Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Just booked an episode of House. The table read was yesterday. What a great cast. I'm back to one-hour drama but the show has a lot of humor--thank god!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Two and a Half Men....post-job post....

Working on Two and a Half Men was a blast. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to work on a four-camera show. We rehearsed on Monday and Tuesday and then did some “pre-shoots” on Wednesday and Thursday—scenes that had a lot of complicated camera set-ups so wouldn’t be appropriate to shoot in front of a live audience. Then on Friday, more rehearsal and then we did the show in front of a live audience. The pre-shot scenes were shown in playback on monitors so the audience could get the flow of the show. As it turned out, most of my scenes were shot in front of the live audience. I was a little nervous—it’s been a few years since I did a play and I haven’t done a sitcom in forever but as soon as I heard that laughter I felt like I was home. All my old comedy chops came back. Holding for the laugh—sometimes getting another one if you hold correctly—letting the wave of laughter subside and then feeling it start to swell again--the laughs are so addicting!

On the night of the show, there were several times (between scenes of course!) that I felt moved to tears for being there. Having the perspective of knowing so many talented actors who rarely if ever get the chance to work (and spending plenty of time out-of-work myself!) makes me so appreciative when I get to work as an actor. It really feels like a gift. The auditioning, the rejections, the having faith when all seems lost is the real work of the actor. The job is the pay off! A manager I know tells new actors that their job is not acting, it is auditioning, and I think she’s right. And I don’t just mean the audition itself. It’s all that in between time. Keeping your spirit and your acting chops up when you don’t have any auditions. Then finally getting one and preparing—giving it your all and then after the audition—what I call the after-burn—not hearing anything. Was I good? Did they like me? We actors rarely get feedback on our work. Certainly if you get the job or a callback after a pre-read that is your feedback, but at the producer callback level the playing field is pretty even-most everyone there can do the role and do it well—at that point it’s mostly a matter of type. Are you the producer and/or directors vision? All you can control is the quality of your acting work; you can’t control their creative process or subjective opinions. The fact is that you are probably not going to book most of the roles you go in for but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing a bad job. Look at me and my Two and a Half Men experience—I auditioned for that show four times before I got a role. Believe me, if I had been doing a bad job on my auditions the producers would not have kept bringing me back.

And now for the other kind of “after-burn”, the post-job blues…sigh…but before that, here are some pics from Two and a Half Men.

Robert Wagner. Yum! I love having the chance to work with Hollywood Icons like "RJ." I always feel like I am connected to Hollywood history. When I touch him I am connected to Natalie Wood, Jill St. John--wow! And he is still such a looker!
Jon Cryer is an absolute sweetheart. And of course a comic genius. Turns out that our parents worked together in the early 1960's! It was a production of Guys and Dolls, my dad played "Skye Masterson" and my mother and his parents were in the chorus!
Holland Taylor has been added to my list of all time favorite actresses. Watching her work was an acting lesson. Brilliant! And gracious and beautiful too. (BTW: that chest is not entirely mine...part of a gag in the show...EGADS!)
Conchatta Farrel is warm, kind, supportive, sensitive and yet another comic genius. Meeting her was an absolute gift. The women on this show are incredible.

OK. Remember to watch on Monday May 5th! (I play a CSI-Marg Helgenberger type....)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Two and a Half Men

Just an update. I have been busy rehearsing and taping. This week has been marvelous. A real gift. I am reminded how wonderful it is to work on a sit-com in contrast to one-hour. We rehearse! What a concept!

My role is great. I get to work with every actor on the show and they are all magnificent. Particularly Holland Taylor. I can't take my eyes off her. An amazing actor! Watching her work is a lesson in comic acting--always based on truth and frigging hilarious.

I tape most of my scenes tonight in front of a live audience. Can't wait! Details in my next blog.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


What an inspiring week this was.

Several years ago, my father understudied a role in Joe Bolonga and Renee Taylor's Bermuda Avenue Triangle during its LA run. Because of prior commitments Bolonga and Taylor couldn't use him when they took the show to New York, but they told him that they loved him and were determined to work with him again.

I was going through a very dark time in my life, my teacher Roy London had just died and I was going through a very painful breakup of a long-term relationship. I was feeling very pessimistic. I said something to my dad like, “Oh people always say stuff like that, you’re such a dreamer.” He replied, “ I have to have my dreams, they’re what keep me going.” I felt like I had snapped out of a dream. A bad one. And then I felt so ashamed.

This interaction led me to a real change of heart--I vowed to never stop dreaming and staying positive and to always be supportive of my fellow actors— ultimately it led to my teaching career. Well, last Monday, my seventy-five-year-old actor father learned that he is joining Joe Bolonga, Renee Taylor and Lainie Kazan on a tour of Bermuda Avenue Triangle in Florida later this month.

Then , Thursday, I went to Hollywood Blvd to see a family friend receive a star on the legendary walk of fame. The friend is actress Kate Linder. She has had a regular role on the Soap Opera, Young and the Restless for 25 years. Her longevity on the show plus her abundant philanthropic work—Linder is active with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, is a founding board member of TV Cares, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ AIDS awareness charity and also spent this past Thanksgiving visiting troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the USO—is impressive enough, but what blew me away was when I found out that she never gave up her day job after booking the Soap—on weekends she still works as a flight attendant for United Airlines! I just love that!

