Working as an actor abroad

Extract from Dear John section of The Stage newspaper published Thursday 4 June 2009, in which I'm featured:

Q: I'm thinking of moving to another country to work as an actor - is the audition/casting process basically the same everywhere or are there differences I need to know about?

what the experts say...

Kosha Engler is an American actress and Anglophile, originally from Baltimore, Maryland. While in the US she acted regularly in Washington DC's finest theatres and appeared in TV and film, including The Wireand John Waters' A Dirty Shame. In 2005 she married a Brit, moved to London and has since worked in television, theatre, radio, voice-overs and commercials. This July she'll appear on ITV in Moon Shot, a TV movie about the Apollo 11 moon landing.

"The Baltimore/Washington DC area was a smaller and less competitive place than London and, because of that, I found a healthy amount of theatre work, radio dramas and some film and television jobs. But despite the thriving acting community, the DC market wasn't big enough to justify agents, except in the case of on-camera work, where casting teams such as Pat Moran Associates (who cast me in The Wire) functioned as both casting director and agent, taking a cut of our fee. Without an agent, we actors had to be fiercely proactive and forge our own relationships with those who could employ us.
"In the four years I've lived in London - now with an agent - I've had more big auditions than in DC, but landing the job is much, much harder. The proportion of TV and film castings to theatre has reversed since my time in DC and I mostly go up for American roles. In the US, I was cast as English characters as often as American ones.

"As for the audition process itself, the main difference I've found is how British people use language to disguise what is a difficult experience. Early in my UK career, my agent sent me to a meeting at the National Theatre to have a little read and a chat with the director. Earnest American that I was, I made the mistake of taking my agent literally and thought I really was just going to chat. I thought there might even be tea and cakes as we casually got to know each other. Little did I know the translation was, 'You're going to an audition, so thoroughly prepare your scenes, learn the lines if possible, then have an interview with sir big shot, the director."

dear john sums up...

John Byrne is an entertainment industry career advisor and the author of several career guides for performers, including The Right Agent Right Now ebook written with Mary Elliott Nelson and available for download from

As in many other areas of transatlantic interaction, it is often the fact that British and American culture look superficially similar that leads to more misunderstandings that might occur when an actor is aiming to work in a more overtly different market, such as Bollywood or Japan. The things that can trip you up aren't always to do with the casting process itself, as much as the subtle differences in interpersonal communication or cultural norms. Probably the best way to approach work in a new country - and indeed new work in this country - is not to assume that any job will be the same as any previous one and be alert to spot and adapt to different ways of doing things as they arise. While you might not be able to predict where the curve balls will come from, honing your skills and going the extra mile in preparation is a good basis to approach every casting from, no matter where in the world it is happening.


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