Episode 113: The Working Actor – Commercial Acting
What happens in the process of auditioning for and shooting a commercial? Actor Marty Moreau outlines the steps from the first call from your agent right up to the shoot. He shares the reason he got his first commercial (and it wasn’t his talent!) and the things you should never do on set.
Welcome to TFP – The Theatrefolk Podcast – the place to be for Drama teachers, Drama students, and theatre educators everywhere.
I’m Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk.
Hello, I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening.
Welcome to Episode 113. You can find all the links for this episode at theatrefolk.com/episode113.
Today, we start a Working Actor series on the podcast. What is it like to be a working actor? How did their choice of school help? What is it like to tour? What should you definitely not do on a commercial set? Which leads nicely into this week’s focus – commercial acting.
Marty Moreau is a long-time dear friend of mine and Craig’s here at Theatrefolk and I had a lovely chat with him about the ins and outs of commercials. I just need to preface that, when I was recording this podcast, I was suffering from a mild case of consumption or a really bad cold. You may hear sniffing and coughing – all that fun stuff. I swear it’s not catching.
Lindsay: All right! I am here with a dear old friend, Marty Moreau.
Marty: Hello, Lindsay darling. How are you?
Lindsay: I am fantastic.
For our Theatrefolk listeners out there, Marty and I go quite a ways back. Just to give some context, Marty actually was one of the first actors that I worked with when I was workshopping Theatrefolk scripts.
Marty: That’s right.
Lindsay: You read for The Canterbury Tales when we were workshopping that and also a play called Emotional Baggage which still gets done to this day and I’m not going to say how many years ago we did those. We did those quite a long time ago though, didn’t we?
Marty: Ah! Yes, we did!
Lindsay: And, Marty, you are an actor, yes?
Marty: Yes, indeed.
Lindsay: You actually went to a theatre school, yes?
Marty: Yes, I studied at the University of Windsor, a school of dramatic art, graduated in 1991. That’s where I met my wife, Tina, who, of course, you know.
Lindsay: Very nice.
Marty: And I’ve been a professional actor ever since.
Lindsay: Which is pretty wonderful, isn’t it, that you can say that? Not a lot of people can.
Marty: It is, and I think, for young actors, at least for me when I was starting out, I had a tough time wrapping my mind around calling myself a professional actor.
Lindsay: Oh, yeah? How come?
Marty: Well, initially, as with, I think, any trade or art that you get into, you might not have all the jobs that you want and, as an actor, you will always be looking ahead towards the next project. It felt as though, if I wasn’t working, I didn’t really feel like an actor.
Marty: I didn’t feel like I could say that. But, something that comes I think with age and with wisdom, now, when I speak to younger actors, I say, “Be proud of who you are. You’ve trained. You have a passion for it. You’re an actor. You might not be working at the moment but you can always work at it.”
Lindsay: Yes, of course. When you started out, did you have a vision for the kind of actor that you wanted to be? What were the things that you wanted to excel in or did you think “I’ll take anything”?
Marty: Well, because I studied at theatre school, initially, of course, stage is what I really thought of and the first production I ever saw that made me want to be an actor was A Long Day’s Journey Into Night and it was a professional production with Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Peter Gallagher. I just fell in love with it and I thought, “That’s what I want to do; I want to do something of that power.” So, initially, yes, it was all theatre and, back at theatre school, we didn’t really have too much of an in-depth television and film classwork that we were doing. We did have one or two classes that were devoted to it, but they really couldn’t get into the depth that I realized soon after that I needed.
Lindsay: That’s what you’ve done quite a lot of – commercials.
Marty: A lot of commercial work, yes, indeed.
Lindsay: And you were just telling me you just recently played Teddy Roosevelt.
Marty: Yes, Teddy Roosevelt, I won’t bore you with my imitation of Teddy Roosevelt but it was great fun to portray one of the greatest presidents, I think, of the United States.
Lindsay: So, let’s talk about commercials. You were starting out, you don’t have a lot of background in auditioning for commercials, was it sort of just a trial by fire that you just figured out practically, like, doing them how to actually audition for a commercial?
