“The commercial audition is in Irvine. They’re looking for a young Steve Jobs type. Please confirm by EOD.” The text message from my agent said.
The casting breakdown on LACasting confirmed that the audition was for a new video game and the client was looking for a young Steve Jobs to promote the product. Part of commercial acting is knowing your type – and I’ve got the quirky/geeky/tech thing down pat. The audition was in Irvine, Orange County, about an hour drive – but the role was right, so why not? Besides it’d mark the first time I’d been south of LAX since I moved to LA.
I shuffled my schedule (making sure to cover my meetings and calls this time at my day job) and drove south on the 405. It was raining in LA and the freeway was aglow with blinking red brake lights the entire way to the airport. Rain in LA is the equivalent of snowstorms on the east coast and a true cause for panic among drivers. The hour long drive stretched to almost two, and by the time I got to Irvine the rain had stopped, but the gray sky remained.
The audition was on the 23rd floor of a nondescript office building complex. I walked in the lobby and there sat a younger version of myself. The surreal thing about auditioning in LA is that you see variations of yourself in casting calls. You’re forced to sit in a room with your clones and silently size each other up. I imagined a casting director and client ordering you like they would at Starbucks: “Can I have the grande soy actor, with blue eyes and a slightly smaller nose. No whipped cream or cheesy smile. I’m lactose intolerant.”
Younger me went first into the audition room, and few minutes later came out looking at the ground, shaking his head and left. Good I thought – they’d had a cheap imitation, now time for the real thing. I walked into the audition room with confidence. Behind a table sat three Asian men and a fat boy that looked about fourteen. At the very end of the table sat the casting director, a middle-aged white guy.
The casting director spoke, “Ok, so we’re going for a young Steve Jobs. We’ve got the sides up on the board so just read them naturally. Do you have any questions?”
One of the Asian guys, presumably the client, interrupted saying in broken English, “This is for our video game, so it has to be good you understand? We want you to be good.”
The casting director confirmed, “That’s right. Let’s see what you got!”
I started the sides. “Racing cars isn’t just something you do on the street, but you can also do it with RaceCar 3000.”
The client stopped me, “Good! Now do it with glasses. We want you to be Steve Jobs.” What would Steve Jobs have to do with racing I wondered. The client said something to another one of the men in a foreign language and the man took off his glasses and gave them to me. I put on the man’s glasses and continued to read the script with my blurry vision.
“RaceCar 3000 has the speed and velocity to take your racing to the next level…”
The client clapped, “That’s it! He’s good!”
I continued reading the script with my blurry gaze. When I finished, I handed them back to the man behind the table, my eyes still hazy afterwards. The clients clapped. The casting director said, “Nice read. Should we have him read it again?”
The client said, “No, I think we’ve found our guy! He’s good. Mark, show him how RaceCar works.”
The fat kid pulled out his Android and started showing me the race car game on his smart phone. He spoke in grunts and said short sentences like, “You drive by tapping this.” “You get speed by getting the oil can.” “There’s a short cut by the trees.” I looked on nodding, blinking my eyes to get focus back. The client continued singing my praises and the casting director and said, “Nice read. Thanks for coming out in the rain.” I left the room and nodded to a new clone waiting in the lobby.
I drove back to LA feeling good about my performance, but also baffled by the audition. All the praise heaped upon me felt good, but the casting director who was usually in charge of the room remained neutral. It started to rain again. I pictured RaceCar 3000 idling in traffic on the freeway. I imagined the kid with the Android saying, “You lose patience in traffic.”
I sat by the phone for the next few days like a hopeful Steve Jobs waiting to hear if his teams’ designs for the new iPhone – or in this case his race car – had been completed. The call never came. I didn’t get the Jobs. Here’s to staying hungry, and staying foolish. I drove to In-N-Out on Tuesday and decided to eat my emotions: a double double animal style. I hoped I wouldn’t run into any of my clones.