Friday, February 01, 2008
HOW COME ACTORS JUST WANNA COME IN AND CHAT? (edited)
I'm perplexed by the phenomenon where actors don't want to come in and read for roles. Apparently, if an actor has achieved a certain level of status they no longer feel the need to audition. They just wanna have meetings -- like a casting coffee date. It's an odd experience. They come in the casting room, sit in front of the camera, with the writer, director, casting director, the script is on the table, they're actors -- but they don't act... they just chat. "So, how was your day...what are you working on...I loved that movie...what kinda dog...you're baby's how old...wow, great meeting you." It's a big circle jerk and a waste of fucking time. Look, I've been an actor, trained as an actor, taught acting. I understand the demands and the often lack of appreciation for the craft. But auditioning is part of the actor's craft. It's half the job. I can only draw the writer comparison -- I have a pretty solid body of work as a writer -- features, episodic, produced credits. I don't walk into a studio to pitch for a gig and say, "You know my body of work, seen my episodes, let's just have a chat." I spend weeks putting together my pitch, my ideas -- it's my audition. Some gigs I get, some I don't, but pitching is part of my job. I understand, some actors have such a great body of work, you're lucky to get them for the role. Scott Glenn did not read for my pilot. When I found out he was interested, we pursued him. But Scott Glenn has a huge body of work. I had no doubt that he could embody the patriarch of this motorcycle club. My wife, Katey Sagal, is a perfect example of someone who still reads for roles. Katey has good "Q", she sells overseas, but because she was known as one character for so long, she constantly has to prove that she can do more. And she does. It's her job. Her resume over the past five years proves that. She inspired this character in my pilot. I wrote the role for her, so clearly I was certain that she could do it. But if someone else wrote this pilot, who wasn't aware of her dramatic chops, she'd definitely have to go in and fight for the role. There's this dangerous dynamic that happens with rising young talent. Some (not all, but enough) agents, managers and producers create a "your a movie star, kid" philosophy in actors. They put the ego cart before the work horse. I'm hearing that a lot as I continue to cast this pilot. "Actor X will meet with you to discuss the role, but they won't read." It's a bad precedent. Here's why -- the truth is, the people that I'm seeing are NOT movie stars, they've worked in movies. They're talented, they are accruing impressive credits, but no one in the middle of the country knows who they are. No one is going to turn on the TV to specifically watch Actor X. They only have the potential to be movie stars. Creating this illusion that they no longer need to go after roles creates an unaware (lazy) actor. The artist allows others to dictate thier choices, they end up taking the career-building, money roles, instead of the roles that excite and challenge them. Pretty soon they are just one of many, interchangeable faces. They do not endure. Suddenly the actor who wouldn't read is the actor who doesn't work. They get dropped by the agent and manager and they wonder what happened to their "movie star" career. Here's a contrary case -- Charlie Hunnam, a super-talented young British actor, fought for the leading role in this pilot. Yes, he's with WMA, so we had to do the casting coffee date, but then, he broke the precedent and came back and read for me. Knocked me out. The network was unsure about casting a Brit in an Americana drama. Charlie came in, nailed the dialect, nailed the audition and won the role. Landgraf gave him the gig in the room. Here's the deal, Charlie is not a movie star -- and he's smart enough to know it. He controls his own career, makes choices based on the work and not what others think he should be doing. He suits up, shows up and commits to the things that excite him. As a result of that, Charlie Hunnam will become a movie star. I have no doubt about that. I know I'm not David Kelley or Brett Ratner. I'm sure those guys get actors to read. But I am a guy with an exciting project with roles that could launch an actor's career. Roles that could turn Actor X into a household name. I need to hear the words I've written come out of the actor's mouth. Of course, it's an audition, of course it's a rough read, of course I weigh in the actor's other credits. But I need to know that someone is passionate about my characters. An actor who won't read disrespects the work. It was recently suggested to me that I should "woo" Actor X to get her on board creatively. I had to sell her the job, tell her my creative vision for the character, convince her it was a good move. Huh? I'm not a fuckin' wooer, a writer, I'm an artist. I want a collaborator not an employee. If I have to "woo" somebody, then clearly they don't have the same process that I do. I love actors. I respect actors. I treat them like gold. I guess I just want a little lovin' in return.
Posted by Kurt Sutter at 2/01/2008 09:02:00 PM