Earlier this week a documentary I narrated, “The Real Apes of the Planet”, aired on Animal Planet. (Here’s a clip in case you missed it.)
I got lots of congratulations and kind comments from friends and family but I thought I’d share the voicemail message I got from, arguably, my biggest fan – my mom.
No not my opinion, my actual two cents. That’s right, the big bucks are rolling in now, residuals baby…I just a got a check in the mail for $.02!
The residual check is from a job I did a few years ago, recording voiceover for the adorable show “The Wonder Pets”. I get these checks fairly often, usually for five dollars here or ten dollars there. Residuals are pay for all the times the network re airs an episode or for the sales of the episode on iTunes or usage on Netflix. The show is on Nick Jr., which is cable not network TV, so the residual rates are on the lower side but that’s ok, I like the show, I love recording for animation and the people at Nickelodeon are very nice. The other bonus to receiving these small but somewhat frequent checks is looking at the pay stub, where it says description of services it reads in bold letters “MOTHER COW” I love any job where your description of services reads like a inventory list of farm animals. I also get these same kinds of checks for another episode I was in but on those checks the description reads “MOTHER SKUNK”. I can’t wait until I’m audited one day and get to explain that to the IRS but until then I’m happy just to imagine what they are picturing in their heads.
In conclusion I will take my $.02 check to the bank and deposit it proudly. If the bank teller gives me any guff, I will just moo. I mean that’s a money making moo after all.
I would like some credit for resisting the very strong urge to use cow puns and/or jokes in this entry and especially for not titling it Moo-lah. It was very hard not to reference the “cash cows” some jobs can be. Or to ask “hey, why is the cow always broke?” The answer invariably being, “because the farmer milked her dry.” I never mentioned that I have no problem milking paychecks for all they are worth be they big or small and I never said that some may think it would stink to get a check for being a skunk. I didn’t get into how over the moon I was to even be cast in the role in first place and that I would never look a gift horse, (still farm related), in the mouth. So, you are welcome for sparing you that kind of groan worthy post and I hope you found what I did write to be at least somewhat a-moo-sing.
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch … but at least get paid for them: Getting cast on Veep, Part 3 of 3.
The last part of this three part epic is sad, short and explains the title. Six months had passed and my episode of Veep was released. I put the episode on and did a slow fast forward through it looking for myself … I was going to watch the whole episode but the suspense was killing me and I had to know what line they used and how it looked. My slow fast forward was about three minutes from the end of the episode and I still hadn’t seen myself. In my script my part was more toward the beginning, that’s weird? I figured I must have missed myself so I decided I’d just watch the whole thing. About 10 minutes in I recognized the location as the room I filmed in, and there were the other characters that were in my scene and there’s the line before mine and…where am I? Here comes Anna Chlumsky, wait she just delivered the same information my character delivers, but where is the funny line? Where am I? I was cut. My heart sank into my stomach and then broke into little pieces. My part was cut out of the show. I thought I was “genuinely funny” and now I was genuinely on the cutting room floor. What about all those lines they had to chose from, all those takes, I guess none of them were ever quite right. So again, if you pray for a lot of lines, make sure you are very specific. You’ll A. want to say all of the lines on camera and B. want them to be in the actual show. On the bright side I got paid for my three days on set, had a wonderful time and am eligible to audition again next season.
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch … but at least get paid for them: Getting cast on Veep, Part 2 of 3.
When you’re on the set of a film or television show you meet a lot of interesting people. There are so many different people doing so many different jobs, lighting, sound, production assistants, caterers, wardrobe and background just to name a very few. Background is hard work; I’ve done a decent amount of it. It’s long thankless hours of standing and sitting around and waiting and then when it’s time to work you move to another location and stand and sit around there. I’ve noticed a lot of background actors or extras are often long time veterans, they’ve sat in the restaurants, walked down the streets and stood in the crowds of every movie and TV show you can think of from Murphy Brown to Captain America.
One woman in particular stood out to me on the set of Veep. She was an older woman who sort of looked like a potato or one of those dolls made out of pantyhose.