Marty: You do find out trial by fire and you tend to bring, especially if you’ve studied theatre and you’ve trained as a theatre actor, you tend to bring that sort of passion to what you’re doing into commercial.
If I may, I’d like to say something that might be of use to your students – your teachers and your students – that, when you come out of theatre school, and I’m going to say to you, probably about a year of time, you’ll thank me later on, embrace the commercial.
Embrace the commercial work because you might have a passion for Shakespeare but you will make far more money doing a Shake & Bake. What it does is it affords you to work in the theatre. Commercials are something that just put shoe leather on your children’s feet. There are many great actors out there, you hear their voices. They’re not doing that for fame; they’re doing it for a bit of fortune and, like I say, it will afford you an opportunity to do theatre because, sometimes, theatre doesn’t pay. You and I have both done theatre that did not pay. It was our passion.
Lindsay: Pennies, pennies, pennies. I think that’s a great attitude because you and I both know a number of actors who can get quite bitter about doing commercials and that they think commercials are beneath them.
Marty: Yes. Yes, and I’ve encountered plenty of those over the time. I don’t think I quite was bitter about doing commercials. I was sort of excited by the prospect.
The funny thing about a commercial is it is probably the one thing that your family members will all see you do.
Marty: That theatre piece that you worked on for five years that is now going to Broadway, your Aunt Bessie in Iowa is not going to probably get a chance to see it, but she will see you do the…
Lindsay: The Shake & Bake commercial.
Marty: The Shake & Bake commercial, and she’ll call your mom, and your mom will be so proud.
Lindsay: And then, you will go, “Four years of theatre school, four years of theatre school!”
Marty: Exactly. Exactly! But it’s a vital thing and it’s part of an actor’s toolkit and it’s a vital part of it.
Lindsay: Well, let’s talk about that, about what goes into the toolkit when you are auditioning for a commercial. What’s the first thing that happens when you get that audition?
Marty: Well, the first thing that happens when I get the audition, well, how the audition works, let’s start back there.
Lindsay: Yeah, go to.
Marty: The client, whoever has the product – it could be let’s say General Motors – has a commercial, has a set type of characters in it. It might have a mother and a father, a son, a daughter, you know, just loading up to go camping, let’s say. Well, they’ll send a breakdown to the various agencies. “We’re looking for this type of person.”
Lindsay: Ah! So, when they send out a breakdown, that’s the breakdown of characters?
Marty: Mm-hmm. They send out a breakdown to your agency. “We would like a cuddly kind of funny, goofy dad.” That would be sort of where I kind of fit in. And maybe another type, for the mother, very prim, proper. They play a little bit more with the kids; they might be precocious or studious or something. They’ll send a breakdown in. The agent will send back their list of choices from the agency, “This is who I think,” you know, there’ll be four or five guys from every agency. And then, the casting director will choose from there, “Oh, yes, let’s see Marty and let’s see Bob,” and so on. So, they will select you then your agent calls you and says, “You have an audition, this time tomorrow,” and it’s usually the day after – you don’t have a lot of time to prepare for these things. Sometimes, you don’t even get a script. But they’ll send you at least a breakdown to let you know the gist of the commercial.
Lindsay: Like a summary or something?
Marty: Yeah, a summary, but oftentimes a script. So, I will spend time and I will actually learn it because a commercial can be approached much the same way you would approach a piece of theatre or a television audition or a film audition. You look at it as a mini-story, a thirty-second story with a beginning, middle, and an end, or a fifteen-second story sometimes with a beginning, middle, and an end. Sometimes, you’re not a part of the entire story but you are instrumental in one part of it. You know, those commercials that start off sort of slow and maybe a little bit sad and then they end off in a high note. “Life is not good when you don’t have this.” This gets introduced.
Lindsay: Yeah, I’ve always, from my very, very limited knowledge is that the whole idea of you go in and it’s like, “This product is going to change your life and make it better.”
