The Scoop on Eating & Drinking in an Audition

By Michael Karpienski | Last Updated: December 09, 2023
Unless you are doing a 2 week water fast, we can probably anonymously agree that eating and drinking is enjoyable. Add a glass of wine to a scene. Put a love interest or an enemy before you. Adorn a table with a white cloth and a flickering candle and suddenly we have drama. But take all of that setting, and an actor has many questions yet that should be addressed before committing to any performance decision.
Is it distracting to take a thirsty quaff of Chianti after you say the last line of dialogue on page 43? And the lasagna, should you ignore it entirely, acting as though the tension of the scene has the power to eclipse any pangs of hunger the central character might have after overcoming the many obstacles earlier in the 2nd act?
Surely, many dramatic moments of dialogue occur while sitting down over drinks or hot food. Think of the ‘Strudel Scene’ in Inglorious Bastards, where Hans Landa, 'the Nazi Jew-Hunter’ interrogates Shosanna, the cinema owner. In that scene the food is used as an instrument used in the story telling and the direction is focused there. Yet, in other instances, how much of the eating should come from the actor’s discretion? And how do you know what is or is not appropriate in an audition, especially before you’ve had the chance of working with the director to understand the intention in the scene? Below we have prepared some tips to help you along when these questions arise:
For in-person auditions that call for eating or drinking. It is not necessary to bring your own food unless you are otherwise instructed. If there are no notes on the subject, go to the audition space and get a queue of what is going on by studying the surroundings before you enter. Be mindful of cleanliness if they provide food for the audition. No one wants to see you wiping your cheeks or cleaning the crumbs from your lap because you were too focused on the lines - unless your character is supposed to be a slob of course! Sometimes casting directors will tell you to only “mime” the action of eating, in which case you need to heed the instruction. In short, adjust to the audition room and act accordingly.
Regarding self-tape auditions, if an audition specifically discusses an action that the actor should take with the food, casting directors like to see you actually perform said action. This can be very revealing of the actor’s skill in multitasking clear dialogue while chewing food. Additionally, if the script calls for a setting that may involve food, but it isn’t the main focus, you should use your judgment on whether or not you should eat the food or mimic the eating action. Remember: food and drink can be distracting to the performance if the right choices are not made. Sometimes the best thing to do is focus on the scene and let the food props set the scene by themselves without requiring you to add much of anything to your performance aside from holding the props.
In summary, if no directions are mentioned regarding food in the self-tape audition, consider the following: if you believe using real food would enhance your self-tape performance, and you believe the eating is not distracting from the scene but adding to it, sometimes it can add a great dimension to a performance. Just make sure your food does not steal the show. At all costs, do not let it interfere with the dialogue.