A few moons ago the universe did something pretty funky. Venus was in Pluto, the Sun was in retrograde, the stars had aligned and got me an agent; my own personal Charon to slide me down that dulcet river of advertising.
I’d always hoped my agent would be a short, elderly gentleman, preferably Jewish and in New York, but beggars can’t be choosers. I have a kismet bulge, who, as a mystical buffer I assume to be proficient in telepathy and other forms of subversive communication. My kismet bulge did however, say she’d just call me to get in touch.
From this I deduced that all I had to do for my life to miraculously change, for gold to rain down from the happy heavens was, wait for her to call me and get me a job. I waited, and one week later she called me.
She’d got me a casting.
Having been a producer in a past life, and therefore on the other side of castings, I was aware of the potential to be ridiculed at this casting, and so I felt a little trepidation, but came to the conclusion that the ridicule was worth it for all that bullion I was about to get. I confirmed my attendance.
The night before the casting I went to bed early and listened to the closest thing I have to whale song, Norse Myths and Legends (awesome). I slept soundly, and by soundly I mean badly. The next morning revolved entirely around the casting, nothing else mattered, this was definitely a big deal. I turned up to the Spotlight Casting rooms early, looking as preened as I’ve ever looked (I bought hair serum) and sat down to fill out the form I was given by the receptionist (I had had to alert her to my presence, she wasn’t very tuned in, universally speaking).
I waited not nervously, but anxiously for about 10 minutes, then a faceless voice called from the next room …
“Shit. I’ve got that name, that’s probably me,” I thought.
I got up and was guided in to the steamy bowels of the casting room by a young gentleman who will be partaking in this experience with me. I hadn’t been forewarned I was going to be interacting with someone from the opposite sex, but I’m a really versatile actress, so I took it in my stride.
The young gentleman was quite good looking but because he was at this casting I found him so depressing I could’ve cried.
Casting Number One – Orange
This first casting was for an Orange advert being released in Romania and I was being cast as an ‘Amelie-esque’ character, aka ‘cute and clumsy’. The casting director informed me that the young gentleman was to be my boyfriend, lucky guy. In order to showcase our relationship we had to do all the things couples normally do; we had to mime smelling roses, mime looking at ducks and hardest of all, mime an atmosphere of the most divine and mystical of the worlds occurrences, love.
Oh no sorry, I forgot, I had to mime cycling a bike.
I didn’t get the job. I did take it personally. This awkward experience was an orgasm compared to what was to come ….
Casting Two – Heinz Tomato Soup
They were looking for another “Amelie-esque “ character (who knew I as so ‘cute and clumsy’). In the mood board they’d insinuated this was to be a real classy advert, Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffanies’ was the reference. I walked in to the casting room looking the part, class incarnate baby. Hire me UP.
In the room a rather large woman sits on a large blue sofa. Another woman sits a few feet away on a stool, camera angled in my direction. The large woman says …
“Hi Jade, if you could stand on the green cross.”
I am blind and nervous and can’t see the green cross so just stand in the vague direction her eyes jutted at (not the green cross).
“No, on the green cross please.”
“Sorry I’m a little blind, where is the green cross?”
She points again with her eyes and this time I see it. It’s about two feet to my left. I stand on it and am instructed to go through the motions. Name, agent, profiles, side to side. I do this. It’s going well. Next she indicates to a bowl on the other side of the room …
“We brought a bowl in because we thought it’d be helpful…”
“For mime eating soup” I think.
“… If you could actually wet your face, as if you’d been in the rain.”
“So I’m, like, apple bobbing?”
“No, no. If you just splash your face a bit …”
I splash my face a bit; I think I’m pretty wet.
“Is this ok?”
“No, really wet your face!”
I feel a failure already. I didn’t splash enough water on my face. She must think I’m a ridiculous pussy. So in an effort to redeem myself I really go to town with the water, now my face is dripping. She instructs me to go over to the corner of the room and I become aware I am craning my chin forward to avoid wetting the mac, kind of defeating the purpose of wearing a mac, but some strange instinct comes in to play and renders me incapable of allowing any drips to fall on me. I imagine I looked a lot like Keira Knightly in ‘A Dangerous Method’ for the first few minutes.
