Monday, March 19, 2007

the prego callback: notes of an interloping negress

went to the callback wearing the wig that i just knew wouldn't work in the initial audition and my favorite diane von furstenberg wrap dress. instead of changing shoes, i wore flat rugged boots because there was snow and muck outside and i didn't feel like dealing with all that yanking off and putting on. besides, i figured they wouldn't shoot me from the waist down. (and i was right.) that's why there's a diane von furstenberg wrap dress in the smithsonian -- pumps or combat boots, you can literally wear it any way you want. i don't know why, but wearing her dresses makes me feel more confident than usual. and somehow i knew that i would need all the confidence i could get.

everything dragged to get me there, even time itself. the L train, which is usually pretty zip-a-dee-doo-dah at that hour, took an astonishing 20 minutes. i almost gave up and took a cab but of course, that wasn't a real option. not for me, not at midday and not in new york city. once i arrived and surveyed the situation, i was more than a little dismayed to see that there wasn't one black woman at this black commercial callback with natural hair. they all had the same look -- some of them tall, some of them tall-looking, but most of them slim-jims and all of them with perms of varying lengths. and white features. the black woman who sat next to me was light-skinned with dark green eyes, a pointy nose and shoulder-length curly hair. (yes, it was contacts and no, it wasn't a weave.) something in me flat-out panicked: i'm a brown-skinned black girl with an african face. why did these people call me in for this? i felt like an interloping negress.

what did the guys look like? i'm glad you asked.

to tell you the truth, they weren't all that nappy, either. they had a look of their own as well. most of them were bald, strong, tall and quite masculine. maybe one or two were light-skinned but all of them were on the very brown side. i recognized one of them. he was shorter, light-skinned with twists. he was supposed to go in with me at the audition but he wouldn't because he "needed more time." i think he was a little startled to see me there.

someone came out eventually and paired us off. they put me with this really nice looking kind of bulked out guy, maybe six feet tall or so. we leaned against the far wall of the room and chatted about the business for awhile. he did a royal carribean commercial recently and got to spend more than two weeks in the bahamas, pretty much hanging out and doing nothing.

the callback was an obvious call, as far as he and i could tell. figuring out what they want and giving it to them was the trick. i looked at all the women and i realized one very important thing: they were wanted some verve, some personality. they weren't hiring pretty. not necessarily. they were hiring funny. and that's another thing: its one thing to be funny with a script but there wasn't one. most actors can't improvise. most actors aren't funny. aw, heck. most actors can't act.

the thing is, it's rare that i go into any room to audition and feel loved. (actually, this has changed drastically in theater/musical theater since i did "harlem song." more on that later.) usually, i feel ambivalence. i feel them thinking, not this one, or they're thinking maybe this one, or oh, definitely not this one. some people show up and get the job. i have to show up and change their minds.

i didn't need the dress to give me confidence after all. i carried this epiphany into the room with me. i cloaked myself in it. i mean, really -- i may not be what some corporate white guy behind a desk thinks of when he imagines a conventionally pretty (read: safe) black woman . but i am a funny girl -- with or without a script.

let me bottom line my day for you: i showed up around noon. my call time was at 12:15. they got cracking around 12:30pm. i didn't get out of there until after 1:30pm. at 4pm, my agent called me to tell me that i had a second callback. it was for that evening and then it was for the next morning and then it was for the next day. who cares? it's on.

believe it or not, the funny interloping negress is still in the running. stay tuned.

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