I auditioned for the new Will Smith movie. I read for a part that was one scene but it was funny and was just me and Will Smith. Nice, but certainly not a lead part like I started may career with, but still, a nice scene in a big movie.
I get a call back with the director.
In the car, on the drive to the call back I get a call, “they cut the part you read for, but keep going to the call back, they want you to read for another role.” That’s the biz, eh? It’s the role of a doctor in a scene with Will and the lead woman! Better! Ah…that’s what the ego does, doesn’t it? It immediately qualifies the role. Actually it goes even farther; This new role is better but still not up to what I’m used to… “I started in feature films with lead roles. Big parts! Important parts! I shouldn’t be doing little parts! Single scenes? Me?”
I don’t get the part. Weeks go by. I get a call I’ve been offered the part of the surgeon in Will’s movie. Ha! I got the part after all! The day I’m needed to shoot fits in with my book tour schedule and all is well. I’m going to work next week, great.
The next day I’m at the Kids Choice Awards and as Will enters the press line my daughter jumps and waves and by gosh doesn’t Will walk over say a huge hello and hug her. He just became the nicest big star actor ever. I thank him as he passes and have this quick exchange with him,
“I’ll see you next week I’m working on your film.”
“Cool! What part?”,
“Oh cool. See you soon.” Great guy and soon to be my co-star.
The wardrobe supervisor calls me three days later for my sizes and says, “You’ll be in surgery scrubs so…” Scrubs? What does that mean? I didn’t read for a part of a guy in scrubs. What scene is this? I call my manager and the agent and ask for the scene.
I get an email yesterday saying the scene is not a scene it’s a line and not even a full line it’s a sentence fragment, in a brief flashback sequence. In other words it’s a part a newbie is dying to get, but a veteran turns down because it’s too small. Well, that’s the conventional wisdom and as such, my manager advises me to turn it down.
Now, I have to tell you that this has further complications because at the audition I made an impassioned plea to the casting director to help me get a job in this movie because when I auditioned there was a strike on and I was worried about my health insurance minimums. So, being a friend she searches and graciously finds an answer to my request. She found me some work on the film. It would be bad of me to turn it down, right?
But it’s so small. I read for a bigger scene with lines and a character and… (fill in all the reasons here you can think of), so it’s not big enough!
I thought Geraldine Paige was remarkable in Trip to Bountiful . She was in Pope of Greenwich Village for 3 minutes and got an Oscar nomination. She was also harshly criticised for doing bad movies during her career. She was always good but the movies were crap and it hurt her reputation as a discriminating artist. Her answer to that type of talk was, “Actors work. Always take the work.”
I asked a friend what he thought I should do with my dilemma and he said “Listen to your book. Always take the work. You never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet that changes your life as an artist.” And that set me straight.
So, I sent this email to my manager, “I’m going to do it anyway. I have faith that it will lead to some connection that I need. I don’t know why. The ego takes a hit but I’m trying to be egoless and man, this is a test.”
“Well, one less bitter actor it is! :). I support you and honor you.”
That felt good eh? I think faith is tough to come by as an artist but I asked for something and I got it. Then I put conditions on it. Conditions that maybe make sense, but they weren’t part of the request. Yes I had bigger roles in the past but I’m not in the past, I’m here. And I like working. This job’s salary will not secure my future but I have to take this leap of faith that this is happening for the right reasons and not judge it. It’s very easy to have one’s ego stay locked at the point when you feel you were at your highest and stay there for every other day to be compared to. Wrapping those high points into your experience is smart, but making them a sticking point that guides you will cut short other opportunities. And…for what?
Might I just be full of it? Am I just making a loser scenario try to sound like a winner’s scenario? Sure. That’s the point. You decide what’s a winner and what’s a loser. You get to decide what you bring of yourself to the set, the role, the crew, the director, when you go to work on your “small ” job. You get to decide if it’s embarrassing or if it’s something of value. Everyone you come in contact with will know who you are by the way you approach your work. Can you end up feeling insignificant doing your small role? Might you even be treated that way? Yes. Maybe that’s my biggest fear. No one will see the genius within because I get to do so little. They will disregard me as a guy who can only handle small parts. Gosh, aren’t I saying the same thing by doing the part?
That’s our trade. Right?
It is unless you choose not to subscribe to that hierarchy theory and you see your career as an evolution. We get what we get and we have faith that our path will open because we have put our best effort into those opportunities. The fact is, my genius will stay intact, it might not get tested on this job, but my talent won’t change. Being on a set and being the center of the set is what my ego is dealing with.
Even now, this many years later, I have to have faith that this is where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing. How I treat it is up to me.
I’ll let you know how it goes and what I learn from the adventure.