She instructs me to go over to the other corner of the room and …
“Walk in to your house, relishing the novelty of the rain outside and the warmth inside, then take off your mac and leave it on the chair.”
I do this and feel I do this rather brilliantly. Rain relished, hands rubbed, coat on chair.
“Now look in to the camera and pretend it’s a mirror. You see your reflection and are surprised yet amused at your appearance, your mascara’s a bit smeared but let’s have fun with it.”
Oh man I love fun, but this isn’t fun, I am starting to find the experience embarrassing. I look in to the black shark-like eye of the camera lens and have as much fun looking at it as I possibly can.
“Great, now start making faces at yourself,” she says.
I start making faces at the camera, I don’t like making faces. I’m starting to find this experience really embarrassing.
“Now if you could take off your top as you get ready to go in to the bath”.
Oh great. This sounds familiar. Make me feel real small then ask me to take off my clothes.
I don’t require much persuasion and I take off my top. I am wearing a bra today, thank Christ.
“Now, you look in the mirror”
I look at the bastard camera.
“And you start playing with your body.”
“Just play with your body”.
“Oh. Ok. Right. Like … move around?”
“Yeah but really play with yourself, then the mirror will turn in to one of those fair ground mirrors and you play with that.”
I stare in to the black hole of the camera lense, it’s vacuum sucking my soul out of my terrorized eyes.
“Ok. Yeah. Sure.” I hear myself say. My soul has left my body and is watching my mouth moving from the corner of the room, and it’s cringing. My fucking soul is cringing.
I start wiggling around in my bra. I hate wiggling around in my bra. I get so embarrassed I don’t know what to do and before I know it. I’ve just pulled double guns out of my pockets and shot them at the camera.
“Ok. Thank you. That’s enough now.”
The director and camerawoman ignore me and start talking about what coffee they had for lunch, I don’t know if I’m supposed to leave straight away …
“Can I put my top on?”
Of course I can put my top on.
I scramble to put my top on, getting arm in the wrong sleeve, brain slowly destroying any confidence I have left as I leave the room.
The director blows me a kiss. I mean, what the fuck?
I bump in to the doorframe as I leave. Then smoke two cigarettes one after the other. (Friends and family, this was before I quit, still not a puff).
I saw the advert on television recently. At no point does the majority of that happen.
Casting Three – Post Office
Fate and public transport ensured I successfully made it to the grotty Hackney casting rooms for this next casting. This one should be simple. I’m just playing a girl watching T.V.
I go in, and am instructed to casually sit down. The director’s the first vaguely attractive director I’ve had since these started.
Must. Impress. Vaguely. Attractive. Director.
He sits down and observes my position on the chair; I have casually swung my legs over the arms of the chair. I would never do this in real life but I must at least act casual. Uptight doesn’t sell stamps; or life insurance, or whatever we’re selling here.
He approves my position and says …
“Now, pretend you’ve drifted off watching T.V then something … like an explosion … wakes you up for a few seconds then you go back to sleep”
I have done this in real life a thousand times, every time I try to watch ‘Blade Runner’ in fact. Piece of piss.
I do it.
“Yeah that’s great but if you could act a little more surprised when you wake up …”
I felt his direction was a little on the nose, but I take bad directions like a little Gretel and do it again. I am seriously surprised by the explosion.
“That was great, thanks”
That’s it? I feel used. Mediocre. I get up and move to leave as he says …
“Have you got a tattoo?”
I do. It wasn’t and never will be my finest hour.
“Oh yeah, but it’s a bit shit really…” I say as I back away towards the door.
“Let’s see …”He says insistently.
“Oh no, you don’t want to it’s just stars.”
“I’ve got stars …”
“Then you’re an idiot,” I think.
I reluctantly show him as I continue my quest for the door.
“You should cover up,” he says.
“What?” I think. Firstly, I couldn’t be wearing more clothes and secondly, you were the one who told me to roll up my sleeves. Confused indignence has obviously washed over my face as composure seems only to orbit my personality and then, once in a blue moon, eclipses itself. Either way, it rarely sees the light of day.
