My skin is crawling with anticipation. I glance upward at the fluorescent lighting tubes above me. They're hollow. Trying hard to show signs of life. Flickering.
I know how they feel.
I'm sitting here, surrounded by a slew of bleached teeth.
That's the only way I can describe the people around me, as that's all I see. Bright, vibrant, bleached teeth.
I feel like I'm at a Mitt Romney fundraiser, which isn't that far off from the truth.
I'm auditioning for a show in which I'd play a character jubilantly excited about meeting Bill O'Reilly.
This is an audition...
People want to know. They want to know what it's like to audition for a real show. The sights. The sounds. The magic.
The truth is, I'm bored. Jesus could have walked into the room and I wouldn't know.
I've driven halfway across town for the honor of reading one line in a network television show. Despite the fact that the audition lasts all of 15 seconds, it's encompassed my whole day. Here's how...
It starts the previous day, when my agent calls to inform me I have an audition. Well, he doesn't call. His assistant does. Nice kid. Always polite. Always seemingly on your side. He's young. I know because as I said, he's nice. That tone will change in time.
I immediately rearrange my plans for the next day. From where I live, it's a solid 30 minute drive without traffic. Which is like saying I could watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy in an hour if there weren't any hobbit scenes.
I print out my one line and practice it a few times. I do it like myself. I give it a Jason Bateman spin. Then, Will Arnett. For fun, I do it in the voice of Yosemite Sam. You have to understand, I'm no Brando, but I could say this line 100 different ways. Anyone could. You could grab the nearest homeless person on the side of the street and they could probably say this line just fine. Which will make it all the more difficult to accept when I don't get it.
I think about what to wear. You want to look the part, but not too much. You don't want to be the guy showing up in an actual costume. Not that guy. Since I'm playing a Republican enthusiast, I go for an understated red tie with black v-neck pullover. I wear this outfit often in the Fall, so much so that it's making me question whether or not I'm a secret Republican masquerading as an independent. I don't know, I just want to get the part. Part.That's funny. As if.
There's no denying the allure of walking onto a studio lot. This isn't some small half-house, half-office in Santa Monica that's so foreign you need to check the address twice to make sure you're in the right place. This is it man. The studio. You've been here dozens of times before, but the power of its draw never gets lost on you. You're not THAT cynical.
The security guards are almost always chipper, wishing you luck as you enter the premises. You think about how to say the line again. You keep thinking that the Bateman way might be the answer. It's different. It's risky. But isn't that the point?
You walk around aimlessly, pretending all the while you know where you're going. The engagements from strangers are almost uniform in their polarization. Regulars scoff at your presence, spotting your headshot like some disgusting lesion that should be hidden at all costs. But the tourists look twice. They think you could be someone, but they're not sure.
You like this feeling. You say you don't. It's silly. But you do like it. Make no mistake about it, you do like it.
For a moment, surrounded by pedaling bikes and the soft hum of golf carts, you beam with a sense of happiness. You're amidst others that once walked in your shoes. The disappointment and hopelessness fades away with each step. Maybe things will go your way today...
Sadly, it only lasts that brief moment. Because once you enter the cold, lifeless building you'll be uttering your one line in, it ceases to exist. You're now awash is a heavy sedative mix of anger, amusement, and gumption.
You want to speak your mind. Talk about the ridiculousness of all of this. It's insanity what you're doing. What they're doing. The whole damn system. You wonder if the little boy who just wanted to make people smile has been replaced by someone looking for a credit and a check. What's more fulfilling, one line on a network show or an indie movie you bleed to get made?
You think that over. You realize that anyone who says the one line doesn't want to act. They want to be famous. They want to be the ones at the catering trucks talking about their issues with their manager.
You're still hungry. But now you're armed. Armed with the knowledge that this isn't the path for you. Armed with the foresight of what you think matters. There's no creation here. Nothing but a sterile method for figuring out who has the guts to stick it out.
The people around you have the most mundane and fake conversations you've ever heard. Only that you have heard them. Hundreds of times. You wanna know what an auditioning room is like? What is said? Here's a clue...
It starts with the one guy who faintly remembers another guy in the room. This always happens. ALWAYS.
Rick looks up, unsure if he recognizes the chipper fellow speaking his name.
In a moment, they will figure out how they know each other. I pray they do. Because if they don't, the rest of us will be forced to endure the two of them trying to decipher this seemingly impossible task in an endless loop of ineptitude. It's like untangling a thousand different sets of Christmas lights, one pull begets another.
"Did you study at the Beverly Hills Playhouse?"
"How about Larry Moss?"
"Did we do a play together?"
"I don't think so."
"Where do you get your headshots done?"
And so on and so worth.
If they do know each other, it can be just as insufferable. They'll talk about their agents, their previous work, and how pilot season is going. One of them will almost always ask, "how are things? acting wise?"
The other will always answer, "good, really good bro."
This person is lying. They are not doing good. Unless your name is Zack Galifianakis or Tom Hardy, you're not doing good. I don't mean that in a jaded sense. Believe me, I fully hold belief that it could turn around for any of us on any given day. To be frank, it's all relative anyway, which is what I've come to understand. I have friends, family, a woman that loves me and a future to ponder. I really am doing good. But good from an acting point of view? No, no one is 'doing good bro'. The competition is tougher. The stairs more narrow. Celebrities are now endorsing vodka just to stay in the spotlight. You used to be going up for major guest stars against other hungry thespians. Now you face Rick Schroeder. So no, I'm sorry dude rocking the short-sleeved plaid shirt and colored Ray Bans, you're not doing well. You're just afraid of being honest and therefore showing defeat in your mind. Especially publicly. You don't have to sound miserable, just say it's been tough but you're hanging in there. Say anything other than good simply because it's what you think you should say.
The guys sense my looming stare.
"How are you doing dude?", one of them asks me.
"Good. Really good."
You wait your turn, hoping to book this one line in order to justifiably keep pursuing this dream of dreams.
The casting associate calls you in and you're faced with a barren conference room. There are four people in the room, but the only eye observing you is the red one blinking from the camera.
These people really have to sit through a series of one liners? Jesus, this is what we've come to?
They ask you're name, and you respond with measured enthusiasm. They make some comment about the screenplay book you've brought along as a prop. Good Will Hunting, by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. It was once the bible to you, now just another relic used as a prop. You say something light-hearted, even though you want to offer some of your own screenplay advice.
They ask if you have any questions.
Wait, about my one line?! "Yeah, would you like it spoken in my Yosemite Sam voice?"
The moment comes. You hit your mark. Say your line. Then wait for a response...
The older gentleman with the crinkly smile and wise demeanor takes a moment and smiles. He says that there's no need to do it again, that was great.
He gives you the look. The look. The one that makes the whole day worth it. It's the kind of look you only get from those similar to you.
He gets it. I get it. This won't be about my performance. It's a 'look' thing. Maybe I'll be right, and maybe I won't. He can see the years on me, knows behind the facade I'm a smart-ass with opinions. Maybe too smart.
I walk out, nod to the boys waiting behind me.
I traverse the remainder of the lot and start my route home. Plan my own film...
I remark to my memory-keeper that auditioning is always like riding a roller coaster. You wait all day with wonder and fear, only to have it end two minutes after you strapped in. What happened?
You're not entirely sure.
But thinking about it, you're sure you should have said it like Bateman.