It was Friday afternoon. My manager called me and said he was sending me audition sides for a meeting that would happen Monday or Tuesday. He told me about the show and the role, and in spite of everything I have learned in 37 years as an actor, I got excited because it was really fantastic stuff.
I read the sides, and extracted as much as I could about the character from them. See, there’s a preparation thing that I have to do whenever I’m going to perform a role, whether it’s for a job I’ve booked, an audition, something on-camera or a voice job: I read the scene (or the whole script) and I ask a series of questions based on what it tells me. What does this person want? What’s in his way? How does he feel about that? What does he do about how he feels?
Sometimes, a scene makes the answers to those questions really easy to find. It’s there in the dialog, and in the prose that the writer uses to describe the scene. Sometimes, the characters are drawn so clearly, finding those answers is as easy as reading the words on the page. But most of the time, I have to do some work to find the writer’s intention, so that I can take words on a page and turn them into a character that makes the audience feel something. For this particular audition, the character was fairly clear, and though I didn’t get to read the entire script, the audition sides were an interesting scene that told me a lot about who he was, and why he was interacting with the other character in the scene.
I broke the scene into some broad strokes, so that I knew what he wanted. Then I broke down the lines into specific actions that let him deal with what was in his way, and how he felt about those things. To be completely honest, this is my very favorite part of being an actor. I love breaking down a script and then breaking down its scenes and then breaking down those scenes into even more specific actions, so that every single thing I do, every choice I make, is logical and real and grounded in the reality of the character and the world he lives in.
So Friday evening came around, and I hadn’t heard from casting, so I knew I wasn’t going to be called in on Monday. Monday arrived, and as the day went on, I heard nothing, and I began to wonder if the producers had offered the job to someone else over the weekend. My manager called me as I was writing an email to him, and he told me I had an appointment the following morning. It was a period piece, and I happened to own some clothing that is appropriate (and would hide my tattoos), so I asked if it would be weird to wear it.
“Casting actually asked if you could please dress as much in the period as possible,” he told me. So that was pretty awesome.
I went to work on the scene. I developed my understanding of the character, including what was at stake for him, why he was there, and what he wanted. Then I realized that there was a power dynamic in play, and that thought he was giving the appearance of being there to do something for the other character, what he actually wanted to do was set her up, so he could use her to get the thing he really wanted. I have to say that I was particularly proud of myself for uncovering that, because it wasn’t super clear in the text. It was there as one possible interpretation, and I decided to make that my interpretation. If I was wrong, I’d find out in about 15 hours.
Preparing this audition was fun, mostly because all the writing I’ve been doing lately has put me into an artistic frame of mind that made it easy to see what the writer intended. Preparing this audition wasn’t intimidating, because I’ve been doing so much voice acting, I have a confidence and security in my ability to perform that I wouldn’t have, otherwise.
So I went into the meeting on Tuesday morning feeling really solid and confident and comfortable.
And I did a great job. I only read the scene once, and the casting director told me that she didn’t need me to do it again.
And I knew that I wasn’t going to get the job, because I never get the job.
But I still had fun, and I still enjoyed it, and I’m still proud of the work that I did, because when the casting director described the character’s motivation to me, she told me to do exactly what I had already prepared. Something like that does a lot for an actor’s confidence, you know?
So I nailed it. And I let myself believe, for a very brief moment, that maybe I had a chance to play this character, who will be on this show for seven of ten episodes. Maybe this will be the time that I got lucky and all those things I can’t control, all those things that are not my performance, would line up in my favor. Maybe I’d get to do some work that would be rewarding and challenging and memorable and important.
But I didn’t get the job. They loved me, but went with someone else. I don’t know why, just that they did. They always do.
And even though I know, intellectually, that there’s nothing wrong with me, that I didn’t go in there and stink it up, that there are countless factors out of my control that have nothing to do with the one thing I could control and all it takes is one of those things to not go my way …. But I still feel, emotionally and irrationally, like there is something wrong with me, because I never book the job. I feel like I got my one swing of the bat for the season, put the ball in play like I was supposed to, and still didn’t get on base.
And now I have to find and focus on the good things in this experience, like how much fun it was to prepare it, how I did a good job for a casting director who will hopefully bring me back for other roles on other shows, or maybe another role on this show. I have to remember that feeling proud of myself, feeling creatively satisfied, feeling like I did a good enough job to earn the role even if I didn’t get cast, I have to remember that all of those things are real, and valid, and it’s okay to have felt good when they happened.
Even though I know all of those things, all I feel right now is disappointment. Even though I knew it was coming, even though I knew I wouldn’t get the part, because I never get the part, I am still really sad that I didn’t get the part.