

  • Use “I am” statements. I’m a cyclist. I’m a skydiving instructor. It’s already assumed that you’re an actor, so leading off with that won’t give you any power in the eyes of the interviewer. Instead, be strategic about what you say and use each opportunity to give them information they don’t already know about you.

  • Give the interviewer an experience. I have backpacked through Europe. I have been married three times. I am an expert in building sandcastles. What can happen here is that you give the interviewer something so interesting that conversation is sparked. That’s important because when you start that discussion, you’ve got more opportunities to show them who you are and to be memorable.

My Last Piece of Advice

Relax. As someone who has been to countless auditions, I’m right there with you and understand how difficult that one word is in reality. It’s true, though. The more relaxed you can be, the more your real self will come out in the audition, and that’s exactly what you want to have happen.

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