Friday, 22 April 2011

It’s hot and crazy in the kitchen

The casting breakdown for Thursday’s audition read: ‘male or female, a chef, someone people would be a bit scared of but with a warm side as well... Must have characterful face.’ So I thought: Monica (from Friends). (Although I’m far closer in type to Monica than I could ever hope to be of the boys' favourite Rachel, let me remind you that it was Monica who bedded Magnum PI and if I’d been in charge of the storyline, she would have married him.) Anyway, I figured if I could channel Monica in her restaurant kitchen haranguing her staff, I’d be in with a chance.

The message from my agent asked me to turn up at 12:25 at The Green Room, to meet a casting director I hadn’t come across before. And I thought 'cool' because meeting new casting directors is always a fantastic opportunity: if they like you, they’ll keep you in mind for future jobs. That’s why you should always be extra nice to them and always on your best behaviour. But more on that later.

It being summer and all, I walked into Soho for the audition. I know it’s only April but seriously: it’s been 25 degrees (that’s 80’s to save you the mental arithmetic) for – like – a WHOLE week and the heat shows no sign of abating. After that, who knows? We’re assuming it’ll go back to cold and rainy through August – so for now, it’s summer.

I strolled into the casting studio with 25 minutes to spare and was a little taken aback by the welcoming spread of the muffins and croissants on the counter. Usually, you’re lucky if you get a water cooler in the corner dispensing tepid water in those tiny blink-and-you’ll-crush’em paper cups. Thankfully, I have my priorities straight so I figured I’d check-in with the girl in the unflattering wrap dress and lank hair before I demolished the carb feast.

Me: “I’m Isabelle Gregson. I'm here for the casting.”
Jabba the Hutt with a dismissive smirk: “No you’re not. No castings here this morning. Call your agent.”
Me: “This IS the Green Room?”
Her: “Yes.”
Me: “I thought the food was too good to be true!”
Her: “Yes, well that’s definitely not for you!”
Me: “Well, obviously not, these are for the poor little orphans from some war torn country although I bet you’ve got room for a few under that dress. Stretchy fabric is so forgiving isn’t it?”

I didn’t actually say that but I thought it very loudly in my head. (I’m still more than a little pissed off because I did not get the big money job. I bet the other girl with the shoes got it.) And because I didn’t want my great acting training to seize up just because I’m going through a bit of a dry spell, I smiled at her sweetly.

I stepped back out into the sunshine and dialled my agent.
Me: “Hi, it’s Isabelle. You sent me to the wrong place!”
Agent: “Let me check. (long pause) Oh good Lord! I’m so sorry, it’s actually at 4:15. And it's not at the Green Room, it's in Beak St (which is also in Soho.)”
Me: “How much money?”
Well, all I can say is that even though it wasn’t anywhere near as much as the big money job, it was still worthwhile going home and then coming back out to Soho for the casting at 4:15.

So I did.

I arrived at 4:05, 10 minutes early, feeling rather hot and a bit fed up what with all the speed walking and the heat.

Me to one of the two girls on reception: “I’m Isabelle Gregson. I’m here for the casting.”
Chewing gum girl: “Take a seat. It’s a bit crowded downstairs. They’re auditioning twins! They’ll call you.”

I sat down.

Next to me, a stage mother was fretting over her two girls: “they’re all identical twins downstairs!” “I know Mum, and we’re not even twins!” Well good luck to you…

I checked the time: 4:17.

Me to the same girl as before: “My call was for 4:15, are they running late?”
Her: “I think yeah a bit. It’s kids and it’s twins so it’s taking twice as long.”

I went back to my seat.

I checked the time again: 4:40 and noted that Solitaire playing girl #2 on reception had directed 2 people downstairs in the last 5 minutes. Could it be...? I promised to listen out for the next one to see if they were up for the same audition. You see, until you sign in with the casting folks (as opposed to the girls on reception), you might as well not have arrived. And as it’s often first come first serve, if this girl was letting people through I could end up waiting an awfully long time.

4:45. Solitaire playing girl to short little guy with Italian accent who’d come in for the same audition as me: “… down the stairs.”

I hurtled across reception so unexpectedly that the little guy took a few steps back.

Me to Solitaire girl: “Are you kidding me? I got here over 30 minutes ago and your colleague (pointing finger accusingly at Chewing gum girl) told me to sit up here and wait and all this time you’ve been sending people downstairs? What is this? Luck of the draw?” (As I said before, I’m a little cranky on account of not getting the big money job.)

Chewing gum girl hastily called down to the studio and was told to start sending people directly.

I raced down the stairs (ahead of the little guy) through a warren of corridors which finally expelled me hairball style into the waiting room. I turned on the rather young and meek looking blonde woman who was manning the desk. “What kind of deal do you have going on upstairs?” I recounted the whole sorry affair and must have done a really good job of scaring her because she tried to bundle me in to see the casting director in front of the remaining set of twins.