“With tattoos …” he elaborates, having read the confused indignence of my face.
“Ohhhh I thought you were implying I wasn’t wearing enough clothes …” I reply.
He laughs, so does the girl in the corner with the camera. I turn red and walk out the door. Another successful casting under my belt. Yes.
Casting Four – Pepsi
Somewhere in the universe stars are exploding, planets are forming, comets are colliding; I am back at the Spotlight Casting Rooms and in the waiting room on a surprisingly warm late September afternoon. I am being cast for the part of ‘Traveler Girl’. How hip and cool of me. For I have been traveling, I am a girl, I am wearing denim cut offs again; you’d never know when I went to India I didn’t find myself.
They’re running very late, which was good news as so was I. So late though, that when it comes to the last 4 girls (of which I am one) we are all called in to the room to be given our directions at the same time, to save time, but the time is already lost.
We are then called back in to the room one by one. I am third. Lucky for some.
I go through the motions, name, agent, profiles. Then have the instructions repeated to me – she sees potential. She hasn’t seen me in motion yet.
“So now you’re looking across the scenery and you follow a trail of Chinese tourists with your eye line, then you see what we will be the drink vending machine and a wishing well, and you react with surprise and then excitedly tell your friends.”
This could go awfully wrong I think. Ignore the casual racism. Be casual. Underplay it. I mime scanning the Brazilian horizon, searching, following those Chinese tourists and then I see the machine and the well and mime excitement …
“Oh fuck” I hear myself saying, excitedly.
The casting director interrupts me now excitedly smiling at my imaginary friends.
“Yes, no, you can’t say fuck”.
“God no sorry, got a bit carried away”.
“No that’s fine, so if we can do it again and just look excited, don’t actually say anything”.
Just look excited I think. Pretend someone’s just told you marijuana’s been legalized I think.
So I’m there, scanning the horizon, checking out the Chinese tourists, there we go … and oh my god one of them’s just told me marijuana’s been legalized. I react accordingly and in my excitement mouth the words …
I am allowed to excitedly relay this information to my imaginary friends this time. She then says.
“And one more time and this time if we can have you just not saying anything”.
It is only in writing this down I appreciate the busy woman’s patience with me.
I do it again, but take it down a notch, pretend someone’s just told you you’re having someone’s love child. So, horizon, Chinese tourists, Chinese tourists …. Chinese tourist informing me “You’re having someone’s love child, congratulations”. I allow smug surprise wash over me, and tell my friends.
“Great.” She says.
“Great.” I think.
“Now take this bottle of water and turn so we have your profile and have a few glugs of the bottle.”
I know what this is supposed to look like, I can picture it, I’ve seen the adverts. And the adverts didn’t look like this. I glug, I know it’s a little lack-luster, there wasn’t enough hunger in that thirst for Pepsi. I proceed to leave and head in to China town, I buy some Softmints.
Casting Five – Cruise Ship
I get an email from my agent, by this point I realise she is saving the telepathy for the big jobs, as this one is a casting for a cruise ship. Great. I already know I’m wrong for it but rearrange my life in order to confirm my attendance anyway, because you never know. Chance and possibility are wonderful if timid little wallflowers.
I arrive, it’s in a soulless church off Tottenham Court road, and the waiting room is a corridor. There is no receptionist to buffer me in to this world. Just a pile of paper, one of them to be mine, to pick up and fill out. I go to change first. There doesn’t appear to be any alphabetization, to them calling in so I figure I won’t miss much, or be missed. I could ask someone what I should do, but I’ve already mad e a sweeping judgment of the crowd and none of them look like people I want to engage with. So I smile and head to the bathroom to change in to some appropriately floral summer garb. The bathroom is hideous, like an old school bathroom.
I come out of the frosty toilets looking the vision of summer, then notice as I sit down and change my shoes that the nail polish on my toenails has chipped and my new shoes have given me a rather charming blister on my big toe. Good thing I’m not wearing flip flops I think.
