By Katherine Johnson
His life may be more than “unfabulous” now, but actor Markus Flanagan knows what it’s like to worry about landing auditions, as he addressed Rider’s fine and performing arts majors last week.
“Everything layers up,” Flanagan said. “All the criticism, all the directors and casting agents can layer up and get in the way of an audition.”
Flanagan began his acting career at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York City. It was at this theater that he met his mentor, Sanford Meisner, who taught him to listen and to be specific.
Flanagan has made appearances on That 70s Show, Will and Grace, Unfabulous, and even worked with Will Smith in the film Seven Pounds. He wrote the book One Less Bitter Actor: The Actor’s Survival Guide about what he learned from Meisner.
Professor of fine arts Miriam Mills believes that the book is “an essential handbook for anyone considering a career in theater.”
“For many in the know, One Less Bitter Actor is the actors bible for surviving the audition process,” Mills said. “I expect, after reading his book, that Mr. Flanagan will help our students solidify the information they have been given in class and perhaps make the transition from student to actor easier and more successful.”
In his book, Flanagan gives advice on how to cultivate the image and ego that a struggling actor needs in order to leave a lasting impression on casting agents and potential managers, which he has learned over the course of his 20-year career. He hopes that his publication will serve as a new type of acting book: one that not only tells tales of misery from actors, but also includes the methods and formulas he believes will help aspiring actors land their dream jobs.
Flanagan spoke about the bitterness that all actors feel as they try again and again to land roles. This comes from all different aspects of the business. First, when an actor is at an audition, the casting directors may be split in their decision on people they absolutely love, so they end up picking someone they can “live with” who will get the part.
However, even after an actor lands the role, he or she remains unhappy.
“You keep being bitter even after you land the part because directors don’t pay attention during scene rehearsal and filming,” Flanagan said.
He also gave tips to the audience about how to land jobs and what to expect from working in the business.
“The problem that I discovered — and I wrote this in my book — and I think it’s really quite brilliant is this,” he said. “We as human beings try to apply a straight line of reasoning and logic to a business that has no such straight line of logic and reasoning, but because we are human we do it.”
Other advice Flanagan gave to the audience was certain tips on how not to embarrass themselves in front of casting directors. Aspiring actors should always be on time and be prepared for auditions, and it is important to remember to always be friendly and polite. Casting directors do not necessarily care about the actor. They just want to see which actor can get the job done.
He warns that actors should not let these things get to them because perception is what sells an actor’s talent. Rather, actors should believe in their ability, which will show during auditions.
Flanagan wrote the book One Less Bitter Actor: the Actor’s Survival Guide because he believes that actors need to help each other out. By giving speeches to acting majors, he believes he does just that.