She was new to background work and to being on a production set. I was curious what made her want to try her hand at being an extra, maybe she had some time off from work? Maybe this was how she planned on spending her retirement? She definitely didn’t have the air of someone who was used to this environment and was not at all aware that when on set you should be quiet and as little trouble as possible while everyone is working. I first noticed her because she was very concerned about her bags, of which she had many. She kept asking anyone who would listen if they thought she should go and get her bags and keep them close to her and every person she asked responded the same “No leave your bags in the holding room we need to keep this area clear” “Oh” she would say slowly with an air of skepticism. She would then wait a beat and find another person to ask “Do you think I should get my bags and bring them close to me?” and again the answer would be “No leave your bags in the holding room we need to keep this area clear.” And again “Oh” This went on for quite a while she must have asked at least eight different people and all eight people answered with the same response, it was starting to drive me a little crazy until she went to ask the ninth person and I just blurted out myself “No leave your bags in the holding room we need to keep this area clear!” I couldn’t help myself, but I would pay the price because now I was on her radar. “Well I see a lot of bags and a clothing rack over there so I think I should get my bags” she answered back. I was somewhat relieved that at least the dialogue had changed up a bit but still irritated at her insistence “Those are the wardrobes bags and clothing rack they need them on set” I told her in an admittedly sharp tone. I’m not usually an impatient or unkind person but I think her complete disregard for the giant sign that said WARDROBE on the clothing rack and bags rubbed me the wrong way. “Where did you get those slippers?” she asked me. “The wardrobe people were nice enough to give them to me so I didn’t have to walk around in the high heels that gave me all day” “They give you clothes?” She asked incredulously. “Well they don’t give them to me, they loan them to me for the part and then I give them back.” She can’t be serious I thought to myself but she continued, “I had to bring my own clothes, should I tell them I’m wearing my own clothes?” At this point I realized the conversation was happening whether I liked it or not so I responded “I’m pretty sure background actors or extras are supposed to bring their own wardrobe, otherwise that would be a lot of costuming.” “Oh” she responded again in what was beginning to become her infamous skeptical trademark response – why would anyone be trying to trick you lady? “So how come you get wardrobe?” she questioned, “I have a small part,” I said feeling almost guilty or embarrassed about it as she responded “Oh.”
She wound up being very impressed that I got to actually say a line in the show and she wanted to know all about it. Even when I thought all the questions had been exhausted and put my head down to busy myself with my phone there was still more. “So what else do you get?” she asked, “Do you get to keep the slippers?” “No I don’t think so.” I said. “Do you get different food?” “No, same as you” I replied. I felt her starting to lose interest in my “specialness” and in a panick I blurted out “I get a trailer.” “Oh” she said only this time it was a different oh … she was intrigued. “Yeah it’s pretty cool, it’s small but it’s a nice private place to change and keep my stuff” “Oh yeah? That’s nice” she said, “Could you sleep in it?” “What?” I asked, “Could you sleep in it?” That was a weird question, was she tired? “Umm, yeah I guess if I wanted I could go sleep in it, but I like being close to set” “Can you shower in it?” “Umm no mine doesn’t have a shower in it.” “But if you wanna sleep in it you can?” I was somewhat taken back by how interested this woman was in a small trailer. “Yeah I guess you could sleep in it.” “So you don’t have to go home? You can just stay in your trailer and you’ll already be here in the morning.” I was not expecting that was where her thought process was going “Uhhh, no you probably don’t want to sleep in it over night, it wouldn’t be that comfortable, it’s just kind of changing room and a place to keep your things, it’s not that fancy” I guess that response caused her to lose interest in the trailer because she decided changed the subject. “I have a lot of wigs, I brought a couple of them with me” I just sat there, at this point I wasn’t sure what that correct response would be and I figured maybe of I was still and silent she would move on from me but she pressed on “ Maybe I should go ask the director what wig he wants on me?” I had to respond to this, I couldn’t let this woman go ask the director about her wig selection she could get sent off the set “I wouldn’t do that, I don’t think he’ll really mind, it’s more up to the costume department to approve the extra’s wardrobe so if they said you’re fine, you’re probably fine” “Oh” uh oh, that was the trademark oh, she didn’t trust my response. “I’m just not sure if he’d rather me where one of my other wigs, I have a lot of different looks I could do” At this point I decided to try the phone trick again, I had nothing else to say to this lady and she wasn’t very receptive to my responses anyway. She continued, “Once I was on another movie set and they wanted me to be a lunch lady, they were going to give me the clothes and they were going to have me say a line but I wouldn’t do it” I knew I shouldn’t respond and re-involve myself but I couldn’t help it “ Why?” I asked, “If they want to give you a line you should always say yes, you never know what it could lead to”
“They wouldn’t give me a trailer” I waited a beat and then responded “Oh.”
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch … but at least get paid for them: Getting cast on Veep, Part 1 of 3.