Later that day I learned that I booked a really great guest star role on one of my favorite shows, Two and a Half Men. I have been auditioning for this show since it began. I thought I would never get hired, and this despite the fact that the creators of the show are both friends of mine. But, once again, it is proven to me that life has endless possibilities and surprises if you just keep showing up. And, of all the roles I have auditioned for on that show, this is my favorite-the one I would have picked for myself!

Keep showing up. Never stop dreaming. And remember, the person who’s star catches your gaze as you stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame can be the same person who asks if you want an extra pillow on your next flight out to New York…

Friday, April 4, 2008

Keep Going!

The other day I received an email from an actor who has been in LA for ten years and even though he’s been relentless with his mailings etc., he has yet to get a manager or agent. He wrote about his despondency about not going on meetings: “I'm getting to the point now where I don't know how much longer I can go on with having every professional attempt I've made get rejected…when you continually put out effort year after year, the smallest little break, even if it's just a meeting or an audition can recharge your energy, even your spirit. I'm starting to run very low on both.” He has a good day job but in his words “…no matter how good a job it is, it’s not acting.

Whew. Most of the actors I know can relate to this. It is so tough out there. Tougher in many ways than when I started out. But, I remember when I started out, the older actors would complain about how tough the business was compared to when they started out. So, the business is always changing. And it's always been tough. I am reminded of Norma Desmond from Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd who couldn't make the jump from silent pictures into “talkies” and probably even more relevantly, from ingĂ©nue into woman-of-a-certain-age. She couldn't let go of her image of how her life was supposed to be so she was cut off from the possibilities of her present. What if she had allowed herself to change? To play supporting roles? I bet Mr. DeMille would have given her a job..another close-up.

The same day I received the email from that actor, I visited a manager friend in his office and guess what? The manager was despondent! He was so frustrated that he couldn't get a certain client in for a role--he was worried about changes in the business--he was worried that there will be another strike. So here you are—people on both sides of the table struggling with the same feelings. So what do we do? Well, the business has always been hard. It has always been a miracle that any of us have gotten work. But I know personally that the way to become really despondent is to focus on the problem. And from my perspective, I think the actor has it better in many ways than the manager. The manager is totally dependent on the acceptance of others—the casting directors etc. to give his clients an audition. His fulfillment comes from getting people work. The actor is also somewhat dependent on others too but the actor can find a way to do what he loves. He can go to class, if he can’t afford class then he can learn a new monologue or a new dialect, he can contact the AFI or one of the many local universities with great film departments and offer his acting services, he can audition for a play.

I saw the comedian Margaret Cho on TV the other night on a great show on CNN called The Big Idea. She was discussing how many times she was told to forget her dream of becoming a stand-up. In fact a top agent she met early on told her to give up because Asians never make in in show business. She didn’t listen because giving up was simply not a choice. She was doing what she loves. And she was going to continue doing it whether or not she was “successful” at it. I feel the same way. I know that as long as I am doing my work I am happy. When I am in the moment—that glorious moment when I am really “in” the scene-- where it feels like the part is playing me—I have no idea if I am getting paid, or how much I am getting paid or what my billing is or if I have a dressing room. I am just experiencing pure joy. And often, when I am completely fulfilled by the process of doing what I love and not paying attention-I get a little break. I’ll get an audition or role or maybe a sweet note from a student thanking me for something they heard in class. And it's enough to keep me going.

I always tell actors to give it a finite period of time to see if the acting thing works out—say thirty or forty years—if it doesn’t work in that time, then give it another twenty. You may or may not “succeed” (whatever the heck that means), but what a great time you'll have trying.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Calling All Fools

April 1, 2008
How apropos that I would make my first blog entry on April Fools Day. I love being foolish. I think that’s part of why I love being an actor and working with actors. Permission to be foolish. In Shakespeare’s work the Fool is often one of the wisest people in the story. In Twelfth Night, Feste the jester is described as "wise enough to play the fool." The fool was often sort of the conscious of the play. In that way I think actors can be society’s conscious. I think actors supply a real need. People go to the theatre, or to see a film to see their feelings, hopes and dreams depicted and played out, and, to use Aristotle’s word, to experience catharsis. And I think this catharsis is necessary for people. That is why we keep telling stories and listening to them--going to the theatre, seeing plays, reading stories. I am reminded of a few years ago when I did a play at Playmakers Rep in North Carolina. I have lived in Los Angeles virtually my entire life and started working as a professional actor at the age of six. With the exception of a few plays in High School and College, all the work I have ever done as an actor has been professional. Every time I did a play in Los Angeles, it seems there was always talk of this or that casting director or agent or movie star in the audience. There was always a bit of a “showcase” feeling--like doing the play might lead to more work. Don’t get me wrong—I know there is plenty of great work being done in the theatre in LA—I am just talking about my personal experience in some of the productions I have been involved in. So, anyway, when I did this play in Chapel Hill, NC it was really the first time in my life that I knew that there weren’t going to be any casting directors, or agents, or movie stars out in the audience. That my performance was completely between me and god and the audience. A contract based on love. I, the audience, come here to be entertained, moved, possibly changed. I, the actor, step onto to the stage to hopefully entertain, move, and change you. The theatre was filled every night. The people came to the theater—they needed to come--to share their humanity. I fell in love with acting in a way I never had before. Foolishness. What a gift.