Auditioning with Kids

Leeann Dearing

Hey actors!

Today we’re gonna talk about auditioning for commercials and television with a very particular kind of person.

You show up for your audition, and you’re assigned a partner. Does he/she fit any of the following criteria?

– Is 48 inches tall or less?
– Is demanding chocolate milk?
– Knows all the lyrics to “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen?

If so, congratulations. You’re auditioning with a small child.

(For tips about bringing your own tinies to auditions, read here.)

If it’s not your own small person whose accompanying you into the audition room, here are some tips to make the whole thing go smoother!

1) Introduce Yourself – Introduce yourself to the talent, and to mom/dad/guardian. Try to get a feel for the their personality. Most young actors (like most full-sized ones) will get nervous or shy before an audition. Ask questions and let them do most of the talking! You want to get a feel for their personality.

On the other end of the spectrum is the exceedingly gregarious child. This child’s audition “nerves” translate into giggling, laughing, jumping, joking in a way this is unfocused and, um…difficult to work with.

Dude, this child is excited as a tornado in a trailer park. Not to fear. The scene can still be very successful.

2) Offer to Go Over The Sides Together –  If there are lines to run, rehearse them a few different ways. First do a “dry” run, just to get the words out once, and to focus the child. Then immediately go again, listening for tricky spot in the copy. Do an over-enunciation read to really punch the diction, if either of you are having a hard time. Then go once or twice more, beginning to explore the copy and really listening to each other. (Remember: Rehearsal is great, but don’t over-rehearse the child either! Once you’re in a groove, then let the child rest until the audition.)

If it’s an improvisation, you might consider trying to play the scenario out a few times. Include the parent or guardian in this offer too. (“Mom can pretend to be the casting director, and we’ll do our scene!”)  If the child is older and prefers not to have the parent included, make sure you’re working within eye shot of the parent or guardian.

Let’s say you’re auditioning for company X. Let’s also pretend that you’re playing a mother who is interacting with her child while making dinner. There are no lines, just action. How could you rehearse that?

  • Create some space work together! Start working on an Improvised “stove” and allow the child to hand you things from the kitchen. Spices, utensils etc
  • Get to relationship right away! Do not talk about what you’re doing, or the scene will be incredibly boring:

“I’m making dinner.”

“Yes, you are and that soup looks delicious.”

“Yes, it does and we sure do love soup.”


Don’t put tiny woodland creatures to sleep. Use feeling statements.  Play the scene to the top of your intelligence, without trying to be funny. Be interested in your scene partner, and curious about their behavioral clues.

Let’s return for a minute to that gregarious child, shall we? The camera starts rolling, and she just bursts into uncontrollable laughter. What do you do?

You continue to “Yes-AND” like an Improv Audition Ninja, you hear me? 

Her laughter is now a “game move”. Don’t try to contain it. Say “Yes” to it, and add on to it.

“You always get so giggly when you’re hungry!”

“Did daddy give you cookies before dinner, little lady?”

Continue to be relational, observant and patient. Fighting it will only get the child more excited (at best) or turn the scene into a power struggle (at worst). Not productive, not funny.

Now that you’re in the scene, remember to listen, not just to your partner’s words, but behaviors too. If you’re fully tuned in to your partner, you will certainly be able to build something wonderful, no matter what!

Until next time, actors….Act With Passion!