5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Walk-on Or Bit Part
Before you land a significant or recurring role, you will most likely land a never-ending number of walk-on roles or bit parts. While these may seem insignificant in light of your larger goals, the reality is, you are unlikely to ever achieve your larger goals unless you do exceptionally well in the smaller or seemingly less significant ones. Remember, as the great Constantin Stanislavski said:
“There are no small parts, only small actors.”
Chances are high that your walk on or bit part may end up on the “cutting room floor” (even though there is no such thing anymore) but chances are just as high that your one line may be so brilliant that the writers decide to give you 10 more. You never know who might be on set that knows of another project or production that is currently looking for someone just like you. There is just no way of knowing, but one thing is certain: the more attention you give to preparing for your walk on or bit part, the greater the chances you give yourself of it leading to something more.
Here are 5 ways to make the most of your walk on or bit part.
1.) Be On Time, Be On Time, BE ON TIME!
Probably the #1 most important thing you can do is the one thing you have the most control over. Be. On. Time. Period. It is far better to show up an hour early to set than to show up 10 minutes late. If you need to be on set at 7:00 am, check Google maps or some other app at 6:00 am the day before to see how long your commute should take, and then give yourself an extra hour for every hour (or less) your commute will take. Be sure you have whatever you need to take with you packed and ready to go the night before – don’t leave anything until the last minute. If ever there was a time to harness your inner type-A personality, this is it.
2.) Always, always, always be kind, gracious and courteous to everyone on set.
“Be nice to everyone! From the PA’s to the makeup, from the caterer to the transportation person. Everyone! This is you on your best day and believe me if you think that being shitty to a PA or the wardrobe person won’t get back to someone and prevent you from working on the show again, you are wrong.”
– Mitchell Fink, Actor
Some of the most successful people in Hollywood don’t act like the star of the show even when they are. Keanu Reeves is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood and yet he is far, far, far from being the best. He has never been nominated for an Oscar or a Golden Globe, and yet he is always in high demand. Why? Because not only is his work ethic legendary, but he is regularly lauded by both cast and crew as being one of the most supportive people they’ve ever worked with. Here’s what one Reddit user had to say about him:
“He also was one of the only people on the set that genuinely wanted to know people’s names, would say hello and mean it, and would talk to people as they were his peers and not below him just because they were practically making nothing to build a set.”
3.) Prepare for every role as if it were a starring role – and then be ready to chuck it all.
Do your character development, and create 10 different scenarios under which you might say that one line. There is an old acting exercise called “I never said you stole the money.” In this exercise, you say the line, but emphasize a different word each time, which changes the meaning of the line. “I never said you stole the money!” means something totally different then “I never said you stole the money!” Be ready to play your character or say your line 10 different ways at the drop of a hat and then be ready to do it totally differently if that's what the director asks.
4.) Know your place on set
When you have a walk on or bit part, it is very unlikely that you will get much more than maybe a moment or two of the director’s time – if you get any at all. You may simply be told by an AD or even production assistant where to stand and what to do. It is also important that you do not make a nuisance of yourself and try to get some of the Director’s time either. Sometimes, the very best thing someone can say about you is: “they came, delivered their line and off they went.” If you are doing something wrong, you can trust that someone will tell you. If no one is correcting you, don’t demand direction, just take it to mean you’re doing fine and keep doing what you’re doing.
5.) Be thoroughly professional – and have fun
“Avoid the childish temptation to test the rest of this family’s love for you by behaving foolishly – forgetting to learn your lines, losing your script, being late for rehearsal, or not showing up at all. You are considered too grown up for this. Remember how hard you have worked for this reward. Love your business and love yourself, and have fun with it.”
– Mari Lyn Henry & Lynn Rogers