I went to a callback yesterday for a job that I’m definitely booking because if there’s one thing I know about this town, it’s that forcing your hair into beachy waves and whitening your teeth with a homemade peroxide solution equals a successful career!
I arrived at this callback in the same clothes I wore for the first audition, two days before. I felt like a homeless person who has a crumpled business suit tucked away for special occasions.
In the casting office lobby, I found a bunch of “Moms” like me but more symmetrical, child actors with their real Moms and nannies, and some nerdy looking “Dads”. All the kids were glued to iPhones and iPads. A slurry of psychotic sounding music was softly annoying everyone.
The casting director announced the next grouping of Dad, Mom and kid. “OK! Next up, is…. Tiffany, Mark, and Slayden-Jet-Applesauce.” The kids had the cool names.
Tiffany’s face lit aflame. “ARE YOU SLAYDEN???” She chirped, to the little boy next to her, her lips smiling in such a way that you could see where they connected to her gums. He nodded, appropriately cautious.
Mark immediately chimed in. “SLAYDEN MY MAN!” He attempted a cool Dad hi-five, but even fake Dads cannot be cool enough. The kid turned toward his real mom.
Fake Mom and Dad then attempted to forcefully bond with lil Slayden, like they were the warm-up act for a birthday party clown. I pretended to check Twitter, listening to their banter.
Tiffany: “WOW… those are cool pants, Slayden. They match my shoes! Did we plan that?? HAHAHAHAHAHA.”
Mark: “Hey Slayden! You have buttons on your shirt! I don’t. Can I have yours? I’ll give you a nickel.” He then offered a dime, then a quarter. The kid held on to his buttons, saying he already had a quarter. Also, he probably only accepts Bitcoins, so Grandpa – keep your nickel for a root beer down at the five and dime.
I anxiously awaited the revealing of my fake family. Which nerd Dad would be my husband? Which baby man would be my son?
The next group was announced. “OK…… ah…. Anna, James, and Jebediah-Rocketship. You’re up.” The new family became one annoying clump of chatter.
Anna: “Jeb! Cool name, dude!”
James: “I’m gonna be your Dad!”
Anna: “OMG my ovaries are exploding right now — he is SO cute!!!!”
It was going well.
Jeb took a little breather outside and picked a portion of a Bougainvillea for his fake Mom. He shuffled over to Anna to place it somewhere between her knee and her face.
Anna: “Awwwwwwwwww, Jeb??? Is this for me??? I’m taking a picture of it right now. See? I’m TAKING A PICTURE!” OK, he’s impressionable, not deaf.
The lobby started filling up with smartly dressed black women, for the next casting. The kids and Dads were dwindling fast. My name still hadn’t been called. I could tell they were referencing a sheet with groups of actors for “families”, so I wondered who mine would be. Come on! I’m ready to accept my Bougainvillea from my fake son!
The last family entered the casting room. And there I was, in the lobby, sitting at the losing end of a bench full of black businesswomen.
The casting director peeked her head out from the room, “OK, that’s everyone, right?” The casting assistant whispered in her ear, and pointed at me. EAGER WHITE GIRL AT END OF BENCH. I tried to appear like as much of a good sport as I could. But I seriously doubted that I was in any kind of running, considering I was spinster leftovers.
“Lauren.” The casting director called me over, with her finger. She had crazy blonde hair, all-black clothes, and a sly smile. “I’m gonna tell you something…that I didn’t tell an-y-bod-y else…”
She gave me the tiniest little nugget of direction, with a wink. Something she said no other actress had done, yet. “It’ll make ’em remember you…”
I suddenly felt like I was in on the best secret. Like my audition wouldn’t be just the stinking remains of the day.
I went into the room with the Dad who had just auditioned with another Mom. “He got remarried!” I joked, to the client. Better than saying something about sloppy seconds, which was my first thought.
We started the scene. It had no dialogue. It was just this couple, Skype-ing on a tablet with an adoption agent. Who was about to tell them they could pick up their son today.
I don’t know what was going on for me — or what that kid really meant to me, in that moment, but as fake-Dad and I were cuddled up with our iPad (which was a blank piece of cardboard), staring into it, fake-Dad running at the mouth with crappy improv dialogue, the casting director said the words “You can pick up your son today”. And I burst into tears.
TEARS. I could not even speak.
I will be the first person to say “BAAAAARRRRRF, actors use CRYING as a barometer for great acting. It’s so stupid. So much more interesting to watch someone NOT cry…” And yet something in me totally went: OH SHIT — CRY TIMES.
To be honest, I really think that I might react like that, if I were involved in a long, laborious adoption situation.
And to be honest-er, I feel like that about acting. And my life.
Maybe that was it.
Regardless. Fake-Dad continued to blabber on about “WOW! We’re so excited! I mean, it’s been FOREVER, so… WOW! AMAZING, right Honey??!” As the casting director prompted us with more questions about whether we were ready, how we’re feeling…
I remembered what the director had told me in the hallway. And I stuck it in as best I could between Dad’s brilliant talk-acting. “We’re ready. Right… Dad?” Like you would do, if you’re friggin dying to be parents. Dad. You would call it out. I was mostly impressed with the fact that I could squeak out some actual words.
We then proceeded to do a little scene with an imaginary child, since all the child actors had left. I read a Disney book to the space between my arms, and Dad took our dillusional family photo with the cardboard iPad. It was some real nice bonding time.
I still feel like there’s no way in hello operator that I’m booking that job (– they didn’t even give me a family to audition with!). But it was worth it for that little moment with the director in the hall.
Even those tiny bits feel like magic.
I walked back to my car, an undetectable spring/limp in my step (hurt-y shoes), and discovered a little bag of dog poo stashed neatly under my front tire. Sabotage…? I gently kicked it out of the way and joined the lunchtime traffic jam.
A little less road-rage-y than usual…