How to become a recurring character on Television: An interview with Jennifer Hall

Everyone wants to become a “regular” on any show or series that they’re a part of.  But how do you make the leap?  How do you take a small part and parlay it into a starring role?

Actress Jennifer Hall was on her way to San Francisco, to quit acting, when she got a call to play a one-time guest star role in the HBO series, “Unscripted”.  She prepared for the part in the same way that she describes in this video and ended up becoming one of the three leads of the series.

The same thing happened when she played (what was supposed to be) a small role on the Will Arnett/Maya Rudolph series “Up All Night”.  Her “small role” ended up lasting the entire season. And the same thing happened to her on the soap opera “All My Children”. 

What kind of philosophy and technique is Jennifer using to generate these exciting results? 

  1. Be Exactly Who You Are. “I auditioned 63 times before I booked my first role.  At first, I tried “giving them (the casting people) what I thought they wanted”.  But then, at an audition, someone gave me some advice- they said “If you’re a can of tomato soup- then be the best can of tomato soup you can be.  Don’t try to be Vegetable or Chicken Noodle.  Just learn to bring the maximum amount of YOU that you can bring to any role.”  It was a pivotal moment for me because instead of trying to be glamorous or sophisticated in my acting- I started bringing the goofy, awkward, weird person that I am with my friends into my work.  And that’s when I started booking parts! Turns out, people like tomato soup!”
  2. Make something up about your character that excites you. Often writers focus on the lead roles, so when it comes to playing the smaller parts, it’s up to us to create the exciting inner-life of the character.  For for example, it might not be in the script, but in your imagination maybe your character has a secret trip planned to Hawaii- or maybe a crush on one of the other characters.  As long as it doesn’t contradict the script and helps to serve the overall story, creating a backstory for your character, that makes your character more fun and exciting to play, can be a great way to make that character come to life!
  3. Don’t be afraid of sucking. “Sometimes, when you feel like you’re sucking it really just means that you’re outside of your comfort zone. And very often, that isky-feeling is a sign that you’re onto something useful and exciting. So let yourself suck every now and then.”

Do you have a comment or a question for Jennifer, Gerry, or MTT staff about booking, comedy and acting?  Please post it below and please follow Jennifer at https://twitter.com/TheJenniferHall and sign up for Gerry’s newsletter at http://www.standupcomedyclass.com/.  Thanks!

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