My first thought about Cold Reading is that it should be avoided, whenever possible.
If actors are auditioning for a project that I am casting, the last thing I want is a cold read. A cold read is an unprepared read. In my experience, actors who just pick up the sides at an audition and “wing it” are never as strong as the actors who have taken the time to prepare. They are rarely as confident and do not seem as professional. I think they are setting themselves up to fail.
That said, there are times that a cold read is inevitable. You might be called in to read for a role, which you have hopefully prepared well, and be asked to tackle an additional role. When this occurs, it means the Casting Director, and possibly the Producers and Director (if they are in the room) liked your work, don’t think you’re exactly right for the role you read for and want to give you a shot at a different one. I don’t like to put an actor on the spot like this. If this is a pre-read, I would give the option to the actor to come back another day to read the new role and give them time to prepare properly. But if this is a Producer or Director session and they want to see an actor again in a different role it’s often more effective to do it that session, while the actor’s previous work is still fresh in their minds.
So off you go into the waiting room, having been asked to read a new role and having only a few minutes to ready it. What do you do?
First of all, don’t panic. This is good news after all. They liked you enough to have you read again and if they are right about this, the new role could possibly fit you better than the last one did.
Read the new sides and identify who you are playing. As you think about creating a new character, make certain that it is different from your previous read. Figure out what your character wants or needs in the scene. Make choices that show off who you are and display aspects of your unique personality. Never force yourself into a character or doing anything that feels unnatural. You will always be hired for playing some version of yourself.
Read the sides a second time and try to understand how your character functions as part of the story. The choices that you make in your role are part of a bigger picture. What story is the material telling and ask yourself what you can do to help the narrative.
It might be helpful to provide a slight change in your appearance that fits the new character. Perhaps you change your hair, or put on or take off a piece of clothing.
Take as much time as you need to prepare the new material. Don’t go back into the room if you’re feeling unsure or shaky with the new material. Make sure you go back into the room able to make clear choices and above all, be confident. They liked you and asked to see you again.