“Rita Anderson,” I said, feeling like I had turned to wood. (Stressful situations sometimes made me separate from myself as if I were made of oil and water, and my personality was merely the talking part of the external me that showed up to represent the portions that were internal--which was 100% of the way I saw myself when I thought about WHO this Rita person was--and I could feel my self disappearing.) My spirit was picking the wrong time to have an out of body experience so I blinked a few times, hoping to jar myself back together again like some mental Humpty Dumpty the top half of which had already fallen off the back wall, but my mascara-ed lashes were heavy curtains that wanted to close, putting an end to the show before it had even begun.
“Lift your number higher please. And, are you with an agency?”
“No,” I answered, also shaking my head to the negative. Standing in the brightly lit kitchen where the thirty-second scene took place, I held the number 47 which had been magic-markered to a piece of scrap paper over my breasts, which were beautifully covered in the new business suit the family had shopped for for this audition. I kind of smiled to inject some levity, knowing that holding the card higher would ensure that my fake nails would be on display too, although all of a sudden they felt dangerously long like I might trip on them, and all that newness was working against me, not exactly helping me connect with the foreign moment or back to my body, which stood so dumbly still.
“Okay, places! Take One,” the director directed, although the scene had not been blocked. (Perhaps he, too, had seen too many movies and was taking himself way too seriously.)
Hands trembling, I moved to the cupboard where I had imagined the story began, finishing some business there before delivering my opening line, which made no sense to me (something about “while I am in a business meeting in LA you can find me in Orlando. . .”). A quick study, I had received the bank commercial script via email the day before, after I had passed the first hurdle and been selected to read, an invitation that only came after my headshot and drama resume passed muster.
No part of my body seemed to want to cooperate and my voice sounded like it was coming from some other place, as I moved over to the island where my husband with the English accent ate a pretend bowl of cereal and my imaginary teenaged son and/or daughter would sit, as their parts were not yet cast.
Problem is I had never gotten acclimated. I had just arrived at the advertising agency to encounter two women in front of me. There was nowhere to sit and my heart was in my mouth as I overheard the first woman, who was behind closed doors shooting the scene, read and she had projected wonderfully, although I had made some different artistic choices. I wasn’t going to take that artificial tone or exaggerated pace that a lot of actresses use to read a scene; I had decided to be more natural and conversational in delivery (that was until I had gotten there and every part of me was having its own little coup). She had a chatty personable vibe about her that made total sense when I heard her tell these two men that she was a real estate agent, but, honestly, when I saw her she didn’t look the part with helmet hair and too suburban a flair for this jetsetting character.
“Let’s go again,” the director said, and I breathed, almost relaxed into thinking that I might just be able to do this correctly. But the guy who was reading the husband didn’t seem like an actor himself; I suspected he too worked for the agency and had maybe even written the poorly conceived scenario. He had seemed very interested in me, ushering me into the room to read before the second woman. “It’s her turn,” I had suggested, pointing. “She was here first.” “That may be true,” the redhaired Englishman had explained, “but your appointment time is first. . .”
“How’d it go?” Steve asked, starting the car when I climbed back in to head home.
I laughed, relieved to be done as the blood started returning to my limbs. “I had fun, in a weird way, and I get to add this experience to my growing list. –And how many people get to say they have shot not one but two commercials in their life? Not that I think I got this one.” (I didn’t.)
Because, believe it or not, this was not my first commercial. In 1989, I shot a political commercial (that turned out to be so controversial a campaign it never aired). I have a copy of it for posterity and I made $250; plus, they bought me a plane ticket to fly to Kentucky to see my then boyfriend. (We had shot longer than expected and I had missed my ride.)
Fun, good times. It was an opportunity and I took it; you only get so many, especially when you revert to a human log when nervous. You gotta move fast--before the termites find you.