By Marci Liroff

I’ve been casting movies and television for over 30 years. I’ve cast some of the most iconic and successful movies around and worked with some of the best directors, producers and screenwriters. Yet, every time I start a project I still get nervous and anxious. Every. Single. Time.

There is a very short window of time to do the “happy dance” once I get chosen to cast a movie. “Yay! I got the job!” Then comes the part where the producer or business affairs person calls my agent to make the deal, which is usually excruciating for me. Like I said, you have those nanoseconds to be happy you were picked, and then they pound you with the deal. Each year it gets harder. Seems that even after working all these years and creating a respectable “quote” (the salary I’m paid for each job), no one seems to pay attention to this anymore. They all want to get a “deal” for my services.
During the time in which they negotiate my deal I go into my usual loop of anxiousness. The damn voices in my head start chanting in chorus, “I have no idea how to cast this. They’re all going to find out I don’t know what I’m doing! How will I find all these actors?!”
Then the first day of work comes and I’m getting set up in my new offices (I move in to the production office for all the projects I do). I’m in my element. The calls start going out and rolling in. The email starts to explode. My staff and I are brainstorming. Ideas are flowing. It’s all coming together and I realize, “I got this.” It’s as simple as that. Once I start the process, all the anxiety and doubt quiets down and I realize I do indeed know what I’m doing and I’m actually quite good at it!
The wonderful actor and acting teacher Jack Plotnick describes it so eloquently to his class: “The physical sensation of what some people call ‘nervous’—i.e., your heart racing and butterflies in your stomach—is the exact same physical sensation as ‘excitement’.”

I’ve been coaching and teaching actors for the last several years. I recently let them in on this secret of mine. I realized that we all go through this when we’re waiting for our event to begin. For actors, it’s the audition or stepping on stage or in front of the camera.
I think that silly dance I do makes me humble, sharper and better at my job. Maybe next time I can teach the chanting chorus to do three-part harmony!

I’d love to hear your stories about your experiences with nervousness/anxiousness and how this article made you feel.  It’s always good to share with the community.
Glad you’re here!



  1. I also think being anxious is very humbling. Because even though you have cast some of the greatest movies, you still want to get it right. And with your latest Vampire Academy casting, everyone can see you have not lost your touch.

  2. This is great! Thanks for sharing Marci! That is the nature of our business; after every job we go back to ONE, and when the phone doesn’t ring, we are like: oh yes, they figured it out, I am not gonna work again 🙂

  3. Case in point – I recently went to a casting workshop where the first question put to us was “So – who gets nervous before auditions?”. Everyone put their hand up except me. I got a few sideways glances. The CD singled me out, exclaiming “YOU don’t get nervous?!” to which I replied “Noo – I get excited!”

    Some people say ‘if you don’t get nervous, then you obviously don’t care’. I beg to differ! Isn’t it great to be excited about what we do? Thanks for your post.

  4. I asked SNL’s Darrell Hammond if that butterflies feeling goes away and he said it never does. Just part of the process.

  5. Thank you for sharing! It is so refreshing to know that at all levels and stages of this chosen career of ours, we overcome the same ‘vultures’ and negative self talk. Many times I have signed on to act in projects or worked so hard to be seen for a role I’m “perfect” for, then am rewarded with getting the audition.. only to go “oh, no, what have I done?” but, then, just like you said. Once I begin my work and am in my element.. working on the role, starting with what the writer has given me about my role, researching, personalizing it or creating substitutions that are used as a spring board to enter the emotional life of the character, etc.. Then, after all of that, that’s where the real fun begins! Letting go and enjoying the few minutes in the casting office. Like Jack also says before going in to an ‘audition’ — “I’m not an actor, I’m just here to have fun!”. So liberating and then I just trust my work and know that my instincts are perfect. Until… the next one! Then, repeat!

  6. I have come to think of nervousness/excitement as a welcome presence. Because it reminds me that I care about what I’m doing/about to do. That it matters. That I want to do my best. I think the day I stop feeling that, I change careers.

    I also relate to you in that, once I’m into the job, it goes away. The anticipation is the hardest part. Tom Petty should write a song about that.

  7. Anonymous says

    Thank you, Marci, for being so honest about your feelings when you are casting. I always thought…”Geez…the casting directors all look so calm and cool and never show any emotions…,” but now I see they have the same emotions we actors have…they just don’t show it! I’m sure all of us actors will go to a casting session differently now. And I totally agree with Jack Plotnick…without “nervousness, whatever you want to call it…Judy Dench called it her battery…the audition could be very dull! 🙂

    Whitney hall

  8. Lashay McMillan says

    The best thing about nervousness, is that it only stems from self-conscious state of fear. Confidence gets rid of fear, and practice creates confidence. 🙂

  9. I think when you get that feeling it is an “I Feel Alive Moment.” It means that you have a passion for what you are doing. That you care about showing up. If you fully break it down, what is the worse that they can say to you anyway? No? Well you can “no” me all you want, I tried and I will not have a “What If Moment”. I love Jack Plotnick, he is great. Thank you for putting this out to actors. It is great to have them hear this from a casting director like you Marci.

    Susan Collins

  10. Great empowering article, thank you!!!!

  11. “I have no idea how to cast this. They’re all going to find out I don’t know what I’m doing!”. I can completely relate to that as an actress and business owner. I’ve heard somewhere else that people who are great at what they do ALWAYS feel that way. It’s what keeps them humble and hungry to learn more. Thanks for sharing and being honest.

  12. Marci: I loved this article, Thank you for being so transparent and compassionate!!! It really is the simultaneous ecstasy/terror that everyone lives for isn’t it..?!?! This read makes me that much more excited to work with you.

  13. Thanks so much for your honesty, Marci.

    Just had an audition today and just before I went in, I was reminding myself that what I was feeling was excitement and that was was important—above all else—is to have fun and just do my best in showing what I can breathe into a character. It’s so hard at times to have this mindset, but so valuable as an actor.

    As always, thank you for your honest and valuable insight. You’re an incredible person.

  14. Anonymous says

    Okay, so while this was originally posted on backstage, until I realized it was facebook and t hen thought, “wait!that can’t be right!!” It was intended to be in reference to Marci’s lastest backstage article, which everyone should race right over and read ANYWAY,it is applicable for all of the blog posts. Here we are!
    Paula Condon McNulty · Realtor at Bellmarc Realty

    I love the way Marci sheds light into and onto the super, secret cave of wonders, that is Casting. As an actor one just goes in and does the job at hand and every now and then ponders the inner workings of the casting office. I feel like Marci offers such an insightful and educational peek into how things sometimes work. Keep writing, I’m sure the audience is multiplying each day! P

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