I booked a part on Veep, the emmy winning HBO show with an amazing cast and of course, one of my favorite women in comedy, Julia Louis Dreyfus. I was booked for three days as the part of the “Child Wrangler”. When I heard three days I was amazed I thought that perhaps I might have more than one line this time. I might actually get to do more than tell someone their wife was on the phone – not that that wasn’t exhilarating but with three days surely I would be doing more than delivering phone messages. After signing and faxing the non-disclosure agreement I was sent the script. I opened the document and ctrl f’d “Child Wrangler” searching for my lines and there it was. It was one line but at least it was a longer line this time… kind of a run on sentence if you will.
Is there such thing as being type cast as a one line wonder? Perhaps if I work very hard one day my obituary will read, “She never performed more than one line but damned if it wasn’t one of the most tremendous lines you’d ever see performed.”
I had my own trailer again, very nice. I act cool and nonchalant as I’m shown to my trailer and given the key, but inside I’m busting. Getting a trailer is always a magnificent bonus to me; I should go to castings with a sign that says, “Will work for trailer”. Whenever I’m walking down the street in New York and they are filming a movie or TV show and all those Hadaad’s trailers, (http://www.haddadsinc.com they have an awesome jingle), are set up along the street I’m always so curious and envious of whoever is inside and today it’s me. I’m inside. I love having my own private space on a set. A space designated just for me with my characters name written on tape and stuck on the door, it makes me feel special, almost like a real movie star. I decided to spend a lot of my down time on set though. Unlike House of Cards the mood on Veep was a little more relaxed and I really enjoyed just watching everything happen and being in the heart of the action. Anna Chlumsky, who plays Amy, was very nice and I had the pleasure of chatting with her for a while.
I was to report to “base camp”, which is what they call the check in location and sort of center of operations, at 10am for my costume fitting and be ready and on set by 12pm. As I was changing into my costume I was told there was some script changes and given a new script. Script changes? How much changing could there be for one line? Maybe they corrected the run on sentence? Could they have given me more lines? Oh lord of lords please let there be more lines! I opened the new script and turned to my scene … nope, still one line … but a totally different one and just a little bit longer. Great! I’ll take it. I quickly memorized that and went over to set. When I got to set I was told there was another script change and given another script. More lines? Nope. Same amount of words just different ones. I quickly memorized the new line and waited to be called into the scene. I was sitting there running over my line in my head and waiting when another production assistant came up to me “We’ve got another change…” she handed me the new script “they aren’t sure which line they want so just be ready with all of them.” At this point I had a nice collection of lines to memorize, enough to make up a nice chunk of a scene. I guess when I called on the Lord to let there be more lines I was taken very literally. Lesson learned – be more specific in your prayers.
I was called to set and I did my blocking – start at “one“ (which is the point where you start the scene, for me this was a point off camera), enter and cross to actor playing the stage manager, deliver line. The writers were standing off camera with me at “one” and would direct me as to which line to do each time. I did it once for each of the lines they had given me, then the writers started throwing me new lines on the spot to try each time they yelled action. I probably tried four or five different versions, a few times for each and then they yelled “that’s a wrap” and everyone went to lunch. The whole thing was a whirlwind of excitement – I actually enjoyed having lines thrown at me and delivering them on a moments notice. As crazy and nerve wracking as it might seem it was very invigorating and I felt like I was really a part of the creative process.
At lunch I saw the writers sitting with each other and I was a little intimidated but I decided to put my big girl pants on and go over and say hello and thank you to them. They were very gracious and complementary. They thanked me for being flexible and one of them said I was “genuinely funny”. “Wow – if he meant that…” I thought to myself “that is an amazing compliment”
Once my three days on the set of Veep were over I got that all too familiar bittersweet sting in my chest. I was elated to have had the opportunity but I didn’t want to go home yet. It’s kind of like that feeling when your mom shows up to pick you up from your friend Grace’s house right as the two of you were just getting started on an amazing lip synch/dance performance of I’ve Had The Time of My Life from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and you can’t believe the best time of your life is over when it was only just beginning. It would be six months until the episode would be released and I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out and which line they would use.
I’ve never really worked for a corporation or even in an office for that matter. When I first moved to New York City straight out of college I was trying to find a day job, the thing actors have to do to make money, I had heard of a lot of people getting work through temp agencies so I went to one. They had me take some basic computer skill tests but I didn’t do very well. I don’t type that fast and when I do type I don’t type properly.
In the 5th grade we had to take computer science class where we were supposed to learn to type without looking at the keyboard. The teacher was a very tall man with very curly red hair we called “The Carrot”. More quickly than I learned how to type I learned how to charm The Carrot and cheat the typing test system so while I did pass the class to this day I have my own brand of typing and I still look at the keyboard a lot.
