Saturday, August 11, 2007

I am a series regular Chapter 39

I finished shooting the pilot . It went great. I was relaxed and my scenes went great. The show was picked up for another 5 episodes and we were ready to start shooting when Screen Actors Guild went on strike.

So now I had to wait. So here I was in a unigue position of having no agent and a TV series. I didn’t worry because the other 5 episodes were guaranteed so big money was coming. I had some clout around the theater people as getting cast in a TV series for CBS that was to be shot in New York was probably the most desirable situation an actor could be in.

While waiting for the strike to end I was cast in a show at Ensemble Studio Theater by a up and coming director. She was young but very smart and aggressive. She went on to become one of the top film casting directors in the business.

The play was called “Gray Spades” about hipsters from the late 40’s. I had done this play before which the director had seen at the Actor’s Studio. She picked it because she was a rich girl from Canada and wanted to do something very edgy to impress people with her versatility.

The play was written about the streets of Newark.New Jersey in the late forties after ww11. The main characters were junkies and before rehearsals started I had to translate the dialogue for the director. She was a hustler and when the play opened for it’s short run the audience was filled with agents and casting directors. After the run I got a call from a major theatrical agent and now I had an agent. Finally the actor’s strike was over and I could begin shooting my TV series.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Doing the pilot. Chapter 38

I started on the pilot in 2 weeks and I was ready. The money was more than I ever had at one time my whole life. This was to be my first acting job in front of a film camera.

We shot my scenes on the streets of New York and I felt like a real movie star as spectators would watch and you could see the respect and awe in their faces as I walked near them going to the set. One time an actor that I knew came in to do extra work. This particular guy would tell me that I was a fool for working for no money when I was doing off-off. When he saw that I was not only a principle but a regular, he asked to be excused, he said he was sick and had to go home. The guy could not accept that someone he thought was inferior to him rise to the top while he was doing extra work which is the dregs of show business. I never saw this actor again.

Getting this job changed my life , mostly to the better but their were some negative consequences. Up to this time all my actor friends were struggling actors working as waiters or cab drivers. We would comfort each other in our misery of the struggle.

Now I went from a struggling actor to the fast track of the business and as anyone knows a TV series can lead to fame and fortune in a short period of time. Friends that I had got drunk with, friends that I performed plays with me in the outer reaches of off-off, shunned me and treated me with suspicion as if I had betrayed them. They assumed that I would change so they beat me to it by not saying hello to me when we met unless I acknowledged them first.

I should have been more understanding but I wanted them to be happy for me so I retaliated by walking away from a lot of old friends who I felt were not true friends as they were jealous. But in looking back I am sorry for the way I reacted to their insecurity. I know how painful it can be to give everything you have to make it as an actor and to see someone who you think you are better than, all actors think they are the best, have some success while you languish in shit jobs, laying awake at night worried that you will end up in poverty with no children, alone and broke. I know because I have felt that way.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Going for the Gold Chapter 37

After I received my second callback for this pilot for a prime time tv series I had to have someone to handle any negotiations that may arise. I was friendly with a assistant casting director that was going out with a friend of mine. She told me that her boss wanted to manage some actors on the side. I guess it wasn’t a conflict of interest but I asked, “What about me?”.

The nx day she got back to me and said this big CD would handle any negotiations if necessary. So now I had a manager and no agent. A couple of days later my new manager called me and said I had another callback for the pilot. It was the same material and when I went in there were about 20 people in the room for my audition.

I auditioned and I thought I had a good response. When I went out of the room I recognized some of the up and coming actors in New York. I felt pretty good about myself having gone that far with such a big potential job. A couple of days later the cd’s assistant called me in a state of amazement, I was going to the network for another callback. This meant that the producers wanted me but the network had to approve of me. She seemed astonished that I was going to the network, it was a big deal to her, to me I already had a morale victory coming this far and to me this was just another audition.

The day came for the network audition. I had to go over to the network for the audition. When I got there, in the waiting room there were several other actors reading for different parts in the pilot and probably reading for my part as the producers had to send over more a few choices for each part.

When it was my turn to go in I was taken to a theater with more people in the audience than a lot of off-off that I have done. I read and got some good laughs. The nx day the assistant cd called me in pure amazement. “You got the part, you got the part”. She said it over and over again like she had seen a ghost.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Reading for TV pilot. Chapter 36

So I made up my mind to call this big casting director that was in the process of casting a pilot for a tv series. I knew he had seen me in the play so I called and the assistant on the other end ask who I was and when I gave my name, to my surprise, the big cd got on the phone.

I said to him you must know who I am as you saw the play that I was in. He said he didn't remember but to come in for a interview.

