What is "the research"?
You've heard it a million times. Got an audition? Do your research!
But it donned on me that this may not be common knowledge. I think it's different for everyone in small ways, but here is an overarching list of things that are commonly considered "the research" part of this job.
-This should go without saying but if it's a TV show that already exists, you go watch the latest season of the show. You should be able to pick up on the general tone from 2-3 episodes. Sometimes this sucks because it ruins plot lines from a show you haven't actually watched yet. But thems the brakes kid.
- IMDb Pro search the executive producers, director, casting director, and other major names listed on the audition info. I'd say show runners for TV shows are most important, but you'll start to notice trends. Like all the same producers worked on their last 3 shows together and they were all around the same tone or genre. This is especially helpful in pilots when there is no past shows to watch. For films, the writer and director or producers probably worked on previous things. Go watch one. Just having a general understanding of people's past work (and any trends that exist in it) is another small piece of the puzzle that makes you more knowledgable in the room. Also, a true compliment (if you really know and enjoyed some of their past work) is always appreciated.
-A Deadline search is also helpful. As is a general Google. I did this recently for an audition and found an article where the producers of a pilot I was going out for did an interview about a previous project they had together. They were really candid and kind in this interview. And when I was in my callback with them I felt so comfortable because I kinda felt like I knew them...if that makes sense.
-Now after some general searching and watching (all of which can be done from the comfort of your home!) is the time to read the script, if you have been given one. Why wait? The context in which you read the story and specifically the lines in your brain will stick with you. If you read it first as a dark drama and then find through research that its a dramedy and there are more moments for comical relief, your brain will open up a whole new way of hearing the lines, the characters will be right there on the page for you to play with, and you won't have to second guess yourself that you're creating all this extra stuff because you're familiar with the materials before even reading them.
-Now is the fun part...where you get to act! Go play!