Blood on the Audition Floor

Rocky

Two callbacks, four hours, and five scenes later and there was one more scene separating me from the role. I had made it to the final round of callbacks, and it was down to me and three other actors reading for the part of a British investment banker in a new series. In what felt like an American Idol style audition process, we were on our grueling third day of callbacks and the cast and crew were all tired, nervous, and giddy. I had it in the bag.

“Great, let’s take it one more time for safety,” said the director, “Same thing, just more.”  It was do or die time. As the adrenaline pumped through my veins, I thought, “I’ve got to make a really strong choice. Something different.”

There are times in life when you lose control. Sometimes it’s warranted – like when you get cut off on the freeway and start honking and cursing out the window, and threaten to run the other driver off the road in a fiery blaze. Other times, less so – like when Trader Joe’s doesn’t have any more capers and you planned your night around making a chicken cacciatore in your crockpot and watching Weekend At Bernie’s. “What do you mean you don’t have capers – but you have twenty bottles of Italian olive oil?? Did the capers not make it across the Atlantic?”

An audition is a place to stay calm and measured. When I had acted out the scene before, I had reacted to the man burning my house down by lightly grabbing him.  However, in my anxious “I need to nail this!” mentality, I decided that on this take I would jump onto a chair and launch myself down on him. When the director called “Action,” I said my line then leaped onto the chair. While mid-air I decided that it might be a good idea to take a swing, because that’s what a British investment banker, would do if someone was threatening to burn down his mansion, right?

I leaped, swung a punch, and knocked my shirtless actor (shirtless because his character was having a half naked mental breakdown) down on the ground. When I jumped, I left the ground my friendly Michael self, but somewhere in the air I had transformed into a 250 pound raging defensive linebacker. Everyone gasped. He immediately said, “Oww…” pinched his nose as blood dripped down and stood up. “You hit me really hard, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“I’m so sorry,” I said, “I got caught up in the moment. I have insurance, I can take you to the hospital.”

“No, I’m good man. Just be careful. It’s just a scene.”

“Someone get him a paper towel” said the director, who then pulled me aside and said, “Don’t ever hit another actor you understand?”

“Yessir.”

“That’s how someone gets hurts.”

“I know,” I said sheepishly. “I lost control.”

I had my walk of shame through the lobby outside the audition room as my victim and I walked out together, him pinching his nose with a bloodied paper towel and me looking down at the ground. The three other potential British investment bankers looked at me with a mix of sorrow and delight. “Guess he’s not getting the part,” someone joked. And the sad truth is – I didn’t. My wild beast had been unleashed and there was no putting that back in. It was over.

I imagined the last few revised stanzas from the Casey at the Bat poem that my Dad used to read to me as a kid:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The cast is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere directors shout;

But there is no joy in Hollywood — wild Tomasetti had punched out.

I learned that sometimes giving it your all doesn’t mean going all out, and like the director said, “don’t hit the other actors.” Maybe it’s my quarter Italian Latin blood that runs through my veins, or just my high strung personality, but whatever the reason, losing control isn’t cute. I do like to think that the tape of me me jumping through the air like a spider monkey in a suit still exists somewhere and will resurface one day. For now, I’m working on getting my aggression out by running and swimming. So far, no further casualties.

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One Response to Blood on the Audition Floor

  1. Christine Tomasetti aka Mom says:

    Excellent blog! Well-written as usual!! Remember two things: 1) from the director: “Don’t ever hit another actor” and 2) from your mother: “Keep calm and carry on” (this has served me very well in a 6th grade classroom over the years :-)

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