Updated: Dec 14, 2018
You have just received your audition sides and *SHOCK* the scene requires an accent. Not only that, but it is an accent that you have never heard of before; something called 'North Country.'
Once the immediate panic starts to subside, you use your full googling mastery and discover that the “North Country” accent can refer to more than one accent; one in America and one in England.
The little voice in the back of your mind says to just pick one at random…surely the casting directors will appreciate the effort either way?
Casting directors have so many people to audition for each role that they are unlikely to have the time for you to have a do-over.
It’s not worth wasting a whole audition on a hunch so here are 5 ways to check if you are preparing the right accent for your audition:
1) Spelling If you are trying to decide between a British accent or American accent, sometimes you can check how things are spelled in the script. Spellings such as “colour" vs "color", “organise” vs “organize” or “travelled” vs “traveled” could indicate British and American respectively. Unfortunately this method isn’t fool-proof as American writers write for English actors and vice versa and don’t always change their spelling.
2) Vocabulary Different accents have different dialect/slang words that they use. If you are reading a script and the character is "taking a vacation” instead of "going on holiday", they are likely to be American. Again, proceed with caution as the show's writers may be from another country, or the character may be codeswitching to fit in with their friends.
3) Stage Directions
Sometimes the main clues about the character come in either their character description or in the stage directions of the scene. Often this is the place where we learn about locations. It may say something like “EXT – CABIN IN MINNESOTA – NIGHT”. This tells us that the character is physically in America when this scene takes place. If they are at their own home in the scene, chances are they are American, but people do travel so keep an eye out for the other clues. Remember: just because someone is standing in Minnesota, doesn’t mean they are from Minnesota!
4) Full Script
The character description does the best job it can at providing all you need to know about a specific character, but it is not unheard of for information to be left out. If you have been given the full script of the show in addition to the sides, make sure to scour through for any additional clues about the character’s background/upbringing.
5) Work With Your Dialect Coach
Even after all of your investigating using the above tips, sometimes it takes the skills of a professional to help crack the case. Dialect coaches are trained to pick up on small clues that point to a character’s accent. It is literally our job. I recently worked with an actor on an audition and all of the above clues individually could have made the character American or British. It was the combination of the various clues that determined that the accent had to be American and not British. I pointed this out at the start of the session and even though the actor had been practicing a British accent for four days, we were able to make the switch to American and send them off to the audition confidently.
This post was originally featured on DialectCoaches.com