Actually, before we set foot on the Warner’s lot, let’s go back one day and talk about Bond.
See, the day before I wound up auditioning at Warner’s, I actually had my first movie audition since coming back to Los Angeles. It was for a film called, of all things, “Becoming Bond: The George Lazenby Story.”
Because, clearly, people are simply clamoring to know the life story of the only guy to only perform the role of James Bond in one film.
Actually, and I’m not kidding, they should be. Lazenby’s biography- how he bluffed his way from fashion model to 007 – is a fascinating one and including the true tales (once thought to be rumors) that studio executives would set him up with beautiful women- and then stay in the room to watch him cavort with them- just to be sure their new Bond wasn’t gay.
Ah, the sixties!
Anyway, I had submitted myself on a few auditions through Actors Access (which I’ve done throughout my stay) and…boom. I got called in to read for the part of a British casting agent who meets Lazenby and is clearly taken with his smoldering good looks.
It was – like Lazenby’s career as Bond – over quickly. I went into a casting agency down in Culver City, read for the folks in the traditional banged-up little casting room and was out the door before you could say Ernst Stavro Blofeld (look it up).
Still, it was the first audition I’d had this month and I was as hungry to audition as hippos (really hungry, hungry ones) are for marbles.
It turned out to be a nice, and perfectly timed, stretch of the acting muscles.
Now to the main attraction:
The next day, I had gone through the routine of my usual, predictable morning. I dropped Milo off at school, returned home, recorded an hour or so of my latest audiobook production and- when I could no longer spend another, sweaty moment in Ft. Raphael (it gets awfully lonely in there)- I had gone out for a long run around the CSUN campus to clear my mind.
I do this every morning, rain or shine.
Ha! There’s no rain, silly. But still: Every morning.
Upon my return on this particular morning, however, I was shocked to see that both my email and telephone had exploded in my absence. It was my agent – the lovely and talented Orion Barnes – and he wanted to know if I could be in Studio City that afternoon for an audition on the Warner’s lot.
I checked my calendar: Any plans? Hmmmm. Let’s see. Noooo, I looked pretty good. Yeah, I could maybe do that. (Inside: Omigodomigodomigod!)
The audition was for the television show “Shameless” and was with one of Warner’s casting agents, Kimberly Wong, who I did not know but who now- almost immediately- became my favorite person on this Earth.
Now, it wouldn’t be cricket for me to describe either the scene or the plot from the “Shameless” episode (potentially giving away spoilers and all that), so all I can really safely say is that the audition was for a cop.
And he wasn’t a nice cop, either.
You see where I’m going with this, right? Right.
So I cleaned myself up, spent some time looking over my sides, snazzed up in my best sleazy Detective outfit and drove down to the Warner Bros. lot.
You know why?
Because I was needed down at the Warner Bros. lot. (I swear, I could write that all day and never get tired of it.)
This was not, in fact, the first time I had ever visited a movie studio. Those who read this blog regularly may recall that I visited the Universal Studios lot earlier this year when I was invited to lunch at the commissary by my friend Jamie Pachino. And that was awfully fun.
But this….this was different. I was going to enter a movie studio for the first time as an actor. I had been summoned by an actual casting agent at an actual movie studio to read for an actual TV show and…
…okay, calm the hell down. Just look over your sides and don’t get all teenager-going-to-see-the-Beatles for crying out loud. You’re a grown man-actor auditioning for a part. You’ve done this before. Act like it.
I had driven past the Warners lot before, of course. Most anybody who has ever driven through Studio City has. My voice over agent has her offices just on the other side of Warners and let me tell you: movie studios are hard to miss, even if you aren’t looking for them.
For one thing, they have (as you’d expect), these giant sound stages littering the lot. These stages are often situated right next to the road, with towering walls that feature gigantic billboards advertising whatever movie or television show is hot at the moment.
And, of course, you can tour the studios, too. For a fee, guides will show you about the place, pointing out this or that famous building and…hey, what’s this? Why it looks like they’re shooting something today, folks! (And you can watch as they actually film a commercial or scene from a movie or something.)
I have never been on a studio tour, but I imagine they’re a lot of fun.
But not quite as fun as this.
I was directed to park at “Gate 2” which is actually just a parking structure across the street from the studio itself. I was issued a gate pass and told to leave my car there and then walk across the street and enter the studio. I’d be directed where to go from there by security.
I walked into Gate 3 at Warners, had my bag searched and sent through a metal detector and then shown the winding path through the lot for my audition.
And then…they turned me loose. Inside the studio lot. To go wherever I chose.
Oh, the temptation to go all Animaniacs on the place. You have no idea. (And yes, the tower is there, just as you’d expect.)
But no, I am a professional and I was expected by Ms. Wong, so I solemnly and calmly walked down the alleyways between the sound stages and made my way to the casting office.
As you stroll along through the studio, you simply can’t help but notice a few things. For one, I passed the studio where they shoot the Ellen DeGeneres show which, while interesting, had no real “Wow” factor for me…until I saw the plaque on the wall outside.
See, at Warner Bros. studio (because of the long and storied history of the company) they make a point of posting on the side of each sound studio exactly what films and TV shows were shot within its confines. In the same studio as the Ellen show, for example, they had also shot:
“Strangers on a Train”, “Now, Voyager”, “Bonnie and Clyde” and…”Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”
This wasn’t some back-room, stand in front of the video, sorry-about-the-coffee-stains-on-the-couch, rinky dink audition.
