Friday, 22 April 2011
It’s hot and crazy in the kitchen
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?”
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.
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.