the obligatory post-audition reflections

The directions to my audition were simple: two freeways, one off-ramp, two left turns.

In practice, finding a parking spot and making my way into the actual waiting room were slightly less complicated than getting The Babelfish (kids, ask your parents), so I actually walked into the room for my 1415 audition at 1425, having arrived at the actual location close to 1400.*

Luckily, everyone else was having a similarly difficult time figuring out how to thwart the top of the room cleaning robot, so we were all more or less equally late, essentially time shifting the entire session, as if our future selves had planned the entire thing.

I sat in a long, featureless hallway on the same kind of office furniture I've been sitting on for 30 years, and ran my lines to make sure they were properly in my head. Another actor, older and better looking than me, came in while I was waiting and signed in.

Before too long, the door to the office opened, and another actor, also older and better looking than me, came out. I looked up at him and smiled. It took him a few seconds to figure out who this weirdo with the beard was, and why he was staring at him, but when he did, he opened his arms and walked toward me.

"Holy shit, dude," I said. "It is so good to see you!"

It was Michael Cudlitz, an absolutely sensational actor who I worked with in the early 90s on a movie that, while it didn't completely suck, wasn't some of my best work.

"How are you?" He asked.

"I'm good," I told him. Then, I wrapped up almost 20 years in about a minute while the casting director stood in the doorway, looking amused. 

"Started a blog … got married … raised two kids … Ryan just graduated from college and moved out of state for his job … wrote a bunch of books … comics … columns … [Super Secret Project] … Leverage … Eureka … The Guild …

"So life is really good," I concluded, "and every day I'm afraid I'm going to wake up from this wonderful dream."

Realizing that I was wasting her time, and the time of the actor who was also waiting to go in after me, I give Michael my email address. "I'd love to catch up over a beer or a coffee or something, if you want to do that." He took my address down and said he'd get in touch.

I went into the room, apologized for making her wait, and got to work. 

"Do you have any questions?" She asked.

"No," I said. "I think the scenes are quite clear, and I've made some choices. If they're not what you're looking for, just let me know and I'll adjust."

"That sounds great," she said. "Go ahead whenever you're ready."

I read the first scene. It felt okay, but when I was reading with another person and actually performing, instead of just running the lines on my own in my house, the scene came alive, and something wasn't quite right. She gave me some notes and direction and asked me to do it again. I did it again, and it it felt considerably better. "Great," she said.

I read the second scene. She gave me notes and direction, and asked me to do it again. I did it again, and she told me it was wonderful.

I was intensely grateful that she was invested in the process, and was giving me notes and direction. That just doesn't happen very often, and when someone is as rusty at auditioning as I am, it would be easy for a casting director to just write me off for making a character choice that wasn't what they were looking for. It bolstered my confidence and let me relax away some of the tension I didn't realize I had.

I started to read the third scene. A few lines in, I stopped myself. "I'm sorry, I went to Mars there for a second. Can I start over?"

"What you were doing was actually perfect for what's going on in the scene," she said, "but go ahead and start over."

I started again, and just felt a little more focused and connected to the material. I can't say anything about the scene (or the project), but there's a lot going on between the two characters, and finding the moments while I was sitting on a folding chair in an office wasn't the easiest thing in the world.** 

"Really, really nice," she said.

"Thanks," I said. I began to pick up my phone and sunglasses (which I'd put on the floor when I came in) and before I realized the words were coming out of my mouth, I added, "I have to thank you for giving me notes and direction. I'm 40 this year, and I've been doing this since I was 7. Something's changed in the last five or ten years… it's just like hardly anybody cares if the actors are comfortable, or if we're doing our best work. I've had auditions where casting makes me feel like I'm imposing on their time simply by being there, and whatever performance I give doesn't matter.

"It really means a lot to me that you gave me an opportunity to adjust, and I felt like you wanted me to do my best work. So thank you."

She looked at the other casting associate in the room and back to me. "It's depressing how easy it is to make actors happy these days," she said, "We want to have fun in here, and we want you to do your best work. There are a lot of different choices an actor can make, and I know what the producers are looking for, so if you've made a different choice, I can point you in a different direction. So thank you, and you're welcome." She smiled at me.

I'm probably not going to get this job. I think I'm too young, and the other actors there were all handsome manly men. But I don't feel like the time was wasted, because I got to do my best work for someone who cared to see it. It's rare that I feel respected as an artist when I audition, and if every audition felt as good as this one, I'm positive that I — and other actors — would book many more jobs, simply because we've been given a chance to do our best, instead of feeling like a widget on an assembly line. 

