they audition people for this?

Ever wonder what it takes to have your face seen in the background of a commercial for a few seconds? I’m not talking about being an extra. I’m talking actually booking a role of some sort. Which has me thinkin’: “They audition people for this?” 

As I sit on set of this KFC commercial I just booked – basically an “extra” but somehow not – I reflect on what it took to get here.


{me. creepin’. in between takes while Shane Valdes, our director, does his thing – directing and such}

First. It was a lot of waiting. As an actor you wait to get an audition. And then, you wait at the audition. Sometimes for a really long time!

Lesly Kahn had just posted a blog about what to do when you are stuck waiting at an audition for an hour or more. As an actor, sitting there waiting for that long can really drain your creativity. Her advanced class of students had varying opinions on the matter. Some suggested leaving and coming back another day.

Well, in the commercial world, that’s not an option considering the callbacks were the next day. Others suggested leaving for a few minutes to take a walk outside. Which is what I chose to do, considering I had to wait two and a half hours… So long, in fact, that they ordered us pizza. Yeah, that happened. Oh, and we were in an “underground” casting office in a basement with no Internet, no water fountain, barely any light… But I digress. (Not complaining. Seriously. So grateful… Okay 90% grateful, 10% complaining.)

I took a little walk to put more money in the meter where I parked. Twice. And then took a third stroll down Hollywood Blvd to grab a cold Perrier (so LA of me, I know. Don’t judge.) When I got back, it was just about time for me to go in.

They brought in me and three other girls, who looked like some eerily similar version of myself, and first had us do what we had done the day before in the initial audition – we “stood in line” and reacted to what took place around us. (Once the commercial airs, you will see what I mean.) Then the director gets up, walks over, thinks to himself for a minute, and says, “Is there any way we could get 4 chairs in here and have it to where they are sitting at a booth?” 

The casting director reluctantly complied, clearly worried about how behind schedule they were. We did another take this way, and the director, clearly not quite getting what he wanted, says, “Okay. Let’s see. Would anyone be willing to like shove back their chair and duck under the table?” I immediately threw up my hand and practically shouted, “I will!” (Thank goodness for all those improv classes, cause I “Yes, anded” the shiz out of that without even thinking.)

The director goes, “Great! Meredith! You do that.” (He knew my name. Plus one.) So we did another take like this, and this time I ducked under the table, peeking my eyes out to get a glimpse of what’s happening. Apparently I have very “expressive eyes” that worked to my advantage in this situation because he starts dying laughing – either at how funny I was, or how brilliant his idea was (probably the latter) – but regardless, he loved it and said, “That is exactly what I was looking for!”

And well… lo and behold… I booked it! Apparently all it takes is being willing to make a complete fool of yourself – or what Lesly Kahn calls “daring to suck.” And being available and in the moment. And having thoughts while you are reacting. And multiple improv classes. And years of auditioning. And finally getting the right agent who submits you for such projects. And having the “look” they are going for… And, well, you get the picture.

Anyway, we get to set, and I don’t do ANY of what I did in the callback. You might see my face in the background, reacting, but nothing drastic or hilarious. But that’s what it takes in this industry… You have to stand out. You have to go above and beyond even what they are going to see you do should you book the job.

I think one of the biggest things in commercials is about your personality and if they want to work with you on set, etc. But who knows? It was only my first. I just hope it’s not the last!

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