The temp agency took a little pity on me and decided to let me try my hand at reception work but before sending me to a big company they had me work at the front desk of their offices. As bad as I was with computer skills I was worse with multi-line phones, I hung up on over twenty people that day and the rest, well, their calls were transferred but I can’t say that I know to where exactly. That is the extent of my experience working in an office or any type of corporate environment.
What I know about the business world I have learned from television or from what friends and family tell me about their jobs. I also know that these business people like to hire performers to entertain at different, what they call, “functions” or “events.” These kinds of gigs can be a vital part of a working actors life because they pay well and we need to pay bills and eat. The other side of these gigs is that they require a little tiny piece of your soul each time you do one.
I had a gig last night doing sketch comedy and improv for a bunch of hotel executives on a rooftop over looking the Capitol Building in Washington DC. I was excited to do the job; anytime I get paid to do comedy I get excited. Political satire isn’t where I excel but we had some great sketch writers and Dion Flynn who impersonates President Obama on the Jimmy Fallon show was doing a terrific bit. There was a sketch called “Putin After Dark” where Putin has a Hugh Hefner-esque talk show and I played terrible stand up comedian guest – I was nervous about getting the order of my bad jokes correct so I wrote them on my hand, I’ve been doing that trick forever – oldie but a goody. The idea of entertaining a crowd of people is wonderful and if that’s what I was actually doing I would have liked it a whole lot more. It turns out what I was really doing at this gig was making background noise for people to ignore, talk over, drink to and chew around. I’m not sure who thinks a bunch of executives are going to want to watch political satire at 7pm after a long day of work while free drinks are flowing and hors d’oeuvres are being passed but I’m telling you now that they don’t. I’m pretty sure that they just want to drink and eat for free and get out of there and back to their families, I’m pretty sure of that because that is exactly what happened. We did our thing and they drank and ate and left right through it. So if you are an event planner, don’t stop supporting artists but maybe don’t have sketch comedy and improv compete for a cocktail hour. I did nail the joke order though, I’m not sure anyone was listening because I think the mini quiches came out right at the same time, but I still nailed it.
Trying to be a working actor some days are busier than others. Last week I voiced the character of Kitty Pride in an X-Men graphic novel for a company that turns comic books into audio books. It was a really fun job and I hope to work with them again soon. Wednesday I took a workshop with casting director Amy Gossels, I learned a lot, thank you Amy. I spend a lot of time on the Internet searching for castings to submit to and sometimes I do mailings. I go to tons and tons of auditions – if I booked even half the auditions that I went on I’d be richer than George Clooney – like Oprah money rich. Some days though, are slow and can be a little boring, maybe even a little lonely.
Today after being on the internet all morning I decided I needed to get out of the apartment so I decided to go to the grocery store to buy groceries and cleaning supplies … for the cleaning I was going to do…at some point. I was in the produce department picking out some nectarines, (to make up for the cupcakes I ate last week), when an elderly black man with dark rimmed glasses held together by a band aid at the bridge of the nose turns toward me and says “s’cuse me lady can you help me?” I was caught off guard for a quick second wondering if I thought I worked at the grocery store but then I figured I’d at least see what he wanted so I said yes. He began shaking a bag of lettuce at me and mumbling something that I couldn’t quite make out so I listened a little harder “what can I put with this?” he asked. “Oh you want to make a salad?” I asked “Yeah Yeah Yeah” he said and continued to hold up the bag of shredded lettuce. “Well you could put in cucumbers” I said and pointed to the cucumbers. “COME ON MAN” he sort of half yelled and half laughed, I guess he didn’t like that suggestion – the pressure was on. “What about a tomato?” I asked quickly to try and make up for cucumber my faux pas. “Yeah YEAH” He said happily “Ok yeah, well there are some tomatoes right over…” then he cut me off “I was almost arrested last night,” whoa forget the salad this just got interesting. “I was in my old neighborhood and I got in a fight, they knocked my teeth out” ah, ok, that’s why he was mumbling and hard to understand – the guy had his teeth knocked out and now he just wanted to make a salad. “Oh jeez, you gotta be careful,” I said – knowing that was a stupid response but not really knowing what else to say. “It’s all good I had this…” and he pulled his cane out from his grocery cart “This really comes in handy.” “Oh wow, well good for you” I said sort of shocked at the words coming out of my mouth – did I just say good for you? “Oh yeah, this isn’t so bad, I really cracked the guy but you know … where can I just get one tomato?” “umm I think there are some single tomatoes over there” but before I could show him where they were he was off and talking to someone else. Hey! What was that? I thought we were in the middle of something here? I thought we were building a rapport. What the heck? Doesn’t he want more than just a tomato on his salad?