Marty: Yeah, or, “Life is good but this makes it better.” Exactly, and that is what it is, and it will be around for as long as people are buying things. So, commercials on television, I don’t think get as much airplay now – well, they do – but with Netflix and with DVR, people skip them quite a bit, but you see them all over the internet and that’s a new thing as well – commercials that run on the internet and I’ve had a few of those as well. But let me put it in perspective too for students. If you get a national commercial, particularly in the US, you could make it your year.
Marty: Yeah, that’s enough income to probably support you for a year, if it’s a US national.
Lindsay: But that’s a very rare thing, right? Because it also gets broken down into regions about you get paid depending on how many regions your commercial is shown in.
Marty: That’s right. But, occasionally, you get that beautiful golden goose.
Lindsay: You get the golden ticket.
Marty: You’re Charlie and you have a golden ticket. It’s a lovely thing and I don’t mean to lean so much on the money aspect of it. I don’t know too many actors that set out to do commercials.
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s nobody’s dream to be a commercial actor.
Marty: Yeah, it becomes so important, you don’t realize, and they can be a lot of fun.
Marty: And you also meet like-minded people on the set. We’re all actors out there. I have yet to not have a good time shooting. I’ve never been under duress during a commercial.
Lindsay: Okay. Let’s go back. We’re still at the audition. You’ve rehearsed and now you’re walking in the door. What happens when you walk in and you see all the other people? Are they a variety of people? Do they all kind of look like you? What’s happening in the room?
Marty: Okay. I’ll take you through it.
Marty: The moment you get in, you sign in with your name, your union number if you’re SAG or AFTRA or even if you’re non-union, but you sign in, you mark down the role you’re being considered for, the time you are to audition. And then, they’ll usually have a second sheet that you have to fill out, a breakdown sheet, provides your agent’s
number, your contact number, your wardrobe sizes, hair color, weight, all of that, and one thing everybody has to know, this has to be up-to-date and they can’t be vain.
Marty: Oh, yeah, you have to be honest because, when you do get the job, the wardrobe has to fit you so there’s nothing more annoying to a wardrobe mistress or master than to walk in there and…
Lindsay: If the person’s twenty or fifteen pounds higher than they said.
Marty: Exactly, 36-inch waist when you’re actually a 38 and none of the pants they’ve brought fit you and they have a room full of producers that are waiting to see you in your wardrobe. We don’t have what you need. So, be honest. They like you. They’re looking at you. They like you. They want you for the job. Just be honest about this.
Anyway, once this sheet is filled out, you hand it to the casting assistant, you wait for them to call you, they take your picture, they attach it to this sheet of paper and it goes in with you when the casting agent brings you into the audition.
Now, what I’m going to tell you now is the most important thing you do for a commercial audition. Once you get there, you find a quiet place and go over the script aloud as many times as possible before you are called in. A lot of people walk into the room and, “Oh, hey! There’s Bob! There’s Brenda!” They want to chat. “Let’s catch up.” What you do is you see Bob and Brenda, you go, “Hey guys! Let’s catch up. Got time for a coffee after the audition?” Because you want to concentrate on your work – that’s what you’re there for. You can love your friends and you can spend time later catching up all you want – if you’re a commercial actor, you’ll have a lot of time during the day to do that because, if you’re successful at it, you won’t have to worry. But make socializing a second priority because, while you’re there, you have to do your job and, if you’re not doing your job, you’ll be wondering why no one ever wants to cast you.
The funny thing is I see actors my age socializing rather than going over their scripts and it kind of surprises me that they haven’t picked up this basic thing by now. So, there’s a very important thing for your students to know or for anyone listening to know. Just keep your eye on the script and go over it.
Where it’s particularly important is voice-over which I haven’t even gotten into, but I tend to do a bit of voice work as well being an announcer or a character in a commercial spot. Sometimes, I’ll go in, the guys are just chatting away, but I’ll get that script and you always get the script on the spot. You never get it ahead of time and you take that script, you look at it, you read it as quickly as you can for sense. What is the writer trying to say? How are we selling this? Sometimes, it’s a real mouthful. You’re trying to pronounce the product and the worst thing you can do is go in there and say the product name wrong. It doesn’t make a good impression. So, really, read it for
sense then, afterwards, fold in character because, with voice work, you really are your own director. No one’s in that at the other side of the booth is going to give you a lot of information. You’ll go in. They might give you a little bit of direction, but not too much. So, you really have to know your material because, when you go in that booth, the only way that you can even connect is with your voice and, if you don’t know the material, it will show.
