When stepping into the audition room, you should be extremely well prepared, ready to adjust and be as realistic to the script as you can be – but props aren’t part of that realism. Especially props that can scare the casting director.

It’s good practice to look for every edge when auditioning for a role. Preparing for that audition as far in advance as you can, working the script over and over, looking for nuances in the character that come across on video, will put you miles ahead of the competition that is still learning their lines in the audition waiting room. But props rarely are a part of that edge, and, in fact, could hurt your chances at booking that paid acting work.

Props always come up when a new actor attends an event where a casting director is holding court. The question they ask is “Should I bring props with me?” The answer is universally, “no.” Casting directors love well prepared actors, and will advise you to dress to suggest the part, but they will tell you not to waste your time bringing props.

You shouldn’t need props to complete the picture of your character. Aside from being distracting when you bring them out, they become one more thing to manage, and one more opportunity for disaster to occur should the prop not function properly, should you drop it, or any other number of bad outcomes. You want the casting people to focus on you and your acting, not your prop.

Your sides can often substitute for a prop – if you’re auditioning as a doctor giving a prognosis in a medical procedural, for example, holding your sides as (or on) a clipboard and occasionally referring to them for details works well. A rolled up set of sides can act as a stick or a bat, or a folded set of sides, as a fan on a hot day.

You might also employ items you naturally carry with you: your cell phone to take or make a call, reaching into your wallet for money or your credit cards, taking your glasses out to be able to read something, or a pack of cigarettes to play with (but don’t light up EVER. EVER.). These are things we work with every day, know exactly where they are on our person and can handle well. Just don’t make a big deal out of it.

The use of props isn’t always something called for in script, and we forget that every day pecadillos – adjusting glasses, checking your makeup, using a handkerchief to wipe your brow are all little bits of business that can add to the character’s world and help you land that role.

Let your action and placement speak to other non-existent props – if you’re being cuffed, simply putting your hands behind your back and jerking your body works. And if you don’t have a phone, touching your ear as if you have a bluetooth headset works just as well.

This is very important: absolutely never, ever, ever bring any sort of weapon into the audition space. This includes guns, knives, bricks, ropes, even homemade items that can be construed to be dangerous in the room should things get very emotional. At the very least, you’ll scare the CD, and at the worst, your audition will immediately be stopped, and you’ll be asked to leave. Don’t ever risk that, as you’ll never be called in by that casting director again.

You obviously want an edge, but props isn’t the area to concentrate on. Rather, know your lines backwards and forwards, have another approach in your back pocket, be adjustable, and build into your performance little bits of business that don’t require any props.

What’s your answer to this acting question? Let me know in the comments below.