I trudge in to the gloomy hallway and am asked by a guy with an alarmingly low V and a skin graft on his nose what my name is. I tell him. He’s had a sun bed recently I observe. He’s a fleshy red and has gelled his hair an “accidental” sideways, but probably what some people would find good looking. I am informed I’ll be doing this with a guy, and there the guy is, a vision of vanity. He is tall, has dark hair and is very good looking, He is pale and his skin is luminous. He has plucked his eyebrows. I am instantly repulsed.
I walk in with him in to the big cavernous gym-esque room and deciding I don’t give a shit about this anyway, decide it might as well be amusing. I give them all a big “Hello” and one of my best goofy grins.
The guy and I are informed that we are playing a couple in love and on holiday, on a cruise, this is so fucking me. I look at my love interest as he professionally delivers his details and shows off his profiles. I’m about 3 feet shorter than he is and feel a little inadequate, maybe they’ll decide it’s adorable. I do the same with as much grace as I can muster. We are then instructed to imagine we are sitting on the deck of our cruise ship sun bathing and looking forward to our Sangria and Chicken Kiev supper. The whole idea is so far removed from any reality I have experienced, but I look at my shiny boyfriend and think I might as well give it a go.
I recline and imagine the buzzing strobe light above me is the hot sun my alabaster skin has been longing for. I close my eyes to enjoy it’s warmth.
I hear my boyfriend chatting about cocktails and shit.
“Mmmm … yes darling, did you bring the factor 50?” I interrupt.
The room laughs. Really?
“No I don’t think so” He replies and moves on “Look at that, not a cloud in the sky …”
“Ok well maybe little Manuel can get a hold of some,” I continue. I open my eyes and pretend to look at the sea. “Oh and look, dolphins, darling, just for us …”
He takes the dolphin line and runs with it. I switch off and smile serenely.
Then we’re instructed to look in to each others eyes with a loving understanding that we are having the best time and have probably had a lot of sex on this fantastic ship of dreams and glory. I look at him and feel depressed. I look at him and smile, my eyes trying to find his but faltering over his gleaming skin and around his perfect eyebrows.
They say ‘the look’ is great and ask me to take off my shoes because the director has a “foot fetish”. Not for long mate. I take them off. In the harsh light of the strobe they do not look good. If you’ve ever seen Roal Dahl’s Witches, you’ll understand my problem here.
We’re told we’re done and can leave. My boyfriend mutters in his silky voice if “They always have to be this embarrassing”. “It would appear so” I reply but he’s not listening, not really anyway. I get changed and look at the long line of people waiting for their opportunity. I smile at all of them.
Casting Six – Blue Dragon
My agent contacts me, she chooses to use an official medium again, email. BORING.
I do, of course, have to rearrange some things in order to go to the casting, but that’s fine. This feels like destiny. They’re asking for a rock chic, I’m wearing leather trousers. Hello! This one is in the bag.
I arrive 10 minutes before I am scheduled to in order to give me enough time to fill out forms. I arrive to find a very small room completely packed with Chinese women. I look around. Something about this is not quite right – I head up to the pretty receptionist who is midst buffering three excitable Chinese women. I am not a Chinese woman.
“Hi, I’m here for the audition, the Blue Dragon thing,” I say.
“Oh yeah, hi sorry, we’re running an 45 minutes late.”
“Forty FIVE?” (I accentuate the wrong word, making it sound like had they been forty-two or forty-eight minutes late I would have been fine with it).
“Yeah sorry about that. If you come back in about an hour that would be great”.
Sure. I don’t have a life, I’m not supposed to be working. My life revolves around infinitesimal possibilities such as this. I will waste an hour of it doing nothing productive and return.
I try on a fantastic leopard print jacket, but don’t buy it. The hour was, as I had anticipated, unproductive.
I return, the casting room is now filled with pretty young white girls with varying interpretations of what a rock chick should look like. Some of them appear to have confused rock chick with prostitute, but whatever.
I go back over to the receptionist and inform her I have returned, that’s right, me. I’m back. You want me?
“We’re still running an hour behind.”