5:00 My turn! The casting director is the maternal type and an old friend (well maybe not an old friend but she’s had me audition for various jobs over the past few years so I think she’s a fan).

Casting director to me: “What happened out there?”

Now, see, this is where I went wrong on account of being really tired, and cranky, and feeling quite frankly like I’d auditioned several times for this job already. So instead of saying “Don’t worry, it’s all sorted. There was a misunderstanding upstairs. Your girl down here dealt with it really well.” - which I'm sure you’ll agree would have been the thing to say -  I launched into the whole sorry saga. It all came out in an angry jumble which made me sound like a crazy woman and made her look at me with a mixture of apprehension and impatience.

That’s when I decided to stop talking.

Casting director: “(pause) Anyway, this is Fred.” Fred was a beautiful young Afro-Caribbean god who happened to be operating the camera. Well maybe he wasn’t a god but he was definitely too beautiful and too perfect to be called Fred. He smiled a gorgeous smile that lit up the windowless room and came over to shake my hand.

Fred: “Hiyadoing?”
Me: “Oh. I’m real’ good.” Liar.

Casting director: “Alright, shall we make a start?…I want you to imagine that it’s really cold and windy and you’re out in your beach hut (?) with your kids (!) and your husband (!!) and it’s been an awful day…”

I remember thinking “What ever happened to the scary chef? Am I even in the right audition?” but recovered and did as I was told. Badly. I wasn’t prepared to be a harassed mother, I was all set to be an intimidating chef and now I was too angry and tired to shift gears.

In between two takes the casting director lifted a book and peered inside a bowl on the table in front of her: “My bread dough is rising!” she giggled.

I'm sure you’ve had those hyperreal dreams that suddenly turn completely surreal and you’re just glad to realise you’re in a dream because when you wake up it’ll all be OK? Well this was like that except I was awake.

Casting director: “It’s for the chefs’ auditions later!” We had a good laugh over that even though I'd long lost my sense of humour.

Then we were done. I wished her and Fred a happy Easter, was rewarded with another dazzling smile from Fred - I bet he’s like that with all the mortals - and promptly walked into the closed door.


June O'Hara said...


I laughed out loud reading this post. I so identify with your frustration with the "hurry up and wait" situation. That's one of my major buttons. Once, when a doctor kept me waiting an hour and a half, she came into the room and found me, in my pathetic paper gown, doing my nails. I didn't apologize.

I give you so much credit for persevering. At the end of the day, I think that's what really matters.


MuMuGB said...

Isabelle, what a life! I love your energy, and you never seem to stop! Where do you find the energy?

Kenya D. Williamson said...

I laughed out loud when you ended with walking into the door. Another flesh wound, Isabelle? :) We should all have a Fred at auditions. My favorites are the callbacks where everyone seems to have already decided who they'd like in your part -- or are in deep discussion about it... during your audition. ;D

Elizabeth Young said...

Oh Isabelle, so much sacrifice, not enough appreciation! It's a good job you can laugh at yourself or you'd definately be living in an alternative Universe. Acting must be your passion or you wouldn't tolerate this systemic abuse!

Claire Vorster said...

Strange day indeed Isabelle. I've had one like that today involving classified advertising and a strange bunch of people who stayed long and bought nothing.

Thank God there's tomorrow :)

Wish I could take you for a cocktail at a gorgeous hotel of your chosing.


Anonymous said...

That was a perfect ending--walking into the door--to a madcap adventure. I felt like I was there. Another great post! :)

Deborah Lawrenson said...

"Expelled me hairball-style into the waiting room"!! LOL
(Though feeling quite cross on your behalf. Put it down to unseasonal heat in London: it makes the inhabitants most peculiar.)

Mair said...

Although I don't go on auditions and I am a really nice person, there comes a point in a day like you described where something just crosses the line--then watch out! I choose my words carefully and with a lot of bite. Your humor and you humanity shine through.

I like June's idea about doing her nails. That makes your point better than words.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

LOL, Isabelle!!! Do you ever have a normal day?? :D

Cathy K said...

Hot and crazy indeed. Should we add bruised to that? You weren't by any chance wearing heels too high for your own good were you? I think life is just like this 'audition and callback' business, you never know what mischief will ensue at the slightest action or reaction!

Kenya D. Williamson said...

Just what you need -- another speech to prepare. ;) I've given your blog an award.

isabelle gregson said...

Thank you all for your kind comments and for taking the time to write them!
@June: Putting bottle of purple nail polish in purseright now! On second thoughts make that the top coat varnish...
@MuMuGB: Do you think its energy or desperation?
@Kenya: ta very much for the award!!
@Elizabeth: acting is a passion (it's definitely not a job!!)
@Claire: may I have a Shirley Temple??
@monica and Deborah: what makes me (and others)laugh makes me stronger (at least that's the theory!)
@Mair: a careful bite... that sounds rather lethal! Will have to give it a go sometime.
@Samantha: I have normal days - it's what I choose to focus on which is a bit weird!
@Cathy: no high heels thank goodness, I might have turned them into weapons.