We are always told to know the tone of the television show we're auditioning for, before we come in to read. For instance, I like to describe the acting in sitcoms as "amplified reality" -- it's usually played naturally, but it's heightened for effect. Every show has a distinctive blend of comedy and drama, and a specific style of presenting it. If you're familiar with that tone, when the casting director redirects you to bring "more" or "less" to the scene, you have an identical point of reference, and chances are you will give them the performance they want. But what is your personal point of reference in all of your acting work?
As film and television actors, we all strive to be able to be completely and totally natural and real on camera. That is our ultimate benchmark. What I want actors to experience in my workshops is the feeling of doing less and less and less on camera until they feel that they're not doing anything. And it's a very uncomfortable place for an actor to be, because if we're not doing anything then we're not acting, right? I disagree. If we're not doing anything then we are being natural and real.
If you audition for a sitcom or a broad comedy movie and the casting director tells you to "have more fun with it" or "you can go further", they want you to amplify the reality, and it's easy to add unreality to a performance. But if you're auditioning for a television drama and the casting director tells you to "bring it down" or "throw it away," what is your mutual point of reference? It is reality.
Only when an actor has experienced what it feels like to do nothing on camera, and is confident and comfortable doing that, have they established their acting benchmark, upon which all other acting styles, tones, and techniques are built.
See you on the set,