Yesterday I had an audition that embarrassed me. I don't like being embarrassed at auditions. Makes me feel dirty, somehow. The audition was at Paramount Studios, which in itself was actually pretty cool. Paramount is a massive lot, God knows how long it has been there, in Hollywood. About a half hour drive from my house. I arrived at the front gate, presented my I.D. and my reason for being there and the guard gave me a pass. The pass was actually a map with my name printed at the top and a "You are here" kind of thing on it. I kept it, of course, because it says "Paramount Pictures" at the top and "Welcome Clif Morts." Cool looking pass. So I walk through the streets of Paramount to my audition site (the place is really like a small town with names like 'Third Street' and 'Second Street' all over) and sign in. It's the big time as auditions go. A food table set up, drinks, tea, coffee, etc. All I really know is that I'm reading for a "renegade cop" on a new cable show tentatively called "Extreme Force."
The auditions appeared to be pretty much on time and only a few actors were there with me. When I was called in it was the usual camera set-up ('please say your name, age, and any background you have as a cop'). I told them I was not a cop, had never been a cop, but I had played one in NY in a play called Detective Story some years back. The casting director, a girl of about twenty one or so, said, "What did you play in Detective Story?" I said, "Um, well, a detective." "Oh, " she said.
These days there's a peculiar trend happening out here in Hollywood. If the producer has a role for a lion tamer, they actually want to see lion tamers read for the role. It's kind of mind-boggling. Cops and lion tamers aren't very good actors, generally speaking, so it's kind of self-defeating. Nonetheless, one sees it all the time in the breakdowns. "Casting a world-famous brain surgeon. Prefer actual world-famous brain surgeons for the role." Good Lord.
So she turned off the camera and said, "We're going to do an improv." My heart sank. I hate improv auditions. Improv is a young man's game. I have done it a lot throughout my career, but never really liked it. I'm not bad at it, really, just not my cup of tea as far as performing goes. When I first moved to NYC I was involved with a company that performed at midnight on the weekends in The East Village called Shock of the Funny. We were a pretty successful group and nearly always sold out. Did that for a couple years, in fact. Mostly because it was fun, also to earn an extra couple hundred bucks here and there. But like I said, I never considered myself an improv guy. It was just a fun thing to do.
Well, this improv turned out to be, not surprisingly, an arrest. I, as the "renegade cop" was to arrest a guy for selling me drugs (this had absolutely nothing to do with the role I was auditioning for, but there you have it). So they bring in a young guy, Australian accent, and turn the camera on. He asks to buy some drugs, I hand it to him, he gives me money, starts to walk away, I pull out my wallet, show him my badge, politely but firmly turn him around, pretend to 'cuff' him, and tell him there are about ten other cops surrounding him at the moment, then I start Mirandizing him.
She turned off the camera. I could tell she was already exasperated with me.
Her: You didn't get rough with him.
Her: You were the politest cop I've ever seen. You didn't even raise your voice. I hope if I ever get arrested it's by a cop like you.
Me: Really? Thanks.
Her: That's not a good thing.
Me: It's not?
Her: You have to really get rough with him.
Me: Well, it's an improv in a small room. You want me to tackle him?
Her: No, don't tackle him. (The young Australian guy at this point says, "No, No. No need to tackle.") Just get a little rough. You didn't even really arrest him.
Me: Well, I was gonna let my back up do that.
Her: What back up?
Me: The other cops. The ones just out sight.
Her: There are no other cops.
Me: I wouldn't go into this situation without back up.
Her: This time you did.
Me: That's not good police work.
Her: You're a renegade.
Me: So don't tell him he's surrounded by other cops?
Her: No. We can't afford other cops.
Me: Oh. So it's just me.
Her: Yes. Just you. You and your gun and your handcuffs.
Me: Okay. So no back up. What if he's got friends around? What if they've got guns?
Her: He has no friends.
Me: He doesn't?
Me: Poor guy.
Her: He's just a crack head in the park.
Me: I see.
So we did it again. And again. And once more for luck. Me improvising a whole little world I'd made up in my head. Arresting this poor Australian guy they pulled in from the hallway for this improv. I had to call him names. Part of me getting 'rough' with him. "My little kangaroo boy," was one. "Koala bitch" was another. "Crack sniffing aborigine" was one of the more original ones. He always looked mildly shocked as I arrested him with yet another stinging Australian barb.
So that was it. Finished up. Walked back through the studio to the car. Feeling a little dumb. I remember thinking about Brando's quote. In the early sixties he was asked why he held acting in such low regard. He said it wasn't a proper occupation for a grown man. Strolling back to my car yesterday I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Today I'm auditioning for a new musical based on the film, "Garbo Talks." All they want is sixteen bars of a ballad and sixteen bars of an uptempo. This I can do. This I feel comfortable with. This won't make me feel like a lonely kid play-acting on the car port in the middle of summer. This is something I can connect to.
What a silly business.
See you tomorrow.