Cara took my hand. “Why don’t you take a break, honey?” she suggested. “Why don’t you take a trip or go home for a bit?”
Home? LA is my home. Going to my previous home grew to be a chore. People were glad to see me, but always lurking in the undergrowth of their effusive flattery was that unspoken “Haven’t you made it YET?”
They had no idea. When someone shows up on a TV program or in a movie or even at an awards show, it looks so easy, so “of course.” Before that day came years and years of acting classes, auditions, workouts at the gym, schmoozing at parties to meet that singular someone who knows someone who’s looking for someone just like that particular actor. We have to be more than devoted. We have to be beyond obsessed.
So, why haven’t I made it yet? Listen, pal—do you have any idea how much it takes to “make it”? Friends who’ve landed parts in soaps told me they get ridiculed “back home,” but hey, it’s a start, it’s good money, it’s something really big in our world. Also, do they have any idea how many people who make it have a parent in the industry? The kid’s talent has to stand on its own, of course, but the doors open more easily to let that talent shine and be seen by the right person in the right place. Many more have relatives and friends of the family who work in a studio or with a casting director or someone else who can open the door. I miss the idea of the ice-cream parlor where Lana Turner was, rumor has it, discovered.
Over the years I’ve heard my actor friends talk less and less about their auditions and more and more about their construction projects, small businesses, real-estate jobs, or the little stores they’ve opened.
They (whoever they are) say that most people who come to LA to act last about three years. I heard about one young woman who came, had one audition, and went right back home to Kansas, or wherever she came from. Okay, it was Ohio. That intrigued me, and I was even a little envious that she wasn’t plagued/haunted/fixated on this crazy acting thing. Obviously it wasn’t her thing, and hopefully she quickly moved on to whatever her thing was. Sometimes I wish my thing was….anything else.
Some of my peeps who call themselves “actors,” well, aren’t…actors, that is. They show up late and/or blow their auditions—kind of on purpose. Me? I’m never late for an audition. Never. Not once. If there’s ever an accident on a freeway, I take the next exit and race through backcountry surface roads. As I mentioned, I usually leave hours ahead of time anyway; if I’m early, I write or make calls. But I’m never, ever late…at least not any more. One day back in Wisconsin, I arrived at a restaurant ten minutes late and full of apologies.
“No problem,” my friend said. “I expected it. Being late is part of your persona. It’s who you are.”
Boom! Yuck—never again would that be part of my persona. Brings tears to my nose.
As for those actors who blow their auditions, maybe they don’t really want it. They want the dream. They don’t want to wake up at four AM and actually put their heart and soul into something and then be out in the world wide open to massive criticism. They’d rather cater or Uber and complain that they haven’t gotten their lucky break yet.
There’s a book called The Snow Leopard where two men trek through Nepal trying to find the elusive, rarely seen (you guessed it—you’re so smart!) snow leopard. Spoiler alert: they never do find the special animal. What they do find was that the search, the journey, was the destination all along.
For some it’s a dream, and part of the dream is just having the dream and not necessarily living it. Sometimes having the dream is more important than living the reality…for some—not for me. I tried giving up this dream soooooo many times. It is ridiculously hard out here. But this dream seems to have me even more than I have it.
You know how magazines and newspapers have those “Where Are They Now” articles, referring to actors we haven’t seen in a while? They always seem to be in real estate. In some of my less optimistic moments, I’d think well, why not try it out since I’ll end up doing it eventually anyway? Or I could be a script supervisor, or a talent agent, or….anything else.
If actions speak louder than words, my actions showed me where my heart was and is. I’d start looking for jobs on Indeed.com, and suddenly my mouse would be clicking on “pay” for another acting class. I’d start working on my resume, and suddenly my mouse would be clicking on a photographer’s website for more headshots.
Plus, the characters I’ve played would tap me on the shoulder and whisper, “I was only here because you breathed life into me.”
“That’s not exactly true,” I’d reply. “Any other actor could’ve played you.”
“Not the way you did.”
“Then this has to be easier.”
Oh, how the answer to that one would vary: “It will be. Just hang in there.” “What’s the point in it being easier? The struggle makes the reward that much sweeter.” “You’re in charge of that.”
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