Monday, October 22, 2012
My writing partner, David Isaacs (okay, I did name a name) and I were doing a pilot. We were in the casting phase. This meant dealing with a lot of actors’ agents. Most are lovely people. They understand that we both want the same thing – seeing their client succeed in our show. But a few agents are just horrid sharks. They only want to strong arm everyone, make unreasonable demands, and get as much money as they can regardless of how unrealistic their demands are and how much ill will their bullying causes.
We dealt with one such agent on this pilot. We’ll call her Elizabitch. In fairness to Elizabitch, the entire agency she worked for was pond scum. Ethics were just little ladybugs you stepped on for fun. So she was merely following the agency’s mandate.
The way pilot casting works is this: all actors must be approved by the network. Usually they want to see two or three choices for each part. Before these candidates can be brought to the network their deals have to be closed. That way an actor can’t suddenly ask for a king’s ransom once they know the network wants them.
So we had a meeting set with the network to approve the cast for our pilot. We usually ask the actors to come to our office a half-hour or so beforehand so we can work with them. Again, we want them to succeed.
One of the young actresses arrived and we told her we couldn’t bring her to the network because her deal hadn't closed. Elizabitch was holding out for way too much money. The actress dissolved into tears. This was a part she really wanted (and by the way, she was our first choice). But our hands were tied. We told her it was her decision, but if she wanted the role she had to call Elizabitch and close it.
Five minutes later I got a call from Elizabitch. She was livid – “mother-fucking” me up and down both sides of Broadway. How dare I interfere with her negotiations? My actions were illegal! This was a travesty! I dutifully MF’d her right back (which is unusual for me), told her I did nothing inappropriate and she was welcome to sue me. A few more obscenities flew my way (and I think within the barrage I heard talentless nobody) and she slammed down the phone.
A few minutes later the deal was closed. We brought the actress to the network and she got the part.
However, one other part was still open. The next morning I get a call. It’s Elizabitch. I thought, “Jesus, in her rage yesterday, were there some swear words she neglected to call me?” Reluctantly, I picked up the receiver.
“Hi, Ken. How are you?” She couldn’t be cheerier. “I hear you’re still not fully cast.” Elizabitch then went on to recommend another actress-client. I just held the phone in utter amazement. It’s as if the hateful and toxic exchange from only 18 hours ago never happened. To this day I marvel at how she was able to do that. The truly remarkable thing is that this happens frequently enough in Hollywood that it’s almost not considered completely insane. Business is business and that sort of rubbish. I was supposed to just wipe the slate clean.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM