Have you seen the commercial with the older woman selling CoverGirl?
She says, “They say at a certain age you just stop caring. I wonder what age that is?”
Do our dreams and wishes stop at 40? They may have to bend and adjust, but they are still there and as strong as ever. Maybe even stronger when you are closer to that light at the end of the tunnel, lol. Certain
things cease to matter, like petty grievances and others’ opinions of you.
As children, who didn’t want to be a movie star? So glamorous and all the adoration. Of course as we get older those dreams usually change. We start thinking of starting families and making a living. If your dream never changes and acting becomes the goal, not fame, then you have to
reconcile to the fact that just 2% of actors actually make a living from acting alone.
Don’t be! Acting is fun! Acting is cathartic. Acting brings people together in community. I first got into acting about 13 years ago. I was suffering from pretty bad anxiety and had to quit my job because of it. I thought acting might help me out so I went to a casting call that a local casting company was having.
I was asked the next day to be a background performer in Brotherhood (a Showtime series based in RI) as a newspaper photographer. Well since I am a photographer I was comfortable behind my camera and surprisingly comfortable in front of theirs. Five hours of fun! Well, I was asked to come back the next day which I did. This was a fourteen hour day with stomach cramps, lost in a crowd of people. Maybe not so fun but I was hooked.
I was 50 and starting a new adventure.
One of the first things I did after that was to sign up for casting company emails. I received a message from CP Casting out of Boston. They were looking for a heavy set woman in her 50’s that could be intimidating.
Me? Tailor made.
They were usually looking for a very different type. I was sick at the time and almost didn’t do it but I sent in an 8×10 selfie and forgot about it. A few
days later I got a phone call. “Would I be able to come in for an audition?”
This was before I had a GPS, I think before almost anyone did, so I asked my grown kids if they would come with me. I was nervous enough about the audition without worrying about getting to Boston with just Mapquest. Well, suffice it to say, I was the only actor there that brought her kids with her! I had been sent sides (I didn’t know they were called sides at the time, I called them my lines) and had memorized them. While waiting to be called in, one of the casting people came out and took my script and scribbled a bunch of stuff out and told me to do it mostly monologue style.
What the heck! I could barely remember it the way it was, now I was supposed to remember which parts to leave out! And holy moly what did monologue style mean? Finally they called me in and showed me my mark. The casting director started to read the lines and I jumped in with mine.
After the scene was over she said, “Thank you very much for coming.”
Me: May I do that again?
Me: May I do it again. I did it a little different at home but wasn’t sure if I could add words to the script.
CD: Well, I guess so.
The cameraman got back behind the camera and we started again. This time I added cuss words that would curl your toes and had the attitude to match. When it was done, they were both just staring at me with their mouths open.
CD: Who did you channel to do that?
I answered but can not reveal my answer here. 🙂
The CD picked up my head shot which she had thrown onto a chair and turns it over to look at the back.
CD: You’ve never acted before?
CD: But you were background once. So you’re used to being on a set?
CD: Can you meet with the director and producer?
Me: Well, let me check my schedule.
CD: We can work around it.
Me: No, I’m kidding! Of course I can meet the director.
A few days later I was meeting Ben Affleck and Alan Ladd Jr. The casting director came into the waiting area and said, “Ah, Debbie and her entourage!” (My kids again) Ben was the definition of a gentleman, rising from his chair as I came into the room. “Hi, I’m Ben.” Yes, I know. I was giggling and swooning inside. But he reminded me of my son so I wasn’t that intimidated. He asked me what role I was there for. I just gave him a look. He laughed. (Thankfully!) I started my lines. I flubbed my lines.
Me: May I start again?
Ben: What kind of accent is that?
Me: Rhode Island.
Ben: Yeah, she could be from Rhode Island, I was digging what you were doing. Go ahead.
Well, the rest is a blurr. I remember pulling a finger gun out at the completely wrong time and I remember when it was done. All four of them were laughing their asses off. What had I done?
They were almost hysterical with laughter. I had blanked out. No memory.
If nothing else I guess they were entertained.
I was called back, nevertheless, for a test to be sent to the producers. Sadly to say, that is where this particular story ends, I didn’t get the role. But I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the world.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Plus, it makes a great story and even better memories…
Debra Gagnon is an actor and photographer from Rhode Island. To view her acting profile click here or to contact her for headshots or projects, email email@example.com.