I walked out of the office, dropped my sides in the first recycling bin I found***, and made my way to my car, babelfish jammed securely into my ear. A bowl of petunias appeared in the sky above me, and I knew exactly where my towel was.


*24 hour time is used in this case for the purposes of confounding Americans while slyly winking at the rest of the world. How you doin'?

**Believe me when I tell you that auditioning is a skill, and the some of the best actors on the set have an incredibly difficult time finding that level of performance in a casting office.

*** I always do this, because it allows me to let go of the audition. I've done what I can do, and since the entire process is out of my hands, there's no good reason to hold onto the sides. If I get called back, I'll get a new set.

52 thoughts on “the obligatory post-audition reflections”

  1. Bizarrely, as an american, (but probably because I’m also a geek for a living) 24-hour time doesn’t faze me in the slightest. It just gets automatically translated. I didn’t even notice what you did there until I read the footnote.

  2. Nice. I like that your attitude seems to be that the glass is both half empty (“probably not going to get this job”) and half full (“I don’t feel like the time was wasted”), and that the full part is the important part.

  3. I’m glad you had a good experience, but I am even happier that you thanked the casting agent and told her about your normal experiences with others in her position.
    I think the world would be a better place if everyone remembered to acknowledge the POSITIVE experiences someone provides them, instead of only focusing on the negative.
    If you don’t get that one, there will be another one and we will be watching!

  4. Wil, you said, “it’s just like hardly anybody cares if the actors are comfortable, or if we’re doing our best work. I’ve had auditions where casting makes me feel like I’m imposing on their time simply by being there, and whatever performance I give doesn’t matter.” I hate to say it, but it’s like that in civilian (non-show business) too. Whenever I get called in for a job interview, I face the same thing–usually, the interviewer is looking for an excuse to weed people out, rather than hire them–if they even know what they’re doing. Many interviewers haven’t a clue. It’s a sad commentary on business today.
    But don’t let it get you down. You’re right to let this audition go, and if you didn’t get it, there’s the next one. And if you did get it, then good for you. Because no matter what happens, you’ve got your family, friends, and fans (in that order) in your corner.

  5. I didn’t figure out what the first asterisk was until I read it at the end. Americans! Why can’t we deal with 24 hour time? I changed my cell so I have to use it. On feildwork in Brussels I found it super useful. Hubs is also foreign so that helps.m;)
    Also, this is interesting. You have such a way with words – an ability to paint a narrative picture that I envy deeply. I hope you get the job – I always do, because I want good people to get the cookies – but I also hope you have more time to write for us. I would totally pay a subscription to read you. Just sayin’.
    Also, I was JUST this afternoon on a brewery tour and thought about how much fun you (and some other beer geeks) would have on it. NOLA Brewery in New Orleans is really great, if you ever get a chance to visit – DO EET.

  6. Glad to hear the audition was a good experience!
    How cool that you ran into an old colleague. Even if you don’t get the part, at least you got to reconnect with an old friend, yeah?

  7. Auditioning in L.A. is probably way more intimidating and competitive than what I deal with in Dallas, but like you, I’ve had a mix of good ones with feedback, and horrible ones! My favorite is when they tell you you’ve done a good job when you haven’t. Just say “Thank you” and let me leave!
    Mostly though, I go in, do my thing, and have fun with it. :-)

  8. I loved reading about your audition, thank you for sharing that. I have always wondered how it would feel to audition, a process that is hidden from most of us.
    Winks slyly back, no AM or PM included.

  9. Now I’m thinking about babelfish, cleaning robots, advanced tea substitute, and simultaneous tea and no tea. Thanks for trip down memory lane. :-)

  10. Hmm. I agree that there is a sea change, but I think it may be cyclical. A few years back, supporting roles were being cast with great actors, not just beautiful people who can fit the demo. Now we are back in the phase where even the background talent has to be a classic beauty. I believe this will cycle out again in a few years.

  11. You say “Michael Cudlitz”, I hear “Bull Randelman”.
    Though I know he’s done a lot since Band of Brothers. :)
    Also, you should ALWAYS know where your towel is.
    …In all seriousness, reading your blog is a joy. Keep it up!

  12. You said Cudlitz and for some reason I read Chiklis and I was like, “Daaaaaamn they sure are casting a wide net for this character.” Then I realized you meant that rad dude from Southland and it made more sense.

  13. Wil, one of the things that endears you so much to all of us fans is your willingness to share the reality of what it means to work in the entertainment industry. This is a world that most of us will never be able to experience, and your vivid descriptions paint a picture which bring us all into that hidden world. Thank you for that!

  14. Whoa. Michael Cudlitz, he’s awesome! Two of my favorite CM characters were the two you two played in the various episodes. Other than the main cast of course. Yours was creepy, his was seriously whacked out.