I was standing in the middle of Movie History Central.
Okay, quite enough of that. Get to your audition.
So I did. I refocused. I continued on my way down the alley, banishing images of Alfred Hitchcock and Humphrey Bogart (almost) entirely from my mind.
I even managed not to yell out, when I passed the parking space that had “Malpaso Productions” stenciled on it, “Hey! Does everyone know that Clint Eastwood works here?!?!” I was cool, calm and collected.
I was ready for my close-up.
It sounds ridiculous to say it, but it must be said: The studio looked like something out of Central Casting. I mean, I know it was a movie studio, so this is going to sound dumb but:
It looked like a movie studio.
They had the little bungalows scattered around the lot, just like you’d expect.
They had the rows of writer’s rooms right in the middle of the place, just like you’d expect.
And in the casting office, they had a shit-ton of actors waiting to audition.
Just like you’d expect.
But then, on closer inspection, I noticed that…no, these guys weren’t auditioning for the same part as me. Unless the producers were so unsure of what they were looking for that they were seeing both middle-aged Irish guys and mid-twenties overweight Hispanic guys for the same role.
Turned out that, as I had deduced, they were casting three roles for that episode that day and that the competition for my role amounted to…five guys. Those are my kind of odds.
The big Hispanic guys, by the way, they all seemed to know each other. Every time another one came through the door (and each one was bigger than the last) they would all greet each other by name.
This was hardly surprising. I had no doubt that they ran into each other at similar auditions all over town. When you put out a casting call for some very serious, extremely heavy, badass dudes with multiple arm- and neck-tattoos…these were the guys who would show up.
Apart from the big, mean guys sitting there, bulging out of their tiny waiting room seats, they were apparently also casting the part of an African-American newscaster. Thus, the room looked like this: about ten, big, scary gangbanger looking dudes, another half-dozen extremely polished and professional looking black men in suits and another six schlubby, rumpled Irish guys with attitudes.
Casting agents bring together strange bedfellows.
Now, as any actor will tell you, when you show up at an audition and see a room full of guys, you know you’re in for a long, long afternoon. Casting sessions are brutal in that they (a) almost never start on time, (b) go much, much slower than they actually should and (c) usually feature long, incomprehensible waits between each actor.
Not this time.
They cut through that room of actors like a chainsaw through a teddy bear. Before I knew it, the big dudes were edging their way sideways out the door at a rapid clip until they were no more. Then the black newscasters were gone. Pretty soon, it was just me and the other asshole cops.
In audition situations, by the way, I always figure you either want to go first or last. Be the guy who sets the bar or, if that’s not in the cards, be the last (and presumably most memorable) guy to be seen that afternoon.
On this day, I was last. Every other guy had been in, out and vanished. That left one asshole cop: me.
Another thing about these types of auditions: You almost always go into a room and have to deal with only one or two people. They set you up with a piece of tape on the floor, showing you your mark. They will input your name on a video monitor, have you speak your name into the camera (which is called a “slate” for those not in the know), and will usually read the scene partner’s lines with you if a reader is needed.
But for this audition? At Warner Brothers studio? I walked into a room full of people.
I don’t know which one Kimberly Wong was because there was simply a sea of faces out there. I counted at least six before I told myself it would probably be best to stop counting.
There was a group of women seated on a couch in front of me. Another couple of people sprawled in chairs. Another person to run the video and at least an intern or two in the back. They were extremely friendly, un-intimidating and uber-professional.
Okay, campers, now what’s the rule? Do you remember? What’s the #1 rule of auditions?
That’s right: Play the character. That’s it. Do your work, show them your interpretation of the character and then get out.
So the big question is: Did I do my job? Did I keep my head, play the character, finish up and leave?
C’mon, people. Of course I did. I can tell you, in all honesty, I wasn’t in the least bit nervous. I was off-book, relaxed and loose. I even got laughs from the assembled group (and at the right times, too).
Plus, they asked me to do the scene twice.
Then they thanked me, I thanked them…and I got the hell out of there.
Tempted though I surely was to take a stroll around the Warners lot and see if I could see anything interesting (look, George Clooney’s stunt double!), I thought it best to simply continue my plan of behaving like an aloof, been-there-before actor and just make my way back to the car. The last thing I needed was to have security pick me up and call back to the casting office to ask why they just let their actors wander about anywhere they pleased.
But really, I could happily have stayed there on that lot for the rest of my life. Moved into a bungalow, lunched every day at the commissary, I would have been fine.
Instead, I made my way back to Gate 3, past security, across the street and back into the car.
As I pulled out, I got this wonderful view of the studio entrance. And all I could think of was:
Please lord in heaven, have me back. Don’t let this be the last time.
And then I pulled out of the lot and…went home.
For the next day or so, despite my glaring at the phone with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns (or maybe because of it), the call never came. The part clearly went to someone else. Those are the breaks.
But Orion, bless his heart, had kept his word. He had not just gotten me an audition, he had gotten me a beauty. Walking onto that lot and into that casting office- while not a big deal by any means in the grand scheme of things- was another ceiling I had broken through on this trip. Another rung up the long, long ladder I had mounted so many months before.
But I couldn’t help but think, as I always do: Would it be the last?
UPDATE: I would later learn, from my agent, that according to the folks in casting at Warners, I had “won the room” during my audition and that those who had seen me live in the session wanted to cast me in the role. Sadly, one of the producers- reviewing it later on tape- shot me down and hired someone else.