What's My No Line?

In college, spring of my senior year, we took a class that was about planning your life as an actor.

  • Where were you planning on moving?
  • Who are the casting directors in that town?
  • What is rent like?
  • What kind of day jobs you can have?  

I remember our professor also asking us to define our "NO" line for work BEFORE we are desperate for a job, and strapped for cash. Will you play a character who smokes if you don't? Will you eat meat if you're a vegetarian? What's your comfort level on nudity?

A few years out of college, I was offered an extra job on a Taco Time commercial. The crew needed people to stand in while they were lighting the scene, so I happily sat in a booth and chatted with the person next to me. The director came up to me and was like "Would you be interested in being promoted to a principal in this commercial?" "Sure!" I said. "You have a face for high def!" Well, thank you Mr. Director! They took me to the principal trailer, updated my wardrobe and makeup and I shot in the very spot that I had been sitting as a stand in. They handed me Mexi-Fries, then beef burritos to "bite and smile" and then spit into a bucket. Spitting out the food is done to avoid filling up, and to cut time on chewing and swallowing. At this point, I hadn't eaten beef in 6 or 7 years. I had seen Supersize Me, and decided I was done with burgers, but in that moment, I figured "what the heck, I'm not swallowing it." (insert naughty joke here).

Check me out at the 21 second mark in the upper right corner! www.tacotimeNW.com Directed by LEONARD CREATIVE Music by Elijah Honey (feat. Charlotte Henry)

Recently I discovered I have a new no line...at least for the moment. I can't even audition for anything with a dying parent. Or something with someone dying of cancer. Or caring for a parent. (Even though I not his primary caretaker. His wife does an amazing job at that) 

A theatre company did Wit recently, and while I know it's a wonderful play, we're coming up on the 10 year anniversary of my mom's death, and she died of ovarian cancer. So that was out. Another company posted auditions for an adult daughter taking care of her father. That one is out too. My dad now has stage 4 cancer, and initially was given a 50/50 chance of making it to a year. It's been 2 1/2 years, and that whole time, I've carried a weight of "any moment." I already know how hard it is to lose a parent, and I have to do it again. Any moment now. Or not. Maybe it'll be weeks, months, possibly a year, but that seems unlikely. 

I'm currently rehearsals for Charlotte's Web. Pigs are my favorite animal, and the director is a friend of mine, so I thought it would be a fun show to do.

The show is about death.

Wilbur is threated to be killed in the first 2 pages of the script because he's a runt, then it's all about fattening him up to kill and eat. The very reason Charlotte spins the web is to try to prevent his death! And I am the one at the end of the play who says, "Charlotte died." 

Now, I did read the play before accepting the role. In that moment I thought, "Wow, what an important responsibility to have for this play." But when rehearsals started, I couldn't make it through that passage without crying. I've figured out how to get through it, but am crossing my fingers that my dad stays stable through the run of the show. 

Perhaps in the future, when it's not so raw, I'll be able to use this life experience to deepen my connection with a character, but for now, I think it's okay to protect myself a little from doing something too close to home. 

 Me and my dad, after his diagnosis in 2016. Photo by Danielle Barnum

Me and my dad, after his diagnosis in 2016. Photo by Danielle Barnum

How I Prepared for my New Headshots

 My very first headshots taken by my mom.  This is me at 12 years old!

My very first headshots taken by my mom.
This is me at 12 years old!

(All photos pictured in this blog are un-retouched).

I know some actors groan and roll their eyes at getting new headshots taken. I love it! It helps that Seattle has some spectacular headshot photographers that I've gotten to work with. My recent session was with John Ulman Photography.

I love what Bonnie Gillespie says about headshots--it's not a photograph, it's a marketing tool. They are the first, and sometimes only point where a casting director will see you and consider you! It should be something you give thought and consideration!

 Here I am with my friend and photographer, John Ulman!

Here I am with my friend and photographer, John Ulman!

 

What am I selling?

A headshot should look like you. Period. You also should hint at what kinds of characters you might play. You don't need a costume, but can to lean-in to how you should be getting cast. If I'm not the drop-dead glamour model type, I don't need the deep V, dark makeup, sexy look. I'm also not a doe-eyed ingénue, so I had to stay away from looks that read too young, or vulnerable.

I targeted the looks I wanted, based off of my actor brand. My type words are Confident, Approachable, Fun-Loving, and Trustworthy.

 From my previous headshot session, with the  Amazing   Danielle Barnum . I love this photo, but always had to crop it because the tank top is just not working for me! This was a year and a half ago, and I look...24?

From my previous headshot session, with the Amazing Danielle Barnum. I love this photo, but always had to crop it because the tank top is just not working for me! This was a year and a half ago, and I look...24?

 

WARDROBE RULES

I am trying to represent myself as a 30-something woman. I noticed that while I love the look of tank tops on other, they tend to make me look younger than I want, so I had a strict NO tank top rule for this session!

(NOTE: This "rule" is for me, I know other women over 30 can rock this, no problem).

Because Fun-Loving is part of my brand, I chose bright colors, rather than dark, to reflect the approachable/fun-loving side, even if I wasn't doing a big toothy grin. (Expect for my one edgy look).  I previous headshot I had, I wore black, and that doesn't represent who I am, and who walks into the room in a casting session.