  15. I really enjoy it when you write about the behind-the-scenes stuff of acting. It’s a glimpse into a world I don’t usually get to see so thanks for that.
    And I really hope this audition is another case of your agent calling you up and telling you that they want you for another part in the production. It happened to you before… in CSI (I think)… so maybe lightning will strike twice.
    Fingers crossed.

  16. This is amazing, Wil. I am so infinitely grateful you are running this blog and letting us take part in your life this way. See, I love acting and I dream of being able to do it for a living some day, so this is insanely interesting and valuable. It is so interesting to hear how you experience castings and I feel I can learn something just by reading this. So, thank you.

  17. muahahahahahha you can’t fool me with your military time. You were late for your 2PM appointment.
    I enjoyed reading this. You really have a way of making us feel like we are with you int eh room auditioning. I hope you get the job. If not, then at least you are getting your auditioning legs back under you.
    Also, Hitchhiker’s Guide for the WIN!

  18. Thank you for sharing…gives some food for thought for those of us who occasionally have random fantasies of being an actor and really having no idea how the process works.
    And also, thanks for all the fish. 😉

  19. That’s cool that you had a good experience, and even better that you shared it with the casting person. Most people wouldn’t have gone out of their way. You’re a class act, Wheaton.

  20. “Ask your parents?” Pfft. Do you have ANY IDEA, sir, how long I spent tracking the cleaning robots’ movements in an attempt to catch the wriggly little buggers? Of course you do. (You know, I’ve still never finished the damn thing.)
    Anyway. Frustalgia aside, well done you, and I’ve got my metaphorical fingers crossed. x x

  21. “the other actors there were all handsome manly men
    Men in tights??? :)
    (Really? We made it this far into the comments and no Robin Hood Men in Tights joke? I can’t be the only one who found that funny, can I?)
    Nice post (as always). Glad you had a good experience regardless of the outcome!

  22. It amazes me that more casting directors don’t offer notes. If for no other reason than to see how you react. While there are thousands of competent actors out there who can bring life to a character; they will never realize the vision of the writers, directors, and producers unless they are able to take direction well.
    I suck at auditions, so I rarely got the chance to get any feedback on what I was doing right or wrong. I just wanted to scream, “Tell me what you want, so I can do it!”

  23. Shmmfff…24-hour clock…nothing. All my clocks are set at 24-hour. (It doesn’t ease my dyschronicity, BTW…)
    I’ve lately taken to reading about acting (just the way my mind wanders…). Have you read Stella Adler’s, “The Art of Acting”? Somewhat repetitive, but a lot of insights into the craft…especially for someone like me, who knows nothing about it.
    Please ease my ignorance. What are “sides”? From context, I understand them to be parts of a script to be performed in the character for which you’re auditioning. Is that right?
    If so, are they snippets of “the” script, or scenes that are related by feel, energy, place, or something else?
    Thanks for your help.

  24. I hope you get the part, and that Michael Cudlitz stays where he is. He has a perfectly good gig on “Southland,” now that his character is returning from rehab and back surgery. He does a brilliant job as John Cooper, rings absolutely true to a couple of officers I have known. Always assuming of course that the cancellation notices aren’t already in the mail, just because I like the frelling show.

  25. Wil – You write so well – love the comments and descriptions you make about acting. I can picture the hallway, and the chair next to where you left your phone on the floor (such a great detail). Thanks for sharing!

  26. This was a pretty neat look into what actors have to go through to get a role (you know, a role that isn’t Evil Wil Wheaton – I don’t think anyone could play him as well as you can :] ). I think a lot of the time the general populace thinks that actors have it so easy, I can honestly say that I’ve thought that myself but I think I won’t think that anymore. It has occurred to me now that directors and producers and writers of a show know exactly what they want, and there are a lot of talented and not so talented people auditioning and trying to prove that they are what the role requires.

  27. I’m glad you had a good audition and I hope you get the part. I know nothing of the process and enjoy reading your posts about this subject. Personally, I prefer 24hr time. Back when I had a digital watch and thought that they were pretty neat (OK I still do), I kept it set to 24hr mode.
    I’m actually in the process of reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide for the first time (I know, I was sheltered as a kid) and was happy that I got all of your references.

  28. I was walking to class one morning at U-Mass. I had been up all night trying to get the babel fish, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. “Junk Mail”. I did a U turn, ran back to the dorms. Got the damn fish, and played HHTG the rest of the day. Never did make it to class.

  29. Hey, sorry I didn’t respond in the last few months, I have been in military training . Hope your wife and children are well.
    Hockey: looks like Ryan Smyth moved home to Alberta…
    Go Flames! Go!
    remember this ‘ you never fall, you attack the ground willingly!’

