What to look for when casting non-actors?

What to look for when casting non-actors?

If you've ever thought about casting non-actors for your project, it's important to know the difference between a professional actor and someone who hasn't had formal training. A non-professional actor will likely have fewer acting skills than someone with professional experience, so it's important to adjust your expectations accordingly when working with them. In this post we'll give you some tips on what to look for in a non-professional actor as well as some common pitfalls that might occur when working with one.

Non-actors are people who haven't had any formal acting training.

A non-actor is someone who hasn't had any formal acting training. They may have had some acting experience, but not enough to be considered professional actors. They might have had some informal training, but not enough either to be considered pros. You need to work with them to find out what works for them, and then make adjustments accordingly. Remember that actors are people too! They'll appreciate your efforts.

Casting non-actors requires much more patience and understanding than casting pros.

You will need to be more patient, understanding, flexible, encouraging and open minded. You must be forgiving if a cast member arrives late, isn't used to the long working hours or doesn't know set etiquette. These are things you don't have to worry about with professional actors who have done this before and understand the importance of the craft when it comes to shooting. Remember a lot of non-professional actors haven't ever been on a set before.

Look for an interesting face, personality and overall presence.

When you're casting non-actors, it's important to look for people who have a strong presence. An actor's job is to create a convincing character. A non-actor's job is to be themselves in front of the camera.

The easiest way to tell if someone has this quality is by looking at their face: Is their expression expressive? Do they seem comfortable being filmed? Do they look like they're having fun? Are there any parts of their face that aren't quite right but still interesting enough that you'd want them on screen anyway? If your answer is "yes" or even "maybe," then go with them! If not, move on.

In addition to overall presence, it can also be helpful if your subject has an interesting personality with range in how they’re able to portray their emotions—they don't necessarily have to be outgoing (some of my favorite characters are shy), but it shouldn't feel like every conversation with them will be exactly the same as any other conversation either.

Look for Something Specific

When casting, it's important to look for something specific. You want an actor who fits the role, has a specific skill set, has a specific background or look. If you're shooting on location and need someone with an accent for authenticity—or if your script calls for someone with a disability—then make sure you mention this clearly in your casting call and audition process. There's nothing worse than having a non-actor try to do an extreme performance and failing because they don’t have the tools to prepare such an extreme character transformation.

Be Clear on What You Want

When you know what you want, it's easier to find the right person. It's okay if you don't know exactly what that is yet—just be clear on what kind of person you want. For example, you can say "I'm looking for someone who looks like me," or "I need an actor with a great voice.

If you're struggling for words (and/or sentences), get specific: "We want someone who will play this character as a tough guy," or "Someone who can make us laugh." Don’t use vague terms like “good” or “funny”—they aren't helpful when describing people and their qualities. If it helps, think about people in your life that are similar or have these qualities; try writing down some adjectives that describe them as characters, and see if any jump out at you!

You might also consider asking questions during interviews to get more information on potential actors' personalities and strengths (e.g., "What are some things that make people laugh?"). Just remember: while there's no one-size-fits-all answer, being open to other people's suggestions will help ensure everyone involved feels comfortable with their role within the project, leading towards better results all around!

Non-professional actors are usually aware of the camera

When you're casting non-actors, it's important to know that many of them are not used to being in front of a camera. It's the reason why it's best not to cast someone who has never been on camera before, especially if they are going to be starring in your project.

If you want your film or TV show looking professional then try using actors who have experience working with one another as well as cameras.

But what happens when you don't have any previous acting experience? Well then you need to find someone that is talented enough without having had any formal training because we all know how much time and money goes into getting an actor ready for their part!

They Don't Have To Act, They Have To Be

Here's the thing: you don't want your non-actors to act. You want them to be. They need to just do what they would normally do if you weren't there. Look up for people who look and behave just like your character. This will help the actors, because their performance will be closer to what they usually do every day (and will be able to bring more elements of truth to the character) but also the director, because more time can be spent fine-tuning little nuances of the performance instead of making an actor look enraged instead of being mad while smiling (yes...been there, done that).

So don't expect them to be professional or trained, because that's not what they are. Expect them to give their best take on their everyday lives, which is usually more interesting anyway!

It's Not About You

  • Don't be so caught up in the process that you forget to listen.
  • Ask questions, but don't ask them just to get information for yourself.
  • Listen carefully to what people are saying—without getting defensive (I know this is hard).


If you’re ready to cast non-actors, don't be afraid to take a risk. They may not have the experience, but they have something that others don't: their real life experiences. Remember that these people are just like everyone else and will bring something unique and amazing to your project when given the opportunity.


Jane Horowitz

Jane Horowitz

Published November 15, 2022

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