I had an audition this past week for a popular procedural show - one of those long-running crime/mystery shows. And the character I was reading for was a really intense character. But, it could have been played a couple of different ways. So, what did I do in the few days I had to rehearse it?
First I looked at the different choices and what clues I could get from the dialogue. For example, if another character asks your character - "Do you know Jeremy Jones?", and your response is, "I ain't got no knowledge of that person," you can assume that your character is not an educated person. Now, if the line is the same, but he adds, "… so just leave me alone." What does that add to the character? He's hostile? He's a loner? He doesn't like the person asking him the question? Maybe the person asking him is a cop and he doesn't like any cops.
The casting people don't want you to be asking them what they want - or what they see as the character - they want to see what you bring to the audition. If you're a beginner, you might get told what to do, but if you want to move up the ladder and get better roles, you will be expected to bring a fully realized character to the audition.
At my audition, not only was the casting director in the room, there was also the show's director, the producer, and the writer. And since this was for a TV show, they simply don't have the time to have a conversation with every actor about the character. This is why no one asked me if I had any questions. If they had given me an adjustment after my first read, then I could have asked a question to clarify the adjustment.
As actors, we aren't just puppets, we are expected - most of the time - to be creative and to make the choices ourselves. And believe in them and commit to them. There are some exceptions, mainly in commercial auditions, where the casters will usually tell us what they want from the character. Since I talk about that in another post and in my book, I won't go into it in this post.
The one thing you want to avoid in a film or TV audition is trying to play all the possibilities. You must make a choice and stick with it! Then if the caster wants to see a different take on the character, they will give you an adjustment. If, in the above example, you were a little too angry, they might say, try it again more frustrated than angry. And this is why you want to go through several possibilities when you are rehearsing, so that you can make a change if they give you an adjustment. You just don't want to try to play all your choices in the hope that they will see something in your audition, because all they will see is an actor who has not committed to a choice.
And how do we make those choices? We do it by supplying our own answers to to our questions. For example - is the character angry or frustrated? Try it both ways. Which way feels most right? Go with that. You may be wrong, but you'll be strong. And strong and wrong is far more interesting than weak and blah.