You want the Jobs?

Steve Jobs Pointing

“The commercial audition is in Irvine. They’re looking for a young Steve Jobs type. Please confirm by EOD.” The text message from my agent said.

The casting breakdown on LACasting confirmed that the audition was for a new video game and the client was looking for a young Steve Jobs to promote the product. Part of commercial acting is knowing your type – and I’ve got the quirky/geeky/tech thing down pat.  The audition was in Irvine, Orange County, about an hour drive – but the role was right, so why not?  Besides it’d mark the first time I’d been south of LAX since I moved to LA.

I shuffled my schedule (making sure to cover my meetings and calls this time at my day job) and drove south on the 405.  It was raining in LA and the freeway was aglow with blinking red brake lights the entire way to the airport.  Rain in LA is the equivalent of snowstorms on the east coast and a true cause for panic among drivers.  The hour long drive stretched to almost two, and by the time I got to Irvine the rain had stopped, but the gray sky remained.

The audition was on the 23rd floor of a nondescript office building complex.  I walked in the lobby and there sat a younger version of myself.  The surreal thing about auditioning in LA is that you see variations of yourself in casting calls.  You’re forced to sit in a room with your clones and silently size each other up.  I imagined a casting director and client ordering you like they would at Starbucks: “Can I have the grande soy actor, with blue eyes and a slightly smaller nose. No whipped cream or cheesy smile. I’m lactose intolerant.”

Younger me went first into the audition room, and few minutes later came out looking at the ground, shaking his head and left. Good I thought – they’d had a cheap imitation, now time for the real thing.  I walked into the audition room with confidence. Behind a table sat three Asian men and a fat boy that looked about fourteen. At the very end of the table sat the casting director, a middle-aged white guy.

The casting director spoke, “Ok, so we’re going for a young Steve Jobs. We’ve got the sides up on the board so just read them naturally. Do you have any questions?”

One of the Asian guys, presumably the client, interrupted saying in broken English, “This is for our video game, so it has to be good you understand? We want you to be good.”

The casting director confirmed, “That’s right. Let’s see what you got!”

I started the sides. “Racing cars isn’t just something you do on the street, but you can also do it with RaceCar 3000.”

The client stopped me, “Good! Now do it with glasses. We want you to be Steve Jobs.”  What would Steve Jobs have to do with racing I wondered. The client said something to another one of the men in a foreign language and the man took off his glasses and gave them to me.  I put on the man’s glasses and continued to read the script with my blurry vision.

“RaceCar 3000 has the speed and velocity to take your racing to the next level…”

The client clapped, “That’s it! He’s good!”

I continued reading the script with my blurry gaze. When I finished, I handed them back to the man behind the table, my eyes still hazy afterwards. The clients clapped. The casting director said, “Nice read. Should we have him read it again?”

The client said, “No, I think we’ve found our guy!  He’s good. Mark, show him how RaceCar works.”

The fat kid pulled out his Android and started showing me the race car game on his smart phone.  He spoke in grunts and said short sentences like, “You drive by tapping this.” “You get speed by getting the oil can.” “There’s a short cut by the trees.”  I looked on nodding, blinking my eyes to get focus back.  The client continued singing my praises and the casting director and said, “Nice read. Thanks for coming out in the rain.”  I left the room and nodded to a new clone waiting in the lobby.

I drove back to LA feeling good about my performance, but also baffled by the audition.  All the praise heaped upon me felt good, but the casting director who was usually in charge of the room remained neutral. It started to rain again.  I pictured RaceCar 3000 idling in traffic on the freeway. I imagined the kid with the Android saying, “You lose patience in traffic.”

I sat by the phone for the next few days like a hopeful Steve Jobs waiting to hear if his teams’ designs for the new iPhone – or in this case his race car – had been completed.  The call never came. I didn’t get the Jobs. Here’s to staying hungry, and staying foolish.  I drove to In-N-Out on Tuesday and decided to eat my emotions: a double double animal style. I hoped I wouldn’t run into any of my clones.

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Luck Be A Lady

Guys and DollsIt’s been said that booking an acting gig is a lot like gambling. Both are high stakes, involve a degree of skill, and both involve that intangible quality of luck.  So it was appropriate that I found myself in a suit and tie at a casting director’s office in Beverly Hills singing a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady.” The spot was for a commercial to promote New Jersey’s online gambling with Caesars Palace. It was a callback.

The original breakdown had called for a Barney Stinson type (Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother). Perfect! I can do NPH, I thought. Before the callback I had gotten a note from my agent that this time the client wanted more Dollar Shave Club CEO, less Neil Patrick Harris. I read between the lines: less gay, more butch. I may not be able to grow facial hair, but after ten years of living in Philly, I can definitely goomba it up.