Lindsay: I think that’s the same thing with voice work and with commercial work. You’ve got to know the stuff and you have to build your own character, right? You have to be the one to bring something to the table.
Marty: That’s right. If you don’t care about this product, how do you expect anyone to care about it?
Lindsay: All right. So, you’ve walked in the door. Who’s watching your audition?
Marty: Well, that’s an interesting thing because many times you’ll walk in and there’s just one man operating a camera.
Lindsay: So, you don’t ever even meet the director.
Marty: We’re talking the initial launch.
Marty: Yeah, you don’t meet the director. You go through the scenario. Okay, you’re driving your car, you’re dropping your child off at school, you say goodbye. That’s it. You might have a kid in there with you and they’ll have a little bit of repartee. You’ll improvise something. The child will leave and you drive off which usually means you’re sitting on a block holding your hands up like an idiot.
Lindsay: In the 10 and 2 position.
Marty: In the 10 and 2 position, or is it now 3 and 9? I can’t remember, they’ve changed it, yeah.
Lindsay: So, the guy behind the camera, all he’s doing is operating the camera. He doesn’t have anything really to do with the commercial.
Marty: Quite often, he’s the casting associate.
Lindsay: Oh, okay.
Marty: …that skill and then he’ll put something together. They’ll take that initial audition and, if they like you or they determine that what you did with it is in line with what they’re looking for, they will take that and then send that to the client and then they
will select people to come back for a recall. You get a recall. You show up. There may or may not be a group of people in the room. Sometimes, it’s just the director and a camera person and they’ll bring you through the scenario again – try it a few different ways. But, often – and this is something that people may not realize – often, even on a first audition, there is somebody watching you in another room. They might have three or four clients in there. They want to perhaps forego having to go through the whole recall process because what happens – at least in Canada, at the very least – for every time they bring you in for a recall, they have to pay each actor they bring in $50 which pretty much just covers your parking and your travel and your time off and whatnot. But sometimes they like to forego that.
So, at any given point, when you’re on camera, there could be a whole room of people watching at that very moment which brings up another interesting point. You should never make fun of the product.
Marty: Sometimes, you’re nervous and you’re making jokes and things. You never know who’s listening. You go into a room and that’s a good thing for just actors to know in general. I’ve never been one to cut up people or make fun of products or things. But I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen it bite people in the butt because they think they’re being clever. Really, it just means you have a big X beside your name because that young woman who was walking across as you’re slagging the product in the room is not another actor. She actually turns out to be one of the producers of the spot. She just happens to be there, and it happens quite often.
Lindsay: So, there’s two really big important things – a couple of really important things. Be with your script. Don’t socialize. When you’re in there, it’s really all about you and the camera. As opposed to you and being alive in the room, it’s you and the camera, isn’t it?
Marty: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, Lindsay. The story is told through the camera. That’s your medium. You have to be constantly aware of what you’re showing the camera – not the people on the other side of the table.
Lindsay: Was that hard to figure out, coming from a theatre background, about how to communicate through a camera?
Marty: I think it is, a little bit. It would be helpful if everybody sort of sat behind the camera so that you play to them because you want to. It’s our instinct and there’s nothing more gratifying for an any actor than to get a response and, usually, in a commercial room, they’ll be responding to you on the screen, not you in person. They’re not really looking at you. They’re looking at you on-screen and how you look on television which brings another interesting point.
I remember doing a commercial once for Campbell’s soup and the last two recalls, there was one
audition, a recall, and then they had two subsequent recalls. The last two were just to see how you looked when you ate. It’s insane! Yes, they wanted to make sure you don’t look like a slob when you’re eating their soup because that visual will put people off. You could be the greatest actor in the world, if you’ve got soup dribbling down your chin or you slurp or what-have-you, you won’t get that spot.
