The Actors Magazine
By Judy Kerr

Actress Carolyne Barry has acted in over 400 commercials and has been teaching commercial audition technique for 14 years. I don’t consider myself a casting director, but I have 3 director friends who ask me to do the casting when they direct their spots. I may cast 10 to 15 jobs a year. My main goal is to become a television sitcom director.

When new actors wishing to get into commercials come to Carolyne, she asks them if they want to be a theatrical actor, a commercial actor, or they’re not sure. If they want to be a theatrical actor, I tell them, “Okay, go take acting and improvisation classes and come back to me in a year. If they want to be a commercial actor or they don’t know yet, my particular beginning workshop is a great way to find out.”

“A lot of people say ‘I want to be an actor’ but they don’t do anything about it, so their dream sort of passes them by. My feeling: jump in and take a good class. At the end of it, if you’re being honest and you’ve been pushed hard enough, you’ll know if you love it or not. Acting is really not a choice of an occupation, it’s an addiction. You have to be willing to work years and not make any money; it’s got to be a passion in your life or don’t get into it. ”

“To me, there are 3 levels of evaluating an actor: an ability, a talent or a gift. You can’t discern talent and gifts until someone has been training and working for a while. Ability is doing a good job with the material and the character choices. Talent is when you have moments of brilliance fairly consistently. A gift is when the choices you make are so instinctively creative you don’t seem to be making them.”

Carolyne believes most actors are right for commercials. “Everybody is somewhat commercial depending upon their personality and physical type. This will determine how much you will go out on auditions. It’s a package in commercials; you have to be what you look like. I have this straight look and I’m funny and that’s why I’ve done over 400 commercials; it’s a matter of finding your niche, developing your acting ability and owning your commercial personality. Then you have a real shot at being a working commercial actor.”

Carolyne spoke of the ways actors might be limited commercially. “If you’e overweight, you won’t do most of the food commercials. When I do my casting and I’m dealing with food, candy, gum, beers or wine, I can’t bring in people who look like they have any kind of weight problem. Accents are a problem. If you notice in commercials, there are hardly any New York accents except in comedy spots. Even most Italian spots aren’t Italian accents. For them most part, facial hair for men doesn’t work.”

“The biggest misconception for advanced actors about commercials is that it’s not acting. Good acting is good acting; good commercial acting is good acting heightened and speeded up. The words aren’t speeded up; it’s the pauses that are tightened up. That’s the main difference between good acting and good commercial acting. When auditioning, you must spend time with the copy as you would any cold reading. You need to motivate the copy, know who you are talking to and determine your objective.”

Carolyne’s closing advice: “If you haven’t had any commercial training or acting and you’re really serious, you need to take a good workshop. You want a teacher who’s had extensive acting training, so they understand from an actor’s point of view how to get the end results. Teaching in terms of end results can destroy you as an actor and make your work all very superficial. Go to someone who limits the size of the class so you can work on camera several times a night. You should be able to audit the class or have an agreement that you can drop out after the first class because if you don’t have chemistry with the teacher no matter how brilliant they are you won’t learn.”