I came prepared.  Out of all the Frank Sinatra songs I know, “Luck Be A Lady,” didn’t happen to be one of them. So, in order to prep for the audition I spent a lot of time watching YouTube clips and singing along to the song at home and in my car on the way to the audition.  As I strutted across the street into the casting director’s office, I felt good and looked very smart in my black pinstripe suit.  When I walked into the waiting room one of the actors said, “Dammit, you look like Frank Sinatra.” I smiled and said, “I guess you better go home then.” It’s a good thing Ronan Farrow never showed.

As auditions normally go, all bets are off.  Not only did the client want Dollar Shave Club CEO at the callback, but now they asked actors to memorize a version of “Luck Be A Lady,” that had been rewritten with Caesars Palace specific lyrics. “Luck Be a smart phone tonight… Luck be a smart phone tonight… Luck if you ever were at Caesars Online Gambling…” Roll of the dice, big money, big money.

Cut to the audition: I’m in front of the client, casting director, and three other guys. I’m dancing and singing to the camera with the new lyrics. I’m maintaing the sparkle of Barney Stinson, while keeping the demeanor of the Dollar Shave Club CEO. In that brassy moment I’m golden and a true winner. The client laughs, guys slap me on the back, I’m feeling good, great even.  I leave the office with a Sinatra stride – I’ve got the world on a string.  So good that when I’m driving back and hear my phone ring, I answer already expecting to accept the part.

I’m shocked when I hear my co-worker Michael on the line tell me, “You didn’t schedule the call. The woman is pissed, she’s canceling her service.”

It doesn’t register. “Huh?”

“You didn’t schedule the call. You were supposed to call Samantha at 11am and it wasn’t in the calendar. Samantha said she doesn’t wait for anybody. She wrote a nasty email saying she’s canceling her service with us. Do you understand that this will jeopardize our chances at auditioning??” Michael is also an actor.

“I’m sorry. I’m usually really good at putting all my meetings in the calendar. I’m sorry.”

“Just get back here soon so we can sort this out.” He hangs up.

Instead of lady luck shining down on me that day I got Samantha. It was an omen for a call that never came from the casting director. The part went to another Frank Sinatra/Dollar Shave Club CEO/Barney Stinson singing and dancing actor.  I had played my hand, but it wasn’t enough to trump the winner. As I got in my car and drove back to work, I threw my imaginary fedora in the back seat and loosened my tie.  When auditioning, as in gambling, sometimes you come up short – but you got to play to win.

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Audition Diary #17: Packages

“You’ve got a callback – in your underwear,” the casting director tells me when I pick up my phone.

“Ok, just my underwear right? No nudity?” I ask.

“No nudity. Well, maybe the underwear will be fleshed colored, but definitely no nudity,” the CD assures me.

“Yeah, I’ll be there.”

“Great, it’s you and two other guys – they love your look, they just want to see what you look like in your underwear. You’re confirmed for 1:30!”

“Great.” I hang up.

There’s a spreadsheet on the computer screen in front of me with names, numbers, and price ranges. We offer different packages for the internet start-up company I work for.  My day job.  The lowest package is $49. I’m about to show off my package for free. The commercial pays $450, non-union and it’s for Comedy Central. It’s good exposure on both counts. Besides, it’s between me and two other guys – I have a 33.3% chance of booking it. I go.

Weaving in and out of traffic on the 101 could now be added as a special skill on my resume. Traffic is surprisingly light during the day. I get off the Vermont exit and drive down Wilshire in Korea Town. Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s “Under the Bridge” comes on the radio. The city she loves me / Lonely as I am / Together we cry. Nope. I change the channel. I’m emotional enough. Jason Derulo will do just fine.  Take me to the other side.

Throw some quarters in the metered park off MacArthur Park and run up to the casting office. I’m always running – it gives me a sense of urgency and helps burn off my jitters. Then it dawns on me. What type of underwear am I wearing? I hope it’s the black Calvin Klein boxer briefs. I lift up the bottom of my shirt and peek. Whew Calvin Klein writing. Marty McFly would be proud.

The audition room is cold. I just watched the video that I’m supposed to be parodying for the commercial. It’s for a major film that hasn’t been released yet. The casting director shows me a scene from the movie and gives me her take on it. Time to disrobe. I drop trou and fling my pants off. You’re not auditioning for The Full Monty! my internal monologue starts. Shut up! Off comes my shirt and there I am, in my underwear. It’s a mix of liberation and embarrassment.  I was raised Catholic after all.

