Walking the talk

The Patriots were up 21-3 late in the third quarter, the sound was on MUTE, the cat was snoring under the fleece blanket next to me on the couch and I was reading an email from one of my agents.

Was I willing to go to Savannah to audition for a National Prilosec commercial? Nothing about a script, what role I’d be auditioning for or how much the job paid.

"And what," I wrote in my reply, "is National Prilosec?"

But this much I knew immediately: after blogging last week about getting out of my comfort zone and doing the improbable, I was getting a chance to do just that. And the question was, would I take the challenge, or would I find a way once again to say "no"?

My first thought was straight out of the behavioral attic was "There’s no way I’m driving eight or nine hours at my own expense to compete with scores of others guys for a role I probably won’t get."

I glanced up just then to catch the end of a commercial and scrambled to get the sound on before it ended. The sponsor was Prilosec, which as you may know, is a medication for acid reflux. One question answered.

As for the national part, the agent said on the phone Monday, "It’s booked for the networks and cable. It’s a long way to go, and I understand if you don’t want to make the trip, but it could be a nice little package."

A few years ago, she said, she booked an actor on a Zocor commercial that, with residuals, paid $30,000. No mistaking the implications: I could make more in one day of shooting than I made all last year.

Still, I hesitated. Agreeing to go meant one round trip for the first audition, a second round trip for the callback or second audition, and a third for the shoot. And, again, there was no guarantee whatsoever that I’d even get past the first round. But then, the chances of getting a part are never good.

Even now, I’m not clear what changed my mind. For two days, all I could think about was the long drive — especially if I were alone. There was also the matter of a lifelong, irrational anxiety that my car would break down on a long trip and the cost of repairs would be ruinous.

Perhaps it was the encouragement of my friend, J, an amateur astrologer who swore that Mercury was sweetly aligned and urged me  to make the trip. Whatever it was, a feeling came over me the next morning as I talked to the agent about finding someone to share the ride with.

"I’ll mark you down as going if you find someone to ride with," she said.

"No," I said, "I’m going whether I get someone to ride with or not."

The force and the conviction in those words surprised me. I’m a world-class equivocator. It’s one thing to get up one morning and decide you’re going to start saying yes to life. It’s another to gert up the next morning, and the next and the next, and do it.

And yet as we milled around in the waiting room of an office in a scrufty complex on the outskirts of Savannah, I was surprised to hear the other actors — eight or ten of them — had wrestled with the same question: "Am I crazy for doing this?"

Acting, of course, is notoriously insecure as businesses go, and you’d better have a rock-solid sense of self or be remarkably good. Or both. And even at that, it would be wise to have additional sources of income.

I’d love to say I got a callback and a part in the commercial, but I got neither. The agent says the client changed the commercial to focus on women, and that the men who were chosen were reduced to being day-rate extras.

But I’m glad I went. The actress who rode down and back with me – 520 miles, round trip – gave me several ideas to enhance my career, and that alone was worth the trip.

Even more important, though, was simply deciding to go. Making that decision put me in touch with something hopeful and positive, a sense of movement and what I’d like to think is a shift in attitude. My hope is that it is genuine and lasting, that at last I’ve connected with the energy that is uniquely mine and that I can operate from that place from now on.

But that’s where I am today.  We’ll see about tomorrow. 

To respond, click below on "Post a Comment." To reach me directly, send email to jc@johnchristensenonline.com.


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