I just ate a cupcake…okay two cupcakes, they were small. As I was eating my delicious chocolate cupcakes with delectable butter cream frosting and delightful colored sprinkles I started thinking about sugar and how everyone is talking about how terrible it is. As I’m chewing I’m thinking “yeah this sugar is really bad for people” chew, chew and swallow. I remembered hearing that word on the street is that sugar is poison, it’s as bad as crack cocaine and we should do away with it. I got very sad. A world without sugar while being a healthier world would be so bleak, tasteless and just no fun. Do I want a longer life, yes, but a longer life with no cake, I think not.
Then I started wondering how many actresses really eat (and digest) cupcakes? Is it possible to be that skinny and perfect and still devour a cupcake like it’s going out of style? After I ate my second cupcake I thought well, maybe they eat one cupcake but they definitely don’t eat two. Does wanting to be an actress mean I shouldn’t be eating cupcakes? If I stopped eating cupcakes would I then become a very successful actress? Is my love of cupcakes and other delicious foodstuffs getting in the way of my acting career? I bet you don’t see any lawyers or school teachers out there wondering if their colleagues indulge in baked goods. Looking a little curvier (and happier) wouldn’t stop them from getting the job and celebrating with a pizza party or an ice cream cake.
But what if that really was the rule? “You can be a successful actress but you can never have another cupcake” Oh god – it would be like Sophie’s Choice. I guess I would chose acting, but good lord I would morn the loss of the cupcakes.
Look, I exercise often and yes I like junk food from time to time but I still try to make sure I get my fruits and veggies, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink very much. I just need some sweet, no pun intended, release in this rigid world of bitter rules and responsibilities or somebody might get hurt.
As of now though, there’s no guarantee that giving up cupcakes is going to cement my success so bring on the poisonous crack cakes – I’m hungry.
I’m driving along to another audition in Philadelphia for a Pennsylvania Lottery commercial, no the irony is not lost on me, I am acutely aware that my chances of booking this part are about the same as winning big on a scratch off. I’ve already auditioned for at least six other lottery commercials and have not “won” once. I remember when I was a kid my grandfather played the lottery every week, I remember sometimes he would let me fill in the little bubbles with the numbers he wanted to play, he never won. At least the money from the people playing the Pennsylvania Lottery goes to benefit older Pennsylvanians. What does the money funding my trips to these auditions go to? Well, it goes to tell you something about me … I’m either persistent or just plane insane.
The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I keep going to these auditions over and over again and what do I expect? When I asked myself this question I said “I expect to get the part” (and yes I said it…I talk out loud to myself a lot… ) Then I said , (out loud to myself), “wait…do I really expect to get the part? Or do I expect that I won’t? ” I suddenly realize that my self doubt might be the one thing that is keeping me from being truly insane, I go and I expect not to get the part and expect to be disappointed and that is exactly what happens. I’m not insane, I’m correct. Ok, so I’m sane but I don’t believe in myself. I’m not crazy, I’m just committing self sabotage.
The audition is over and I stop at the grocery store to treat myself to a salad at the salad bar. (yes that’s a treat, I lead a simple life ) Also at the salad bar is an interesting looking fellow with thick glasses and curly dark hair. He has on a back pack and a fanny pack and is carrying a grocery basket filled with crackers. He is mumbling audibly to himself and being very particular about what he puts in his salad. When he gets to the cherry tomatoes he stops and smells each one deeply almost inhaling it as it rubs against his nose before placing it in his salad. At this point I lose my appetite for the salad bar. The thing that strikes me though, is that he doesn’t care or is maybe not aware that I am watching him. He doesn’t care or is maybe unaware that this is strange behavior. He doesn’t care or is maybe unaware that it is weird to buy only crackers or a bit insane to smell his tomatoes. No one in the store seems to care that this guy might be a little off. Besides turning me off the salad bar, which is fine I can just eat last nights leftovers, his being a bit insane doesn’t bother anyone and ya know what? I bet he is really going to enjoy that salad. So maybe insane is good, maybe a little crazy never hurt anyone.