Music starts and I march around the room in my underwear with a baton. I smile to the camera and give a hearty salute. I attempt a baton twirl but I fumble to catch it and the baton drops.  The show goes on, so I pick the baton up and do a cartwheel. That wasn’t what they wanted. What are you doing? I attempt a spin for a finale and smile brightly to the camera. I’m giving them something to work with. I’m living the half naked dream.

“Great,” the casting director says shutting off the music.

“So, yeah… you guys will let me know right?” I say putting on my pants.

“Yeah, you’re available for the shooting date, right?”

“Yeah, wide open.” I smile. Then look shy. That wasn’t supposed to be a double entendre. “Well, thank you! I had a lot of fun.”

“We’ll see more of you I’m sure.”

An hour later, I’m back at the computer screen typing away, and answering calls like nothing happened. “The technology is really what separates us from the competition, can I start you off at the $199/month package?” I hear a co-worker say on the phone. I wonder if this is what Superman felt like after having rescued kids in a burning building. After receiving a call, Clark Kent steps out from the Daily Planet, changes into his underwear, and flies to the rescue. When the situation has been maintained he puts on his clothes and gets back to his normal job.  Does Superman ever get to be Superman all the time? I don’t know, but playing in your underwear and auditioning is definitely a thrill.

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Maude Audition

I auditioned for the Upright Citizens Brigade Maude sketch team this week. After consulting the lovely Jackie Johnson’s tumblr about the ins-and-outs of auditioning I grabbed my iPad and a few friends and filmed some impersonations.

Check out my impersonations, including my rarely seen Stephen Hawking. Enjoy friends:

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Slings and Arrows

A commercial I shot a few years ago for Dust-Off recently got trashed on E!’s The Soup called “This Is What Second-Hand Embarrassment Looks Like.” As an actor, I take this as a good omen since people are talking since I just moved to Los Angeles ten months ago.  As a sensitive human being, I can’t even read the entire article and comments without getting too emotional.  However, it was a commercial I had a lot of fun doing and a gig I was glad to have.  At the end of the day, I should heed the words of Oscar Wilde, “The only thing than being talked about, is not being talked about.

By the way, Tosh.0 – I’m ready for my web redemption.

Enjoy:

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Drew Droege and the Hollywood Acting Studio

Drew Droege is hilarious and if you haven’t seen his fake Chloe Sevigny videos, then you’re really missing out. Backstage recently wrote an article about his latest series – The Hollywood Acting Studio – and interviewed Droege.

The article is insightful and really shines a light on what you need to do to stay focused on your career. There’s a ton of great advice in it, but my favorite quote is:

“I teach improv and I tell students, “You have the Internet. Make your own stuff and put it out there.” You have to be active in the whole thing; you can’t just be a lump of clay. Be creative and realize you bring a lot more to it.”

Enjoy the clip below. I’ll be watching on Starz Digital Media.

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You Don’t Know Jack

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson claims that he’s quitting acting. The 73 year-old claims that the main reason is that he’s forgetting lines and “memory loss” is causing him to bow out of the lime light. While part of me congratulates the septuagenarian for gracefully going out on top, part of me also feels like it’s a publicity stunt. Remember when Joaquin Phoenix claimed that he was quitting acting to be a rapper?  Or even Johnny Depp’s saying that he’ll be quitting acting soon.

Aging actors: you’re not dead yet! And just because you had a box office flop like Rango or The Lone Ranger doesn’t mean that your career is done.  Truthfully, Nicholson has had a long string of successes so he has earned the right to retire or do anything else he wants, but as a fan I’m disappointed and want him to keep going. Besides, if this woman can still be performing into her nineties why can’t you Jack??

Betty White Visits Fuse's "No. 1 Countdown"

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The Valley

I saw La La La, L.A.!: A Puppet Musical a few weeks ago. It was essentially Avenue Q in Hollywood. Hilarious, funny, and so true it hurt. Here’s the great number “The Valley,” about a newbie wannabe writer who can’t decide where to live in LA. For the record, I live in Hollywood and work in the Valley. It’s not that bad, but then again I did live in Philly for 10 years.

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The fine art of the Quadruple (Quintuple?) Take

Sir Patrick Stewart’s girlfriend films the actor giving a masterclass on the art of the “double take” in comedy. All aspiring comedians watch and learn. In truth, the last take may be the illusive “quintuple take”:

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Mailings!

I’ve been doing mass mailings lately to put myself out there in the LA market.  A coworker and fellow actor, Michael, recommended that I get envelopes from Samuel French that have a window for your headshot to be seen.  So I did.  Submitted for your approval, if you ever wanted to know what 20 of me looked like:

Headshots

On another note: the guy at the post office in Encino now knows me by name.

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