Hollywood Has Given Me an Identity Crisis
Since I moved to Los Angeles in 2017, I've been studying and enjoying the craft of acting. I like that people of all ages and types take acting class together. I've met people from way outside my usual hangs. I've developed a deep appreciation for the nuanced acting in the movies and shows I watch now (Sex Education, Marriage Story, Honey Boy, Succession, & The Good Place are the latest Wow's) and have been rewatching former favorites with fresh enthusiasm (Kill Bill, The Office, The Devil Wears Prada, & Forgetting Sarah Marshall most recently). There is so much good work being done, so much delightful listening and storytelling caught on camera. Quality content is at an all time high, and a huge swath of roles are being cast right now... as I type this.
Technically, it's pilot season in LA, and in line with past years, I am not ready.
No manager. No agent. No SAG card. :(
I have really nice postcards that I never mailed out. :/
I have a decent website and a non-existent IMDB.
I have nice head shots but I just dyed my hair so I'm back at square one with those. (apathetic face palm)
Like a lot of inexperienced actors here in LaLaLand, I am scared to make the leap from trained actor to working actor. I can't always explain that fear, but I know it gets triggered when I try to nail down my 'type'. What qualities do I exude in an audition room or as a character on set/stage? A lot of actors struggle with this question. The movie: The Disaster Artist had this struggle as a theme for one of its central characters (based on a real life guy). Tommy Wiseau wanted to be cast as the hero but he read clearly as a villain, and instead of swallowing his pride and warming up to the villain idea (which probably would have been more lucrative, as good villains can be tough to find), he funded his own film out of pocket so he could direct it and play the hero.
I don't have Tommy Wiseau's mysteriously deep wallet, and I don't think my problem is being an open-and-shut-case villain type (that would be ideal, actually), but I do get confused and insecure about 'how I'm reading'.
Let's have a look. Here are some of the roles I've been cast in:
-ethereal, empowered oracle ensemble woman in a Shakespeare fusion play
-'Asian' traditional dancer for various numbers in Paris By Night - a Vietnamese extravaganza
-1960's nosy, disenchanted NYC dancehall girl w/ passable Jersey accent - Sweet Charity
In music videos:
-mischievous millennial friend in a 'Bling Ring' type situation - Sexual Vibe
-'good-times-gang' millennial artist type chilling with friends at the beach - Chasing Summer
-sassy lady bar patron in denim shorts, sexy-dancing in 6 inch heels - Bucklebunny
-angry, spiteful LA girl whose revenge plan goes awry and suffers the consequences
-happy, grateful mechanic-by-day who falls in love (and dance break) at first sight*
-calm, ethereal, psychic alien messenger who assists the hero in a sci fi feature*
-disturbed, brazen goth girl, genuinely interested in committing murder for money*
-annoyed, begrudging bride who shut out her BFF for kissing the groom 2 years prior*
*yet to be released (sigh, so it goes)
Can you spot a pattern? Because I honestly can't.
I'm booking the things I book because I can dance/sing, occasionally because I look exotic, and often because I got to know the director (the case for most of the music videos and films mentioned above). Only 3 of the above gigs were acquired by audition, which is A. awesome, because it's nice to skip that step and get straight to the work and B. Terrible, because I'm not getting in rooms with casting directors who need to see me regularly in order to cast me in bigger things.
So that brings me to here: wanting to write to agencies/managers/casting directors but still not quite knowing what my wheelhouse is, besides dance. I get overwhelmed just trying to find monologues that I can believably perform--because the truth is...
I identify with almost everyone.
I am a cool girl and a dork. I am really sweet and also sometimes an impatient bitch. I am sexy and goofy. I am confident and insecure. I am stubborn and angry (I have punched 3-4 walls) and a total pushover (I apologize frequently with no hesitation).
I am so many things, but these days I am mostly just tired of trying to fit into the categories Hollywood has laid out for me. My top two dream roles (and I've thought about this for years) are Michael Bluth and Deadpool... so that's not going to help me right now, or really ever (palpable disappointment). An acting class I took pegged me as: 'Frankie Shaw meets Hana Mae Lee' and, my personal favorite (because it's actually specific): 'sexually liberated Winnie Cooper', so that's what I'm rolling with for now.
All of this digging for a specific essence has me thinking back to the how and why I got so confused. I don't think it's too surprising. I grew up Catholic in a small, white town, the daughter of a Filipino dad who, to this day, travels and sings for a living, and a health-minded, progressive 3rd generation Danish/French mom who did most of the kid-raising. We didn't partake in any traditionally Filipino/Danish/French activities. We went ice skating. My favorite food was (and still is) Mexican. I liked pleasing everyone: Mom, Dad, Grandma, teachers, friends, and friends' parents. I was a classic teacher's pet, finding helpful tasks/phrases and wearing them out til they got old), and more than anything, I loved to read. I would escape through the eyes of every protagonist I got my hands on. I saw myself equally in the girl from A Wrinkle In Time, everyone in The Babysitter's Club, and the boy from The Hatchet. (Couldn't help it). Now, here I am, being asked to specify who I'm the most-like and it's just hard. I feel for the submissive wife. I feel for the no-fucks-giving prostitute. I feel for the Joker. I feel for the immigrant. I feel for the celebs in the trashy magazines at CVS. This is part of why I thought transitioning into acting was a smart move for me--I know how to feel. I just didn't realize I would have to choose a more specific type of person to feel for than just human being.
I now see the irony of never being attached to a specific identity (which is what happens when you're a Canadian, small town, tomboyish mixed kid trying to please everybody) and then picking a job market that requires you to fit into a well worn cookie cutter. Whoops, my bad.
But that's how stories get produced and told with a proper budget: specific details hashed out; character backgrounds relevant and interesting to targeted groups of people. At least that's what they say. Film/TV is a 136 billion dollar global industry and acting is considered not just a craft, but a self employment business requiring loads of market/demographic research. So...
Will you help me find my character bullseye? I want to give this an earnest shot before I go back to school to become a writer/director, or just play myself as a (very knowledgeable and charming) bartender for the rest of my life. :)
Just comment on this post with 1-5 words that you feel describe me best. They could be adjectives (witty, emotional), jobs (nurse, farmer, teacher), or shows/films you think I would fit into. Here are some head shots to go off of. If you don't know me that well and you just stumbled upon this, your impression is super important! Please comment with the first word(s) that pop into your mind. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart and aspiring acting career.
And thanks, as always, for listening.