So no more being persistently sane. Oh, sure I say, (out loud), “oh, I hope I get this one…maybe this is the one!” but deep down inside at my very core I’m not really expecting that different result. I have to believe in myself and maybe that seems insane at times but so what. Whatever happened to – if at first you don’t succeed try try again? No one calls you insane when you’re learning to ride a bike. Imagine that, you fall off your bike once and you try again but you still fall off so you try again and again and again … then a couple of guys in white coats drag you off. “This kid is insane, he thinks he if he keeps trying to ride that bike he’ll eventually stop falling off?” If you really think about it almost every successful person was probably seen as insane at some point. Albert Einstien, Pythagoras, Arnold Schwarzenaggar, (I’ll bet you when little Arnold in Austria told his mom he was going to be a world famous bodybuilder/actor/Governor of California she totally thought he was nuts) So let’s not discount Mr. Tomato Sniffer and I’ll keep trying again and again but expect that different result – I’ll expect the win.
I have employed a system called Mail Chimp to help me send out email notifications when there are new posts on this blog. A fun but detrimental little tool that Mail Chimp has is the ability to keep me updated on how many people are reading my emails. Actually it’s a very detailed system that not only tells me how many people are reading the email but specifically how many are opening it and how many are clicking the links inside it and not only how many but who exactly is doing each of these things. Of course if it can tell me how many people are reading the email it can also tell me how many people are not and again not only how many but exactly who is not and what’s more it can tell me exactly who has unsubscribed. This has sadly become a bit of a gross obsession for me to monitor the statistics of my email blasts. It’s unhealthy and not at all good for self-esteem. Where normally I audition for something and rejection means never having to hear about it again so you can almost forget the opportunity ever existed, I now have found a way to mull over and stare at the actual rejection and analyze it. Now I am sharing this with you, now you know what is going on. So what’s going to happen? Will you now be too afraid and concerned with my mental health to unsubscribe so with pity you allow me to keep sending you weekly updates? If that’s the position I have put you in I guess I apologize and thank you for your pity and concern. The real kicker will be the people that now know I can see them reject me and yet still do. I have to say that I envy those people. I envy the balls you have to stand your ground and say “NO”, “No lady, I am not interested and nothing you can say or do will guilt me into receiving your weekly email annoyances! I see what you are trying to do with your sneaky tactics, playing your little at home version of the NSA game and openly threatening me and I still stand up and say NO THANK YOU!”
So in conclusion thank you to those who are truly interested in reading what I have to say and thank you to those who don’t care what I have to say but care too much about my feelings to let me see you reject me and finally while a little bit of me hates you I still say hats off to the ballsy people who don’t care about what I write and don’t give a crap if I know it.
So my original thought in writing this blog was that it would be a chance to put my ideas and stories out there, express myself without the day-to-day rejection and criticism I experience as an actor. What I actually have done is unwittingly walked right into a brand new genre ripe with it’s own brand of put downs, critiques, “suggestions” and we’re not interested in you’s.
The blog is up and people are reading it and while I should be happy about that all I seem to be doing is focusing on the negative. Now it’s not just blind rejection anymore, it’s far more detailed.
Last week I wrote a post about advice my mom had for me as an actor. In this post I originally used the word “retard” not a nice word I know but a word that none the less gets used, especially by the pre “P.C.” generation, behind closed doors and in private in hushed tones among friends as we giggle at the absolute incorrectness of that word and how naughty we are for using it. Using this word created quite a dust up, I must say. I received a couple of messages from people who did not think I should have used that “r” word and were offended, the majority of which were from a group called “Family Member” (familymemberinc.org) who work to “challenge people who use words that hurt people with disabilities”. My first instinct was to ignore this, as that’s the easiest way to handle things that make me uncomfortable. Then I wanted to quit writing the blog, anything to avoid conflict. I don’t really like controversy and I don’t like upsetting people. I have a habit of wanting to be the person other people want me to be so sometimes it’s easier to be neutral. If I’m neutral I can more easily morph into whatever role needs to be filled. Not wanting to ruffle feathers I wound up changing the post to get the point of the story across but without using the “r” word but now I’m annoyed with myself.
The thing is neutral isn’t real. We are rarely neutral about anything in life and the point of writing this blog is to tell about my real experiences whether they are nice and pretty or not. While I understand and appreciate the mission of organizations like “Family Member” I also don’t like feeling pressure to change my story or the way I tell it to make someone else happy. I was asked specifically to take down the post because it was “mean spirited and insensitive” but I’m not sure it was.
The “r” word was used, that is the way the story happened, I placed the word in quotations not because I was calling someone that name but because it was said to me. I was quoting someone and it was the absurdity of the suggestion or advice from my mom that was funny to me. Is seeing the “r” word in print a bit shocking? Yes I’m aware that it is but so was the entire situation and that was the point I wanted to share. I wanted to share that bizarre and very real situation and I don’t believe in doing that I was hurting anyone or making fun of anyone except maybe my mom who, though she was wrong, was truly yet awkwardly speaking her mind – a mind that although I love it is often bizarre and inappropriate. The story is true and I shared it on a blog about my life, my sometimes strange and not always proper or correct life.
So who knew with my little blog I would suddenly have to deal with political and social correctness and who new my little blog could raise such embroilment. I was not at all ready for that but I am proud to have addressed it instead of running for the hills, which is what I would have liked to have done. I guess this could be considered my first scandal, here’s to facing the heat.
Let me start by saying I love my mom and dad. My parents are wonderful people who have been very supportive of my quest to follow my dreams. They are also both full of ideas that they believe would be the key to my success.
My mom is a very sweet woman, with a heart of gold. She is a pediatric nurse and in all seriousness I’m not sure how she has the strength to care for sick children, some terminally ill, everyday and still find joy and laughter with her patients and in her life. It seems she also has some inside showbiz tips that she believes would really boost my career. The first of her tips for me was to let the casting directors know that I can play a convincing retarded person. When I was younger we had been watching the 1999 movie “The Other Sister” with Giovanni Ribisi and Juliette Lewis. Both Giovanni and Juliette play mentally challenged people who fall in love. I decided to try my hand at playing Juliette’s role and went around the house for the rest of the night (and part of the next day) playing that character. My mom was very impressed and said that she is a nurse and she cares for actual mentally challenged patients and that I was very convincing. To this day she brings it up and is sure that I would book a part on Law and Order if they just knew that I can play a mentally challenged or disabled person. I wonder how this plays out in her mind, does she think I should walk into the offices of Law and Order and announce to them that I can play disabled or just walk in acting that way? Does she think I should put it on my resume under special skills? Special Skills: Swimming, Singing, intellectually challenged person impersonator, tap dancing. The other thing that interests me here is that she is not sure Law and Order should cast me as a regular woman in her thirties, which I actually am. Apparently I am not convincing enough in the role of an able minded adult female but if they need someone who is mentally challenged, according to my mom, I’m the girl! My mother also believes I would have a real boost in my acting career if I start wearing wigs. More often than you would believe she suggests that I try some different wigs as it could really help my look and make my hair look fuller. I was talking to her last night and telling her about how I had just gotten new headshots and she asked me if I had “thought about purchasing some different wigs for the pictures?” I had not thought of my hair as being one of my problem areas but since my mom brings it up so often I’m starting to wonder – is it my hair that is stopping me from the success I dream of? Perhaps I should pick out a series of wigs and bring them to my next audition. I could go in with one wig do the audition then go out into the hallway and put on a different wig and try the audition all over again. She has been bringing this up for a few years now so I’m thinking I should just give her idea a try. Not the one where I tell people I do a good mentally challenged person – I’m not trying to offend people or get the ACLU all riled up. I will try the wigs! As seriously as possible I will take some new headshots and if there are any casting directors that see these pictures and suddenly realize that I would be perfect for your project due to the wigs please let me know. You would make my mom really happy to know she was right. Also… I went to a seminar given by John Palotta who was talking about parts he has played where he had a disability and remembering what my mom has always told me I thought I’d see what he had to say…
I don’t get sent out for on camera commercial auditions by my agent very often, 99 percent of the time they call me for voiceover auditions. The only reason for this as far as I can tell is because I have an unfortunate face. If anyone else has a better reason for my limited on camera commercial success please send me a message letting me know what you think it is. I’m pretty serious about this, the constructive feedback while being heart wrenching could also be helpful. Today, however, I actually do have an on camera commercial audition that I am being sent to by my agent for the New York Lottery.
This is the breakdown of said audition.
All should feel like Real NY people, 20-65.
All ethnicities. men & women.
Should be a great NY cross section of great types.
But think real, shooting in Chelsea or Union Square or Lower East Side.
NOT Upper east side type deli.
Think “of the people ” types.
Blue collar, moms, business types of all levels, city workers,
hipsters, delivery guys, people who make NYC such a smorgasbord of great faces, the kinds who play the lottery.
Now Let’s take a closer look at this….
Role: Shoppers… Okay, I shop.
All should feel like Real NY people, 20-65…. I am a real New York person. I’m pretty sure everyone at the audition will be unless they are secretly a robot like Vicki on Small Wonder…and even still, she was pretty convincing and I wouldn’t write her off.