I went on the appointment the next day and he said there was one character in the pilot that they had not cast yet but I was not right for it but why not come in for a reading. He gave me just the sides to the character and made an appointment for me to read for a couple of the producers the nx week.

The show, as I could see from the sides ,was a comedic cop show and my character was a pickpocket who works for the police. I went over these sides constantly for the nx couple of days and when the day came I was relaxed and prepared.

When I went in the room there were about 10 people there including the 2 main producers plus this tv director from LA. I read got a few laughs and left.

I thought I did well and a couple of days later I got a call back. They asked me before the callback if there was some agent or manager that could handle any negotiations that may arise. I said I would have to think about it as I still did not have much relationships with agents or mangers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The play runs and then ends? Chapter 35

The play ran for six months. All during that time I did 195 performances straight without missing one performance. I went on wether I was sick or with a hangover.

After a couple of months into the run it became like a revolving door with actors coming and going as different members of the original cast left to do other acting jobs and their parts filled by graduates of the famous CONSERVATORIES. It was amazing. I knew plenty of actors that would sell their souls to work at this theater but parts were given to upper middle class graduates of these CONSERVATORIES wether they had great talent or not.

I felt very fortunate to be working there and as a matter of fact I thought I had made it in the acting business which turned out to be a huge mistake.

The play finally came to an end but I had not secured an agent. I didn't care that much as now I was back on Unemployment and living the bum's life again. I thought for sure that the other big time theaters in town would bring me in as I had done so well , at least I thought, at the big prestigious theater. It's not that I was rejected by the agents but that I made no attempt to seek them out.

Now I was not content to go back to off-off but waited and waited for the big call that was surely to come. After a few months of nothing I got off my ass and started to check out what was going on out there. I discovered that the producers of a pilot for TV that was going to be shot right here in New York, saw the play I did at the big theater. Well, if they saw the play they saw me and I was good so therefore I Will contact them directly without an agent which was forbidden.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Run Continues. Chapter 34

The play continued on it's run and when it was reviewed by the major newspapers in town , it received good reviews with some of the cast receiving great reviews, while the major reviewer said of me that I "evoked laughter". I guess that's good for me, the other cast members received much more descriptive notices.

The big producer moved the play to a bigger theater and we all received new and more lucrative equity contracts.

Around this time I made some serious mistakes concerning my overall career. I still had no agent but I didn't care. I was making money as an actor and as far as I was concerned I had MADE It. I was in a hit off-Broadway equity show so instead of trying to parlay this into bigger and better things I reacted like a sailor in a whore house.

This probably turned off a few people at the time but I didn't care or know what I was doing. I was , and I am not saying this in any boastful way, but I was stealing the show. I had 3 scenes, the first scene in the play where my character is introduced which got a lot of laughs. Then I came out in the beginning of the second act and audiences laughed at my entrance like they were glad to see me. Finally I came out at the very end and closed the show.

What pissed me off at the time was most of the cast would get auditions for films and Tv and I would get nothing. The industry still was not sure about me and I probably helped that perception at the time.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Reading for a big film Chapter 33

One day soon after the play opened I received a call from a big film casting director. She called my answering service and left a message to call her.. I did and after several tries I got her on the phone.

She asked why my agent didn't submit me for this film she was doing. I told her I didn't have an agent and she said why not are you nuts or something how come no agent has ever signed you. I said I don't make rounds and people come to me I don't go to them. Anyway, she made an appointment for me to meet the star of the film.

The film was about tough guys from the Bronx so I was to be street. Now street was who I was. I dressed up for the part as the real tough guys that I knew from the hood never looked dirty burt actually were sharp dressers.

When I went in there were other actors waiting and all were dressed in torn jeans and leather jackets, each looking like a poor imitation of Marlon Brando. When it was my turn to go in, I mentioned that to the big star that even tough guys went dressed up for a job interview and that those guys outside were not true to the character. The big star seemed to like that and sure enough i got a callback to meet the director.

The Cd told me to be more street for the meeting. Now I had not seen a script and had no idea who the character they were considering me for. So I went in with the opposite of what they were looking . I played the tired street, the guy coming home from a long days work and just wanted to lay down. What I mean is, I played naive.

The audition was in a fancy apartment in the heart of mid-town . When I went in I remarked "What a beautiful Place" like I had never seen a fancy place before and the director talked to me like I was there to fix the plumbing. The actual character was a gangster and I didn't get the part. I played down who I was, let me tell you I could kick all these tough guy actors asses. I am a vet. I survived the navy but here I made the wrong choice. If I could have seen a script and known maybe i would have got the part. I can be many things, I have many sides but I have to know what side to show.