Our thesp-at-large dishes the dirt on the realities of a (fictional) jobbing actor’s life
Words Jordan Waller
Half an hour early. I’m always half an hour early. Can’t have another coffee – already had two coffees this morning; another will give you the shakes, that’s the last thing you want. Relax. Just relax.
Have some water? Can’t. Water means pee. Water after. God, chest is pounding, I can hear it in my ear… Maybe I smoked too many cigarettes for this time in the morning. Ten cigarettes before ten – maybe an oversight. No more cigarettes.
Let’s distract. Check your phone. No-one’s called. No-one’s emailed. News? Too grim. Go for a little stroll. Nice little stroll. Why not go through the lines once more? Don’t want to overthink them, actually. That’s what happened in the last audition. Haven’t heard back from that one. Don’t think about that now. It’s fine: I’m fine about it anyway. It wasn’t me. They didn’t reject me; you’re either right for the part or not. Bryan Cranston said that on a YouTube video once.
You shouldn’t have told anyone about this one: especially not your mum. Terribly bad luck. Quickly: need to balance my luck. Find a tramp. Find tramp, give them some money. I don’t have any money. Then buy something on your card and give it to them. Tesco Metro. Get chocolate. And some gum – your breath must stink.
Find a tramp. Found a tramp… asleep under the Noel Coward on a cardboard box. God London is a horrible place – look at all these smug media types just sauntering by as this poor man sleeps rough. Am I one of them now? No. I’ve got a soul. I’ve got a Snickers. Excuse me? Hello? I have something for you, sir. No response. I lean the Snickers on his back. Good karma, right?
Chest pounds. Light another cigarette to calm it. Chew gum during cigarette to abate smell. Cigarette tastes horrible. Stub out and relight another. You’ll never get it anyway – it’s for a sixteen year old boy. You look forty. God I’m bloated. And fat. Light another cigarette.
Come on. They’d be lucky to have me. That’s it. I should go in there and just puff my cheeks at the casting director, like the French do. I don’t need you. I’m me. I’m brilliant. I’m Paris. Oh shit: I’m five minutes late. One more cigarette as I run up Shaftesbury Avenue.
Ring the bell of a warehouse near Covent Garden. Haven’t been to this one before. No answer. Ring again. Surly woman answers. I mumble: I’m here… for the… I have a meeting with… She buzzes me up before I can string the sentence. I take the stairs to the fifth, before realising the audition’s in the basement, so by the time I arrive the stale cigarette smell hanging over my linen shirt has mingled with sweat.
Jesus I was never that confident at that age. I’m twenty five and feel like a grandpa
I fill out my name in a box and wait on a chair with five other men; boys really, much better suited to the role. More attractive too, with more expressive eyes. And confident. Jesus I was never that confident at that age. I’m twenty five and feel like a grandpa. One of them is even talking – all teen bravado – about the other roles he’s got.
Someone makes a passing comment about a bad smell. I jump up to the loo, fast. Inside. Try to pee: nothing comes out, too nervous. Go to basin to wash my arms and pits: water sprays all over my chest. I have become the lactating man. I rejoin my competitors in the waiting room outside, with a playful ‘look at what an idiot I am!’ on my face. No-one notices.
A woman pokes her head out for the door: colourful glasses and a bob. A little like the small woman from The Incredibles, but more turtle. She beckons me in. Four heads in the audition room face downwards. Turtle Woman switches on a cheap video camera, pointed towards me, as if we’re shooting a low budget porno.
Introductions are made, vaguely; much more enthusiastically on my part. I make a joke about splashing water on my chest and lactating. No one laughs. After a short silence, they ask what I’ve been up to. Truthful answer: not a lot. Answer I give: talk about a project that stopped filming three years ago but is showing repeats in Brazil, where the response has been really positive, which is great. My anecdote is cut short by Turtle Woman: she’s the casting director. I know that because she hasn’t looked at me once.
It’s time to begin.
Chest pounds. Long for cigarette. No-one’s looking at me. Mouth’s dry. And… Turtle Woman starts to read the part of the sixteen year old boy I’ve learnt… Wasn’t I reading for that? No. No, you’re the policeman. With the receding hairline and puffy cheeks. You learnt the wrong part? How funny. At this, they laugh. I’m assured not to worry: the policeman only has one line and it might be a voice-over anyway, so I can relax.
They pass me a script.
I fluff the line.
Thanks so much for coming, the heads say in unison.
It’s fine. I’m fine. I’ll get the next one.
Jordan is an actor and writer from Bristol. He is currently playing Lord Alfred Paget in the ITV series Victoria.