My heart goes out to character actors.
When you read casting breakdowns there are a lot more productions seeking, “Male, 30’s, handsome, charming” than “Overweight, 50’s, Italian/Russian mix, unibrow”.
And the few character actors that are successful enough that they don’t
have to be service managers at Jiffy Lube ultimately get trapped by
their own success. Producers will glance at their headshots or see them
read and say, “Him again? Jesus. This guy’s been on a million shows.
Can’t we find any new overweight Italian/Russians? “
When you walk into a room and the producers go, “Hey, it’s the ‘can you hear me’ guy!” or “I’ve seen that big white head before. Aren’t you Jack from Jack in the Box?” you’re dead.
Or if a production is to be filmed on location in say, Houston. They’ll
cast from the local pool there. Yes, that Nazi soldier might speak with a
drawl but it’s cheaper to over-dub him than fly a real Nazi halfway
across the country.
And time is never a friend. They get too old to play the cute waitress,
the ballplayer, or Julia Roberts’ best friend (although Julia Roberts
miraculously never ages herself).
If a character actor isn’t hot agents often lose interest. There’s always some Chihuahua who’s easier to book.
The most heartbreaking casting session I ever held was on MASH. We had a USO subplot
in an episode and needed an accordion player. One by one, ten accordion
players came in to audition. They all looked right, they all could play
“Lady of Spain”. We had to choose one, which we did. But I felt so
terrible for the others. How many calls do they get from their agent
saying “MASH needs an accordion player”? How many of them kissed their
wives goodbye on the way to the casting session saying, “I know I
haven’t worked in six years but I’ve got this one!”
So the next time you’re in Jiffy Lube or Wal-Mart or Staples be nice to the clerk. He may be one hell of an accordion player.
This is a re-post from four years ago.