I wanted to write a blog about silly audition stories and the crazy personalities involved from the casting staff to the talent. I wanted to shed some light on the not-so-secret world of what happens when the people you see on TV go into a waiting room with not enough seats among a sea of aesthetically gifted individuals buried in their smart phones. But I fear if these stories fell in the wrong hands I could potentially embarrass myself or offend someone. So I need to think about it…
I wanted to tell the story about the time I overslept my alarm clock and rushed out of my house to make an audition for a low-paying job that I highly doubted I’d even book, that in such a hurry I only managed to put on mascara and a horribly mix-matched outfit. I barely made it on time and was assigned a strange task to perform. I left feeling so silly and couldn’t help but roll my eyes. The next day I learned I booked the job with a 100% pay increase. And to think I was THIS close to shutting off the snooze and returning to sleep.
Granted, that story might make me sound cooler than I actually am, but I also wanted to share an experience where I showed up to an audition in relatively low heels that I could barely walk in. I walked to the audition in flats before switching to heels and noticed every other girl doing the same. I sat patiently awaiting my turn whereupon I was instructed to do a full catwalk in two variations, the first being “NYC top fashion model on heroin style” and the second being “upbeat commercial happy style!” These were the exact words the casting director used. My chest pounded like a convicted criminal hearing his verdict followed by immediate disbelief. My brain went to mush and I laughed at my childlike inability to walk in 3 inch heels. I thought of my former classmates at 8th grade graduation stomping in trashy platform pumps onstage to receive their diplomas taking each step like a circus elephant. An endless montage of rolled ankles filled my head as my chest filled with hiccups. My turn to audition. I walked and turned and walked and turned while peripherally scanning the floor for threatening cords and wet spots. I survived the walk and stood to the side as four other girls did the same after me, one-by-one. I felt partial relief at seeing that not everyone was supremely adept at the art of heel-walking and decided to thank my lucky stars I didn’t fall. Note to self: Practice!
Another story I wanted to share was the time I attended a cross-generational audition amongst the surliest motherfuckers I ever saw. I thought I was in the wrong office at the sight of what looked like a North Pole biker gang convening over cigars. “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe they let you in here!” a tough biker shouted to his fellow cronie, a big bearded man with a cigar hanging from his mouth. I found a seat next to a senior citizen covered in tattoos including a gnarly tattoo on the back of his scalp. I overheard a conversation across from me where an old man reported that he almost missed his call time because he got pulled over by a cop for screaming at someone on the street. As more old biker dudes showed up the models in the room lowered their heads to avoid eye contact. An old man in a fishing hat remarked to me that we looked like mourners at a funeral.
Oh, here’s a good one! I went to an audition where we were told to remove all facial accessories and headpieces. I took off my earrings and waited alongside my audition group. Once inside the casting director asked a model to remove her eyeglasses and 20s style headband. “But this is my gimmick!” she shouted.
How can I forget the Dutch bodybuilder who bragged about being the first European member of Chippendales? Or the kid who wore a suit and tie to a “beach party look” audition. Or that random white girl at the Asian casting. Maybe she was hapa? I couldn’t tell. Or that well-known girl from a popular reality TV show whom everyone stared at trying to figure out where they recognized her from. Or that girl I recognized but couldn’t place only to walk into a store and find her picture staring at me every few inches? Or the audition at the producer’s house where we held a potato war? And of course, the time a contact lens fell out rendering me half blind. And then I had to walk like a mummy—arms outstretched—to find the chair I was to sit on.
I also thought to share a cultural reference in the casting process that I discovered by innocent mistake. In my earlier days I wasn’t quite aware that wearing a loud pattern would cause the camera to internally combust in horror. I showed up in what I thought was a cute and colorful halter top but was immediately escorted back to the waiting room where a casting assistant asked if I had a change of clothes. Luckily I did so I changed. Back in the lobby she told me to never wear that shirt again unless I was auditioning for something in the Latin market. Yes, it was that loud of a print.
It pains me to keep this one in, but I really wanted to share the one about the two auditions for a principal role in a huge commercial. I felt elated at receiving a callback audition until I showed up and saw everyone and their mother in the waiting room. I got a call a few days later from one of the casting directors inviting me to participate in the commercial as an extra. Wait a minute, what? “But,” she explained, “the director really loved your look and thinks you have a cute pixie haircut. We’re going to cast our principals from the extras and you have a really good chance of getting upgraded! Please say you’ll do it!” I was pretty convinced, not gonna lie. I showed up to the set and saw the same faces from the two auditions. Everyone seemed to have an air of unusual over-confidence in them. We all felt a little untouchable. As we sat and chatted one guy informed us that he was hired as a principal but had to work background first. A puzzled look crossed all our faces. Another girl added that she was told the director really liked her energy and wanted to cast her as a principal as well. “Me too!” a breakdancer chimed in. One by one we all realized what had happened. Like old world country farmers being promised a better life we stuck around and waited for our chance. And the best part? We all believed it would happen! Just goes to show, appeal to our ego and we’re putty in your hands.
I think one of my favorite stories is the one where I might have witnessed the most absent-minded woman alive! She showed up slightly disheveled and confused. The casting assistants couldn’t quite figure out what she was doing there. After a few minutes of quiet speculation, one of the assistants gathered a photo and brought it to her. Holding it in front of her he asked, “Is this you?!” “Oh my god, is that how I’m supposed to look?! I’m supposed to be the mom? I didn’t even know what audition this was!” I snuck a glance at the photo in hand which depicted her in a ponytail and pastel colored cardigan—the mom look. But the woman herself wore a crazy, artsy-fartsy outfit, tall heels, and her hair in an afro. She really had no idea what she was auditioning for. She eventually auditioned and left. Moments later I saw a guy frantically searching the waiting room for his car keys. He searched between the sofa cushions, under the furniture, presumably the entire parking lot, and even asked us all to check our bags. No one could find his keys. He decided to jimmy his car open with a broom from the custodial closet. How could he have possibly misplaced his keys? As he headed outside with the broom, the aforementioned absent-minded woman walked back in and announced, “I grabbed someone’s keys by mistake!” She set them on the table and left. We literally stared at each other in disbelief. Someone ran out to call to the guy before he tried to break into his own car.
I’m not really sure if these are worth sharing or not but I think I’ll throw them out there…