SEASON 3, EPISODE 31

With pilot season in full swing, the phone was ringing nonstop. I had a few clients pursuing shows, and it entailed sending them out on numerous casting calls each week. This was like boot camp for some of the fresh faces, seeing as they would be rejected 20 times before that first callback—even some of the vets would face that as the TV networks bulked their lineup. With the added commotion, I rented a small office space in Fort Greene and hired my very first assistant. His name was William, and I let him keep it that way. And, like when I started out with Sam, William knew not one thing about the business. Of everyone I interviewed, his manners were best, and his gestures most sincere (he was from Wisconsin, after all). I’m not sure why I responded to that over the work experience that others would have provided. He reminded me of a kid who got a shot a few years back, and who was calling the shots now.

William’s first couple weeks were frustrating yet promising. I had to explain ev-er-y-thing, though he rarely needed anything repeated. He was stellar on the phones, and I got numerous compliments about him from clients, agents, and casting directors alike. “Someone’s a proud papa,” said Peter at dinner, after I spent a good ten minutes boasting about William’s progress. “I just feel like he’s going to save my sanity,” I replied. The next day, William’s girlfriend Mara came by to say hello. “I’ve never seen William this happy since we moved to the city,” she said. “He says he found his ‘career job.'” “Mara, stop,” William blushed. “You don’t need to kiss his ass.” Mara turned back to me: “I know it’s early, but I owe you many thanks. It is a terrific pleasure to meet you.”

“Sorry for Mara’s weird gratitude speech yesterday,” William said the following morning. “I thought it was so cute,” I replied. “I really appreciated it. She’s too sweet. And, it’s good to know you’re happy so far. I intend to keep it that way. I’m very happy with your work as well.” “Thanks,” he said, blushing more. “I took a lot of heat for quitting advertising, and for taking a pay cut. My parents were mad. Even her parents were mad. Everyone thinks I’m just grabbing at straws since I hated my last couple jobs, but I feel like I finally found something worth investing in. And Mara’s been the only supportive one.” “Thank God your girlfriend is the supportive one, right? Wouldn’t do much good if it was the bodega guy instead.” That got a small chuckle from him. “And, screw advertising,” I added. “Everyone in advertising in this town is miserable. Who wants to say New York made them miserable? I love this place too much to ever risk hating her.”

While most of my clients were running around to casting calls, two of the rookies were happily under contract. Tyler was a couple weeks into filming “Peril,” and he gushed daily about the shoot, which was his first film (not to mention a blockbuster starring role). I was already getting calls about him doing more films, though we were going to be picky. As for my other rookie: Alexa Gordon texted me to say that Jessica Chastain had come down with mono. While I was sad for Ms. Chastain, it meant Alexa would graduate from understudy and make her Broadway debut. I got a ticket to that night’s show. Before the performance, everyone grumbled that the A-lister was ill. After curtain, their consensus: Alexa Gordon was going to be a star.

I met Simon at his apartment before our routine let’s-catch-up dinner, which was preceded by some routine let’s-really-catch-up sex. Over Italian, we both shared our ongoing hurt for Sam’s death, and I told him about Omar. “I’m hoping for good things,” I said. “Shoot,” he replied. “Sounds like I might lose this privilege of your intimate company soon.” “Nobody’s rushing into anything,” I said. “He’s gotta earn it first.” “What’s ‘it’ that he’s got to earn?” Simon asked. I thought for a second: “Assurance. And, I totally realize it’s two ways. I’d be turned off if he wanted to just throw himself at me, too. I hope he’s out dining with his ex-lover right now also.” “Be careful what you wish for,” Simon advised. “Just… be careful.”

An actor of James Thurston’s prestige doesn’t have to take whichever random pilot comes his way. Instead, his agent and I would send him scripts we liked, knowing that he wanted something that would last a few seasons. Unfortunately, the CW show we were sure of bagging had folded. We were searching for new options, and he liked a hospital drama from NBC. I called the casting director and expressed interest, and she said they would only consider him if he auditioned. James declined: “They know what I’m capable of,” he said. “Audition?! That’s so disrespectful to me. Do they want their show to get picked up or not?” “James, we’ve got more options, but please let the record show that you cut that last one loose,” I said. “From now on, you’ll do what’s needed.” James jumped in: “Need I remind you of my numerous honors and—” That’s when I hung up. This one needed re-conditioning.

I have no patience for people who are above earning their keep. James’ insistence that he was too prestigious to audition told me that he wasn’t hungry enough, that to him, his past opportunities automatically made him better than someone who was actively trying to get there. That’s not the type of client I was willing to fluff to casting directors and producers, and it told me that he would only make more unreasonable demands on set. I saw hints of it showing in Tyler already, and jumped quickly to stifle those. I felt especially protective of him, very responsible for his future. I think a lot of New Yorkers share my sentiment: we hustle every day, living on top of each other in expensive shoe boxes and with little to show. But it’s not about show: it’s about pride in oneself for having earned his or her securities. Gone is the ego, and strong are the heart and mind.

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