Close, But No Cigar - Pt. 1
Auditioning for the "Nashville" TV Pilot
On a dime. The way I’m choosing to live my life, it can all turn 180 degrees in a moment’s notice. An unexpected phone call or email could send me around the world or onto the television screen in a matter of hours. It’s an exciting way to live. But it comes with more than a fair share of unsettledness—enough uncertainty to choke a horse…if I was a horse.
Wed 2/29/12 - I just came home from a really important audition. A “this could change my life” kind of audition. I’m trying to think ahead to someone reading this and already knowing the outcome, and the subsequent cancellation of the production. Or it could be the opposite: You mean, you had a shot at being on that show! Wow…
I’m incredibly optimistic about it. But I have felt this way before, so I’m slightly cynical, as well.
I have felt hopeful about the possibility of getting a valuable, mortgage-paying gig in the past (I don’t mean completely paying off the mortgage, just helping to make the monthly payment!), and having it not work out. But now I’m kind of a jumble of emotions. I’m excited and tempted to dive into the fantasy of how great life could be if this worked out, then I feel guilty for that fantasy, and assume that I’m sabotaging the job by thinking too highly of it. Most actors would agree that you usually get the gigs you don’t care about, the auditions you work on in the car as you drive to them.
The show is called “Nashville” and it’s a pilot that ABC has ordered “with options,” meaning, they’re pretty serious about wanting this show if the pilot is quality. It’s an hour-long scripted drama (or primetime soap) about love, country music, family, and politics set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene. The story centers around 40-year-old Nashville superstar Rayna James (Connie Britton – “Friday Night Lights,” “American Horror Story”) who is stunned to find out her star is fading. Her label requires her to team up with teen sensation Juliette Barnes (played by “Heroes” alum Hayden Panettiere) on tour—or else face the loss of her own tour and the label’s promotion of her latest record, whose sales have been underwhelming.
I read for the role of Bucky, Rayna’s manager. It’d be a great part, having to be the compassionate and intelligent bridge between the creative expectations of Rayna, and the business requirements of the label. Perfect, right?
Let me back up. On Monday the 27th, I posted: Sometimes an audition comes along & you try so hard not to get too excited…but you just can’t help it? Just got a call for one Wed am.
That post was met with an incredible outpouring of love and support, so much so that I printed it out, put it in my pocket and took it into the audition with me. People wrote that they were praying for me. That blew me away. Does God really care if I get this job? I can’t help but wonder.
The next post was this picture…taking at the audition on the 29th, just before going in. I simply wrote, waiting…
I arrived at the audition with my scene memorized—my agent sent me the script on Monday. I felt prepared and confident. But I’m well aware that my confidence can drain out at the drop of a hat. I was the only one in the small waiting room in the “Nashville” production offices, set-up in an industrial warehouse area (I had no idea existed) on the edge of downtown. Another actor walked in, I recognized him from other auditions. He brought a guitar.
The casting director called me into her makeshift office, with her assistant manning a tiny video camera in the corner. I was watching myself during all this, noticing that I had an incredible amount of energy, especially in contrast to the mellow tone of the room.
“Why am I so hyper?” Oh yes, the character is a manager, and most managers I know are high-strung, get-it-done kind of guys. I let it slide.
She gave me some background information about what the producers have commented on with previous auditions. “Less is more,” she said.
We ran through the scene. I acted. I remembered my lines. I was nuanced. The video camera’s red light shone its approval.
“OK, cut. Let’s go back and do it again.” The camera stops. “But this time, don’t act so much.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. It’s kind of ironic that they call you an actor, they hire you to act, and then when you get there they tell you not to act. Especially after all the rehearsal in my bedroom, developing my presentation as if I’m appearing in front of a grand audience, to be asked to tone it “way down” and deliver it to one person sitting in front of you…can feel a bit like a straight jacket.
“Put this fancy white coat on, make sure the sleeves go all the way around…and now…action!”
I gave it a try, grateful for the helpful direction, and not just a simple, “Thanks, we’ll call you” (though I’ve never actually heard those words…most times, they never call). It felt boring and staid.
“Good!” she said. Good? Really? You mean, maybe I can actually do this non-acting thing? “Watch that you don’t sound condescending at the end. Deliver it more like a friend.” We did it again. And it was good.
I left feeling pretty thrilled for the opportunity to at least throw my name in the hat. The casting director didn’t know if they would be casting this part from the tape or if they’d have a callback. So I got into my car, and drove off.
Now my job, I thought to myself, is to try and forget this ever happened. Chances are, I’ll never hear anything again from this project, as much as I might hope I would. And usually it’s pretty easy to do, if it’s an audition for a commercial for a restaurant or insurance company. But a real-life television show? I mean, what are the chances that ABC would come to Nashville to shoot a show in the first place, much less, cast me? Very slim, yes. But things were pointing in a positive direction, even getting asked to audition.
Part 2 - the news of a callback…click here!