  30. Last night my wife asked me what the date was, I replied ‘Friday the 13th, for another 45 minutes.’ Her reply: ‘So that’s the 14th UTC.’ Astronomers frequently work both local and UTC dates and times.

  31. I’ve been using continental/24-hour time for a few years now; it throws friends and family a bit, but it makes better sense to me. That is all.

  32. So many things that I love about this post. But I think that the thing that amuses me the most is that you had so many Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy references. You see, I turned forty-two this past Tuesday and although I had intended to to celebrate it in an appropriately geeky fashion involving my towel and a Pan Galactic Gargleblaster, I simply could not find the time away from work. (By the way, since I work a rotating shift, I absolutely must use twenty-four hour time otherwise life becomes very, very confusing.)
    Anyway, your post made me smile at a time when I was starting to become a little depressed. It felt good. I hope that you will get the part, but even if you do not, I am glad that the audition felt so right.

  33. Even though I am a US person, working in the airline industry, we use 24 hour time so often that I didn’t realize you had done something unusual with the time until I got to your footnote. Then I was like, Oh yeah, most people don’t read time like that. Of course, military and ex-military people are somewhat used to it as well.
    Glad the audition went well and I hope you get the part.

  34. I just watched an episode of Star Trek with you in it and googled you to see how you were doing currently. I’m so glad I found this blog, especially a specific post about auditioning, very interesting read! Thank you for taking the time to share it with us!

  35. I never, ever could get the babelfish in my eye in the text game of Hitchhiker’s Guide. It was one of the first computer games I bought, back in the days of the 8088 in an old original PC (by IBM). That, and the Star Trek game I bought were ultimately frustrating for my limited high school mind. My mind is still limited that way I think.

  36. As I read it, it seems that auditioning is very similar to interviewing for a job, only, we don’t get to practice for read lines and pretty much know what we know and have made our choices way ahead of time. Figuring out what they are looking for is a bit different. And interviewing IS a skill too. One of the reasons getting my new job, which I love, sucked was getting rejected many, many times until someone was willing to take a chance on me. It can be a demeaning process. After the first few times of thinking I did well and would get the job but not, I decided I wouldn’t ever expect I would get the job again, much like I’d figure I’d get a poor grade in school so when I got a good grade I’d feel happier. When I finally did get the job, it felt great. I’d knew I’d done well in the interview; I was relaxed, answered all their questions exactly as I wanted to and sensed they were satisfied. (One job rejection still mystifies me but I knew they weren’t happy with one of my answers yet I wouldn’t change it even now.) Since I have no experience with how job interviews used to be, I don’t know if the process is getting worse but I can tell you pay for jobs for IT people is like a race to the bottom these days. And getting a raise is impossible so if you want one, you have to change jobs. That’s not good nor does it help our country competitively.
    Thanks for your write up. It helps me feel there is an interconnectedness between many different jobs. And yes, though there are things I’d change, I love my job and your blog helps me love my life more too!

  37. not only was that a really great read, i think the last paragraph may be the greatest thing I’ve read on your site in years. I mean that. Its funny, confident and put a huge smile on my Arthur Dent face…
    nice one wil….nice one…..

  38. You are one hoopy frood who really knows where his towel is! Your score is 100/100!
    At least they didn’t tie you to a chair and recite Vogon Poetry to you!
    Thanks for sharing, and here’s keeping my fingers cross just in case.

  39. Just watched the season finale of Leverage – Chaos was brilliant! Are you all really having as much fun as it appears you are?? Your banter with Hardison was wonderful, and Chaos? More delightfully obnoxious than ever – I do hope they bring him back a few more times next season :)
    Thanks for sharing your life with us, Wil! And those hard-won wisdomly insights, too :)

  40. Here’s what you need to do to be more “handsome.” For one, you’re already handsome. Always have been. Age has put a fine coat of dust on you. To get it off and uncover the hotness within, you need to:
    1) Don’t take offense at anything I say.
    2) Cut the beard. It’s not really you and it puts about 10 pounds extra on your face.
    3) Don’t put so much gel in your hair. Go back to the “messy” hair style. The severe side part is a little on the nerdy side. You’re a geek, not a nerd. (geeks are cute/hot. nerds are…not) Grow the hair out a little too. Not TOO much, but a little. Maybe Edward Cullen style (don’t play. you know who he is and don’t get him confused with Robert Pattinson. Pattinson’s hair is skanky)
    4) Gotta work of those love handles that were showing a little on your last episode of the Big Bang. I think you said a while back that you were working on that though.
    Do all that and you will have dusted yourself off.

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