 

Research phase:

With all that in mind, I also like to see what's our there - trends in wardrobe, backdrops, etc. I look at the headshots of my agency, other agencies, tpsonline.com, I google headshots, I look them up on Instagram. I try to find people similar to my type-- do they have similar hair, coloring, or energy? I screenshot it, so I can find what I like about them, and see if there are elements I can incorporate into my shoot.

Back to Bonnie Gillespie and her article on headshots.  She recommends have a line you think in your head as the character you want to come across as.

Some faves from my recent shoot:

ENJOY Yourself! 

At one point I started telling my photographer about Porn for Women--You know, the stuff where guys are photographed doing chores? So we had a good laugh about that being what I was thinking about. Do you think that showed up in one of my shots? That's my secret!

IMG_2479.JPG

Special Thanks to my makeup artist, Shyn Midili, for my fabulous makeup. Shyn haS done makeup for previous headshots, my best friend's wedding, and my own wedding. She always makes me Look lovely, and is fun to hang out with!

Achievement Unlocked: A Week at Children's Hospital

 For a kid who doesn't get much screen time we watched a LOT of Moana. And Thomas. And Nemo and Dori. 

For a kid who doesn't get much screen time we watched a LOT of Moana. And Thomas. And Nemo and Dori. 

Generally, I write about career stuff--auditions, performances, etc. but this week my life was interrupted by taking care of my child. As I'm writing this, my daughter has been in the hospital for a week now for a burst appendix.* She's 22 months old.

Last Thursday, we had dinner and everything was pretty normal. Then as we were getting ready for bed she threw up; three times. Each time we thought she was done, so we changed her sheets; ooh-boy there was so much laundry. On Friday morning she threw up twice more (more laundry), and though we generally don't do a ton of screen time, we basically had a veg-out movie day. She wasn't eating much-- just a few crackers, but she was still drinking water and milk, so we saw that as a good sign. We gave her a bottle before bed, and she threw that up! In the middle of the night she got really upset for over an hour. She was crying a lot and whimpering. We noticed her stomach was hard, so we figured she must have cramps, or be constipated. When she pooped in the morning, we were pleased that that was resolved. Saturday was another movie day, and all was pretty calm. Then around 4pm she had another freak-out, similar to the one in the middle of the night. Again, we noticed her stomach was hard all over, and I was about to send my husband out to buy some prune juice or something.

 Mom-ing so hard here. Can you see in my eyes how much I want to be home?

Mom-ing so hard here. Can you see in my eyes how much I want to be home?

But there was just this nagging feeling that I should call the consulting nurse. So I did. She asked a ton of questions and seemed particularly concerned that our normally active child wasn't walking. We had thought--well, she has a stomach bug, of course she wants to sit, and be carried. The nurse asked us to set her down and see if she would walk, and when we put her on her feet she just cried. Between that and the hard stomach, this amazing nurse said we should go to Seattle Children's Emergency Department.

We put on some shoes and socks and grabbed her diaper bag. The whole time thinking that this was a bit overkill. She was so calm and it didn't seem like an EMERGENCY.

We got to the hospital and were in a room pretty quickly. The doctor wanted to see her stand, and she wouldn't put her right foot down when standing. He figured it could be a stomach issue or a hip infection. We were sent to get an ultrasound for both. The ultrasound tech did all the stomach parts, which Lo seemed really scared by. The tech said, "I'm going to go consult with the doctors, I'll be right back." when she returned she said, "Well, we don't need to do the hip scan. We have everything we need. The doctors will be the ones to tell you what all this means. It's possible surgical may come by--they're really good at assessing stomach issues."

Okay...so we went back down to our room and the resident came in and told us it was appendicitis. To which we were like--okay. He then said, "You guys are oddly calm about this!" Here's the deal; we are at Children's Hospital--if there is ANYTHING wrong, this is where you want to be. Also, in the grand scheme of medical issues, appendicitis is one of the lowest worries for me. Yes, I know there are risks with surgery and infection, but I knew we were in capable hands.

 One of her nurses gave Hannah an NG tube (in her nose), and IV in her hand...er...paw.  

One of her nurses gave Hannah an NG tube (in her nose), and IV in her hand...er...paw.  

They said if it hadn't burst, we'd be out in about 24 hours. If it had, we would be here for about 7 days, because they need to do IV antibiotics, and it's a more complicated recovery process healing from a burst appendix. The surgeon said that the younger the person is, the earlier it bursts, and he expected it had.

Here's where it gets sad: this meant we would not be getting to see the matinee of Hamilton we had been so looking forward to seeing the next day. That Sunday was going to be a very special day--My husband was getting a massage I had scheduled as a birthday present for him, then we were going to have a lunch date, then see Hamilton. Sigh...it'll come around again, right? Would I rather have been there than in a Hospital? Yes. Obviously. But when my kid is in the hospital I will clear my schedule to be with her. That is the easiest choice to make.

I am very lucky to have insurance, and jobs that are understanding of medical stuff. I also have a husband whose work is understanding of him taking time off for this. Not everyone is this lucky. An ER visit, plus surgery, and a week in the hospital could ruin someone else and that breaks my heart. 

*Update: Later that night we were able to go home. She's returning to her normal self!