I’m about to get huffy as a woman who is evidently the casting director leans over to the receptionist next to me. I’m not sure if she senses my drama queen vibe but says to me,”I’m so sorry we’re normally so on time.”
I switch to charming in front of the receptionist, I feel a fraud
“Oh no it’s fine, I’ve been making the most of it perusing new coats. It’s been very productive.”
“Oh great …” then she starts talking about Christmas shopping and I switch off and look through her.
I stand waiting in the packed room full of young girls, who, like young girls have started chatting inanely to each other. Some of them keep smiling at me, inviting a smile back, I don’t return the smiles. I just look away. Having established myself as queen bitch and completely unapproachable to all these amiable young ladies I am finally called in, with two other girls.
The advert has a ‘Wok God, John Smith’ in it. We are his wannabe groupies. It’s a room full of people and it’s quite hot. We face them. They’ve been eating sushi, I smile at one of the better-looking men, happily aware the most he can do is smile back. No opportunity for inane chatter here. We are here for their entertainment. It’s been a long day and they look like they couldn’t give a fuck. You know what, I’ve been waiting for two hours to do this and I’m starting to feel the same way, but I’ll hold on a little longer.
The director is a nice enough middle-aged man and he explains this will be like a news report and we talk in to the camera with the responses to his questions. We’re very excited to be there. The other girls seem quite quiet. We give our names, agents and profiles. I’m the tallest which is nice.
The director asks the first question …
“How did you hear about John Smith’s, Wok God’s sauce?”
I can feel the girl next to me bubbling up, effervescent with saccharine excitement and then the foaming sweet bile comes out of her mouth and I turn, something inside me has flipped, hope and joy have just been switched off. I hate her …
“Oh god, I just heard it on the radio! And I was like! Oh my God! I HAVE to come DOOOWN! I, I love him SO much!”
The other girl starts bubbling up. My mouth is wide open. I can’t believe this is happening. I will not be joining in.
Girl 2: “Oh yeah no, I was with my friends in a pub and they told me and we were like “Let’s all come down TOGETHER!!”
There’s a pause. This is where I’m supposed to come in. I look in to camera and there’s a bit of me that thinks, be smart, do what they want, but the other part of me knows I can’t do it without being sarcastic. So I don’t smile, I look into camera and say, “Er, yeah I wasn’t invited. I’m not really welcome here…”
There’s a laugh from the director. The laugh descends into a chuckle from the rest of the room.
“There’s always the next question,” I think, “I can bring this back.”
The director asks the next question: “And what will you do if you meet John Smith?”
Girl 1: “Oh god I don’t know. Kiss him …”
Girl 2: “No I will kiss him!”
They actually start arguing about who’s going to kiss him, I stand there for a minute and can’t help but giggle. I can’t do this. It’s too fucking mad. So I just stand there. Gob-smacked.
Then the director turns to me and asks, “And what would you do?”
I look at the camera, and slightly more deadpan than I’d intended I reply, “Die.” He looks a little alarmed by this comment so I extend it, “I don’t know … eat his food? Kiss him?”
WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?
There’s chuckles again. This lot are pretty willing to giggle I think. Fuck it. I’m going to be stupid. I’ve already blown it.
“Where have you come from?”
Girl 1: “East London.”
Girl 2: “Shepherds Bush.”
Me “Bognor Regis.” I couldn’t think of anywhere funnier, still everyone laughs.
The director then asks, “And how long have you been here? Some people we here for hours…”
Girl 2: “Yeah I …”
Girl 1 interrupts: “I’ve been here since dawn …”
Screw you bitch, this shit gettin’ NASTY.
I interrupt “I’ve been here all week. Camping. Outside his door.”
Girl 1 interrupts me “I …”
I interrupt her back “I haven’t washed in a week”.
Now everyone’s laughing, quite a lot.
We’re all pretty confident Girl 1 gets the part but it doesn’t really matter. I had a great time right? It helped to pass the time, distracted me from the looming unknown.
And I got to be the tallest person in a room for the first time in my life.
N.B. I was fired by my kismet bulge shortly afterwards.