All ethnicities. men & women… Cool, I am Caucasian which is an ethnicity included in “All” and I am a woman.
Should be a great NY cross section of great types… Ok so basically lots of different kinds of people. Not sure what a cross section of great types is but I’m guessing types of people that are great. Well I don’t know what constitutes great but at least I know I am some type of a person.
But think real… Again with the real business, ok so you don’t want the chick from small wonder or any kind of humanoid you want a real person, I guarantee you I’m a real person. I will at no point rip the flesh off my face to reveal a cyber robot underneath.
shooting in Chelsea or Union Square or Lower East Side. Great, I know where those places are, I am there a lot especially when shopping – I’m actually a real shopper.
NOT Upper east side type deli… ummm, upper east side type deli, deli workers from the Upper East side? Deli shoppers from the upper east side? Are west side type deli ok? Either way even though I’m not sure what they are talking about I don’t think I’m an upper east side type deli so perfect, I’m still good.
Think “of the people ” types… Of the people, am I of the people? I am a person and I take public transit so yeah I’m of the people.
Blue collar, moms, business types of all levels, city workers,
hipsters, delivery guys, people who make NYC such a smorgasbord of great faces, the kinds who play the lottery… I don’t know if I would be considered blue collar, I’m guessing most blue collar workers may make more money than me, business types of all levels – acting is a business and I’m in it at some level so I’ll stick myself in that category. Lastly, “the kinds who play the lottery” I have played the lottery many times, scratch offs, mega millions the whole kit and caboodle.
I’ve never won the lottery but perhaps I can win this part.
While I’m waiting on the subway platform for the train to arrive and I start feeling the butterflies begin to flutter in my gut. I don’t get nervous for voiceover auditions, I think I go on so many I’ve just become immune to the nervousness but on camera is different. On camera auditions feel more personal because it’s about all of you. They are judging your face, your body, your personality, if you get a no it feels like they are saying “we just don’t like you.”
I get on the subway and start looking around at all the people. “Oh that guy there is definitely of the people, I wonder if he is on his way to the audition?” I say to myself. “Oh look at that girl, she’s kind of funky and has a nose ring but she’s also attractive and just looks hip, she would be good in a commercial. I’m very blah aren’t I? I wonder if she’s going to the audition?” I actually find myself doing this all the time, looking at the faces of my fellow people and wondering of I looked like that person or this person would I be booking more parts? It’s probably not a great thing to do in terms of mental health but my mind kind of wanders where it wanders and I can’t really stop it. I really never know where my wandering mind will take me and although at times it’s annoying and perhaps messes with my confidence it’s also always a surprising journey that I kind of enjoy going on. I continue with my staring and guessing who in the subway may wind up being my competition at this audition and I continue once I’m off the subway, spotting people here and there as I walk to the rest of the way to the audition.
The audition itself is very quick, it pretty much always is. They took two people in at a time and told us to pretend we were friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long time and we just happen to bump into each other on the street. There’s no script we’re just supposed to improvise which is good for me. It’s always hilarious to me how quickly and with out hesitation actors who are total strangers will hug, kiss or caress each other if that’s what the casting director asks for.
I once had an audition where I was playing a pregnant mother who was going into labor and her husband was supporting her and they both had to be super happy and supper in love about it. They had a big fake plastic pregnant belly for the women to wear under their shirts, one by one we took turns strapping it on and magically became 9 months pregnant. We were paired with different actor men to play our husband. With out even a bit of hesitation my scene partner/husband is holding me in his arms and kissing me on the forehead. At the end of all that I shook hands with my “husband” we rode down in the elevator together and then I never saw him again … or my baby for that matter. It was like a terribly tragic Lifetime TV for women movie. At the current audition I was paired with what seemed like a nice girl of course a total stranger to me but when the casting director yelled action we squealed with excitement to see one another and started hugging and gabbing away about how she looked great and I looked great and “it’s been so long” and “I’m so glad to see you!” Then another huge very close hug then the director said cut and it was over. Again I shook my partners hand, rode down in the elevator with her and most likely will never see her again. Although who knows in this crazy world, right?
I felt ok about the audition not great. Going on an audition always feels somewhat like buying a lottery ticket. You buy it and you imagine how great it would be to win, you audition and you imagine how great it would be to get the part. There’s really not much you can do, you just have to do it and hope it works out. If you don’t buy the ticket than you know for sure you’ll never win. As the NY Lottery slogan goes, “Hey, you never know.”