What to Do When You Keep Tripping Over a Line

Every once in a while, you’ll find there are some scripts or lines that just do not flow naturally.

For example, I recently auditioned for a role where one of the lines was “Well duh, everyone knows that.” I tried a few different ways, but it just didn’t flow. “Well duh” is just NOT something that rolls naturally off my tongue, nor did it seem appropriate for my analysis of the character.

That’s when you know you need to do a little more work.

And by work, I don’t mean repeating it over and over again, or completely re-writing the script (please don’t do this). I mean that you need to look at the text, determine what the point of the line is, and then phrase it as close to what is written as possible in a way you would say it naturally.

I always try my very best to stick to the lines the way they’re written. I know that writers put in a lot of work to create these scripts. But sometimes, I need to follow my gut.

So the point of the line is simply that everyone knows whatever was just said to be true. For the purposes of this post, I’ll just make up the lines:

Sally: “You think John is handsome?”

Janet: “Well duh, everyone knows that.”

Since I was having trouble saying the line naturally, I changed my line to:

Janet: “Hey, everyone knows that.”

It’s not a huge change, barely perceptible–but it made my read feel SO much better. By making that tiny change, I personalized it, and was able to say the line naturally.

One thing to keep in mind is that scripts are written to be read, not necessarily said. So, when it comes time for an actor to put the words on a page in their mouths, sometimes it comes out a little awkward. Those are the times where you can take a little bit of liberty to make some minor changes.

But you need to be EXTREMELY cautious with this. Writers often purposely put hints about the character in the carefully chosen words they use. You MUST do the work to ensure that you’re distilling the essence of the line before you make any changes. If the line “well duh” was a catch phrase, or if I was supposed to be playing a character that spoke a certain way–I would NOT have changed it. And even though I made an informed choice, it’s still a risk I take that the change I made might not be well-received.

Now, sometimes, if you cannot change the line, perhaps finding an action to go with the line might work. Again, you need to really look at the line and figure out what the point of it is. Maybe it would make sense for me make a joke of “well duh” and flip my hair and laugh afterward.

Another way is to change the punctuation, or cadence of the words. So instead of saying

“Well duh, everyone knows that.”
Try:
“Well. Duh everyone knows that!”

Tiny changes like that can make a big difference, and might help make your audition stand out. The key is to really understand who the character is and what the point of the line is.