Elizabeth Ho is Letting it Go
Do auditions give you anxiety? Justin chats with Elizabeth Ho about combating panic by staying grounded, staying present, and channeling Kathy Bates.
Elizabeth Ho is an actress best known for her work in film and television — including her role as Jenny on Netflix’s Disjointed. Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter and Instagram at @realelizabethho.
Welcome to the eleventh episode of Audition Secrets!
Justin chats with Elizabeth about her time on Netflix’s Disjointed and working with Kathy Bates. Elizabeth refers to Bates as loving, kind, warm, super professional, and a person who really knows her shit! But like any human, Kathy Bates messes up, so Elizabeth finds comfort in that.
Elizabeth says that we shouldn’t your mistakes define the rest of our performance, or time on set, or audition — in the same way that athletes don’t let one missed shot throw their entire game. Elizabeth’s process for dealing with owning her own mistakes starts with shame and embarrassment, but she replays and recalls everything she did in, say, the audition room, how she felt, what she liked about it, and what she didn’t like. Then she calls someone in her family, has a vent session, and moves on. The more she dwells on the audition, a process over which she is powerless, the less able she’ll be to move on, and the less ready she’ll be for the next opportunity coming her way.
Auditioning = numbers game
To combat nerves, Elizabeth dives into researching the project, its tone, and its personnel. Ultimately, she says, auditioning is a numbers game. The more you do it, the more opportunities you have to improve and the more opportunities you have to book a role. Even if you mess up nine out of ten auditions, you only need one. Justin reminds us that we’re not in positions of subservience! It’s our time as actors in the audition room.
Call me, beep me, if you wanna reach me
Justin shares a story about his phone ringing twice during the same audition. He remembers feeling dead inside! Elizabeth tells us that sometimes, if an audition is going especially badly, she’ll just show herself out.
Sugar, butter, failure
Justin recounts his audition for Broadway’s Waitress. He intentionally didn’t watch the movie it was based on because he wanted to make his own choices, but the thick silence after his audition with Sara Bareilles was proof that perhaps this was not his best decision. Elizabeth identifies the fight or flight feeling that comes up for her in audition environments. Sometimes she leaves auditions so quickly that casting teams have to chase her down in the parking lot for a callback!
So much of the casting process is out of our control. That’s why, Elizabeth says, the process of “total recall” is so important. You have to know what the audition was for your own mental records — to know where you stand with yourself.
Justin and Elizabeth discuss the phenomenon of coming offstage after a performance and having no idea what just happened. The experience is the result of a letting go, a signal of an achieved flow state. When that happens, you’ve stopped acting and really started living in it.
Grounded for life
Elizabeth manages the anxiety of life and her career with meditation, focus on breath, and somatic therapy, which aims to retrain the nervous system. It prioritizes a “grounding” where one tries to find the resources within their body or environment to find safety and stillness. In a more general since, she tries to remember that she is a strong, beautiful being and, as an actor, essential to this industry.
As an Asian-American, Elizabeth shares her thoughts about representation in film and television — how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve yet to go. She recalls a conscious pivot in her career to avoid roles that perpetuated a negative stereotype or promoted violence, especially against women. At the same time, she acknowledges, an actor has to balance their integrity with the realities of electricity and groceries. Elizabeth has seen the industry change a lot in terms of how roles for Asian actors are being written, but citing the recent rendering of Bruce Lee’s character in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, she knows there is a long way to go.
Growing up with a mom who was a dancer on Broadway, Elizabeth was always encouraged to perform. She attended the University of Southern California for Business, but during her studies, booked the role of Jasmine in an Aladdin show at Disneyland. She got fired the week before they opened, but she marched back to the theatre department at USC and switched majors as she realized her desire for training.
I know things now
When asked what she wishes she knew sooner, Elizabeth says, “that I am good enough, just as is.” Elizabeth discusses the fact that in this society, a person's worth is often defined by their career, what they’ve done, the kids they have, the house they have, the possessions they have. “But what if you were just a good person?”
Self care nation
Elizabeth and Justin highlight the importance of prioritizing your mental health — be it therapy, meditation, working out, going to the beach, taking in art, etc. This industry, as we know, can be tough. “It will drain your beautiful soul out of you, so you have to learn to take care of your soul.”
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