Performers’ Notes: Fisayo Akinade on Auditioning

Nailing an audition is fundamental to an actor’s success, but it’s filled with pitfalls, strange moments and problems. Fisayo Akinade, who plays Dean in Russell T. Davies’ new C4 and E4 TV dramas Cucumber and Banana, talks us through the art of auditioning.

“I went through a period of not really knowing how to prepare for an audition. In a weird way, you don’t act the same way in an audition as you do when you get to set. It’s a slightly alien environment. A lot of the technique to an audition is understanding that it’s a very different thing to a performance.

I remember getting the scripts for Cucumber and Banana and you could lift the character off the page…all you have to do is say it properly and not mess it up, really. Russell has a really specific way of punctuating his scripts, so once you key into that, the job of creating the character is half done for you. With Dean, it was so apparent to me how he should sound and move and talk. I said I’m going to speak really quickly and really flippantly and it seemed to work.

What I like to do is pick the odd line where you can add a hand gesture or a shrug, or something that’s a bit characterful, because normally they shoot you from the chest up, so you’re not getting the full body involved. I always try and find a line I can do something different with, so I’m giving them a bit of variety.

You have to go for it, I think. Bold choices are always the best choices even if they don’t work, because then you’re memorable and you’re remembered for being brave.

They’re predisposed to judging you and if you walk in and they think you’re too short, you will be too short, no matter how good you are.

The brief for this part said: he’s short and black and sort of attractive, but doesn’t need to be jaw-dropping. So I thought, ‘I could do that’. That gives you a bit of a boost. Sometimes you get a role and it says ‘Height any, ethnicity any’ and I always think I’m not going to get that, because I think I’m a bit more specific.

You have to go in with confidence. It’s just about a smile, saying hello and giving them a firm handshake. And the next bit is showing them you’ve done the necessary work. Confidence helps, but it’s more about being open.

As my friend told me, you’ve got to be the better you.

The thing about auditions is you’ll do anything. I was testing for a Christmas show. I had to tell a story, which was fine. Then they asked if I could do it as a frog and I said sure. I was on all fours hopping around. And then it was like, ‘could you make some froggy sounds and hop around a bit more, maybe stick your tongue out a catch a fly?’ You do it!

And you leave and you think, ‘I just hopped around on the floor for a job I don’t really want for a woman who’s probably p*****g herself that she made a twenty-something hop around like a frog for half-an-hour.’

Then you get a phone call saying, ‘yeah, they went another way.’ It’s awful.

Cucumber was great, it was like, let’s just do the scene. There was no hopping involved.”

Cucumber starts on 22 January.