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The Industry

Performers Bella Ramsey, Jennifer Saunders, Laura Donnelly, Rob Brydon, Toheeb Jimoh, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Asim Chaudhry share their advice for dealing with rejection

We caught up with some of our guest-presenters at this year’s CDG Awards, and asked them how they handle rejection as actors, along with what advice they’d give to others when it comes to dealing with knockbacks.

Here’s what they had to say:

It’s not personal, it’s just business.

Nobody enjoys getting rejected, and never does it feel more personal than in the creative industry. When you deliver someone a performance that you’re proud of, it can feel soul-destroying to receive a rather impersonal ‘no.’

However, as Toheeb Jimoh (Ted Lasso) says: “A ‘no’ isn’t necessarily about you.” He reminds us, “There’s a multitude of different reasons why it could be a ‘no’… it’s not just about [you] not acting hard enough.”

This is echoed by Bella Ramsey (The Last of UsGame of Thrones), who adds, “Often it’s not that you weren’t good enough, it’s just that you weren’t right for that role, or you didn’t fit in with the rest of the cast.”

It’s important to recognise this so we don’t beat ourselves up over all the things we think we did wrong. Take a look at our advice for dealing with self-pity if you need something to re-motivate you, or our advice for overcoming self-judgment if you’re struggling to not blame yourself.

Everybody gets rejected at some point.

“Even actors at the very, very top of their game are still experiencing [rejection] to some degree,” says Laura Donnelly (The NeversThe FerrymanOutlander), and she’s not the only one who thinks it’s important for performers to keep this in mind.

Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely FabulousAllelujahFrench & Saunders) stresses, “Everyone gets rejected. You’ll find the biggest stars in the world will get rejected.”

For Asim Chaudhry (Hoff the Record, People Just Do Nothing), it’s a matter of being aware that other people will not be open about their own rejections. “I think I handle rejection very well because I’ve been rejected many, many times in my life,” he says. “I think that’s true for most people, it’s just that we don’t see the losses, do we? We only see the wins.”

“I think it helps to know that everybody is on the same page,” Laura Donnelly agrees.

If you struggle when you see actors posting about their successful auditions, our advice for dealing with career envy may be useful for you.

It gets easier with time.

It may sound cliché, but handling rejection should get easier with time. This may come about from you getting used to it, or as Rob Brydon (Marion and GeoffGavin & Stacey) puts it, “You develop a very thick skin.”

It may be that you learn to let it go once it’s over, as Bella Ramsey does. She says, “[Rejection is] something I’ve got used to. It’s got to the point now where I do an audition or I do a self-tape, and then I put it out of my mind. It’s like it didn’t exist.”

If you’re finding it challenging to put an audition out of your head, our post-audition meditation may help you de-stress.

Try not to burn bridges.

Whether an audition or self-tape ends with rejection or not, it’s always good to be mindful of the future. Don’t shout and rage with the casting professional who’s given you the bad news, as you never know what future opportunities they may keep you in mind for.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Invisible ManThe Haunting of Hill House) has experience of this, and shares, “I’ve had plenty of moments where… right at the last minute, you don’t get [the job]. Those relationships have then come back round years later and turned into something even more fruitful. I think it’s just important to just trust the process of it.”

Take a look at our advice for turning rejection into opportunity for the future.

A special thank you to Bella Ramsey, Jennifer Saunders, Laura Donnelly, Rob Brydon, Toheeb Jimoh, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Asim Chaudhry and Harry Trevaldwyn for sharing their rejection advice and experiences!

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Photo credit: Scarlet Page