Workin’ Men

So I just booked my first two commercial gigs here in LA. Back-to-back. Feels good. I am officially a working LA actor.

The best part? I got one of these gigs because of my son.

Part of the setup that my wife and I established when we moved out here was to allow me to be both an actor and a stay-at-home dad. She has the full-time job while I stay home, take care of the young’un, and have the free time to go to auditions, submit myself for projects and agents, and do the actual work. It finally paid off this past week when I booked not one but two commercials. It’s the second one that I want to talk about more than anything.

When I tell people Ryder goes with me to auditions, they always ask me how it goes, how he behaves, how people respond, etc. So far, not a single casting director has even flinched about Ryder being in the room when I’ve auditioned. And he’s a wonderful kid. He sits in his stroller, fascinated by what’s going on, and occasionally he adds a well-placed laugh. I truly believe the kid has comic timing already. While I do think an interjection like this may have cost me a job on an occasion or two, for the most part, people think it’s funny and laugh right along with him. Why not? It’s no sweat off their noses, and dammit, he’s absolutely charming.

I mean that – Ryder is the kind of kid who lights up a room when he comes in. He flirts with everyone in the place. He waves, he smiles, he winks at the pretty girls (oh, yes he does), and he makes a great first impression. I’ve seen him charm a roomful of manly men at a callback, making them laugh like crazy (I didn’t get the job, but damn if he didn’t have a good time). I’ve had a roomful of men in a waiting room all drool and fawn over him, and one of these guys told me that he loves it when people bring kids to auditions because they relax him. He focuses on the kid and enjoying the moment instead of stressing about the audition, so he’s relaxed and in a great mood by the time he goes in front of the camera.

But the best proof of this came last week. Ryder and I drove out to Venice Beach for an audition. We got to the building, went up to the office, and as soon as the producer opened the door, both he and the director smiled like goofballs and began talking to him. Turns out the director is a new father as well, with a beautiful fifteen month old little girl. We spent almost ten minutes talking about our kids and how great it is to be a father before we even broached the subject of the audition. By the time we got around to the camera, Ryder had charmed them so well that they let him get out of the stroller and wander around the office playing with the phone, the stuff on the coffee table – they even offered to bring him snacks. They were so accommodating and glad to have him there. Amazing.

When we finally stepped in front of the camera, I auditioned with Ryder in my arms at their request. I did my bit, and he contributed a signature shout of “AH-HAAAH!” which got a huge laugh. The director was super positive told me he’d root for me with the producer, and it was all great. We then spent another five or ten minutes talking about my life and the recent move to LA. Ryder and I stood out on the balcony of the beachfront office, and I mentioned casually that we hadn’t actually been to Venice Beach yet, so the director told me about a great playground up the beach that we had to see before we left, and then he pulled out his wallet and gave me five bucks to cover parking at the beach lot. He wanted me to have the experience with Ryder so much that he paid for parking.

Think the audition went well?

Ryder and I walked up the beach and explored Venice a little, altho we never made it to the playground because Ryder LOVES the beach. He loves to play in the sand, and I had to restrain him from running into the ocean. Otherwise, we had a great time. By the time we got back to the car, I got a call from the director saying I had booked the job. He told me that I would probably have gotten the job on my own regardless, but the producers loved Ryder. He sealed the deal. Plus, he’ll probably end up in the spot with me. So now my son and I are both working LA actors. Awesome.

Ultimately, tho, it’s proof that having a child doesn’t have to mean you can’t be an actor, even in a city like LA. Granted, my setup at home is incredibly helpful to the whole situation – since we don’t have to worry about a second income to pay bills, I’ve got the time to audition at will (naptime notwithstanding), and this gives me a leg up over an actor/dad who also has to hold down even a part-time job. But as I said earlier, people ask me all the time how casting directors respond to Ryder’s presence at auditions, and my answer is always the same: as far as I can tell, they don’t mind him there at all. The director asked me the same question, and when I gave him my answer, he nodded approvingly and said, “Good, they shouldn’t.”

I run into other dads all the time at auditions, so I know my situation isn’t unique, and so far not a single person has flinched at Ryder’s presence. Plus, I’ve gotten work with and without him now, so I know it doesn’t seem to affect my consideration and can indeed help.

There have been auditions where I’ve chosen not to take him for various reasons – I had an audition for a TV show at Fox, and since I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t want to hedge my bets, Overall there seems to be a lot of consideration out here for the fact that actors have lives outside of the biz. Makes me feel better not only about the decision to move out here but also about the business itself. Casting directors, producers, directors – it’s easy to forget that they’re all people, too, and they have husbands, wives, and kids – they have families, and family is important. At least, it is to the kind of people you want to work with. So far, tho, that’s been the case with everyone I’ve met, and that’s pretty cool.

I didn’t get the role at Fox, tho, so who knows? Maybe I should have auditioned with Ryder for that one. It was to play a dad to a young boy, after all, and I got that role nailed. Far as I can tell.

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