Lindsay: It’s all about the product.
Marty: It’s all about the product and – oh, gosh – I work in a studio, Technicolor Creative Services as my full-time job. See? I have another job; no shame in that, actors. It’s okay to have one of those. I see very prominent actors doing commercial work, voice work. Bryan Cranston when he was in town was doing spots for Burger King and I’m sure he’s not ashamed of that.
Lindsay: Yeah, I think that’s something, really, that young actors need to know. Just as you said, there’s no shame in this. It’s all about being a working actor. How do you be a working actor?
Marty: Absolutely. Colm Feore, a Canadian actor, I don’t know how many of your listeners know who he is but greatly respected actor. Right now, he’s performing King Lear at the Stratford Festival. I would see him come into my studio doing voice work and I think he did a voiceover for something like Goldbot and I was chatting with him.
I was just at the desk and making small talk and he asked me what I was doing which was a nice surprise, and I told him, you know, “Well, I just did a voiceover for this, Mr. Feore.” He said, “Oh, never be ashamed of doing a commercial.” He goes, “When I hear a commercial that I’ve done on the television, all I can think of is, “Well, you know, there’s a few more lessons for my kids. There’s a nice dinner out and a few bills paid,” and that’s really what it comes down to, and it can be a heck of a lot of fun.
Lindsay: Well, let’s get into that then. Okay. So, you have got a commercial. What happens next once you’ve got the call from your agent? What happens next?
Marty: Well, first, they’ll set you up for a wardrobe call so be honest with your sizes, people! They’ll call you in for one day – not a full day. Usually it’s about an hour or two, depending on what sort of costume they’re going to put you in and you will try on various bits of wardrobe and go and show it to someone. They’ll take a picture of you. They’ll decide on what you’re going to wear on the day. You will sign a little contract saying that you were there that day and they’ll send you off. You’ll get – usually the night before – a phone call saying, “This is where the commercial’s shooting.” Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they’ll offer to pick you up and drive you there. A lot of the times, you’ll be driving yourself there, but most of the times they like to pick you up just to make sure you’re there.
That’s another very important thing. The worst possible thing you can do, and it’s with
any medium – theatre, film, television – is to be late. But on a commercial or television or film shoot, you’re not just holding up your cast, you’re holding up potentially a couple of hundred people who are there waiting for you. If you want to keep working in the business, get there a half hour early. Always plan to get there a half hour early. That’s the best piece of advice I can give as far as that.
But, on the day of, you show up. You look for a lady or a gentleman with a headset on because, a lot of the times, it’s overwhelming if it’s your first commercial. “Where do I go? I see these trailers parked everywhere. I don’t know where to go.” Look for someone with a headset on. Introduce yourself. Always be friendly and just say hi. “Hi. I’m Marty. I’m a talent for this commercial. Could you please direct me where I am supposed to go?” and they’ll usually send you to wardrobe, try on your clothes. Sometimes, your clothes will be in a trailer waiting for you. Then, they’ll put you through to makeup, get you ready. Then, you go back to your trailer or wherever it is. Put your clothes on and you wait.
Lindsay: It’s a waiting game, isn’t it?
Marty: It’s a waiting game. You sit there. You try not to crease your clothing. Definitely do not eat or drink anything that could spill and damage your clothing. They might have a stunt wardrobe for you, but it’s highly doubtful. Bring something you can put over the top of your clothes to keep them clean – that’s just a little bit of practical advice. And so, you will wait. Try not to drink too much coffee. Coffee makes you sweat. It’s a weird thing but it really does. It melts your makeup so stick with water. Stay calm. Get ready to do your thing. And then, finally, they’ll call you to set and they’ll run through the spot with you and you’ll usually have a board off to a side that you can see that shows you what you’ll be doing shot by shot.
Lindsay: Like a storyboard?
Marty: Like a storyboard – very detailed because, you know, you’re looking at a thirty-second spot and sometimes there can be sixty little bubbles with cartoons drawn in them and you’re like, “What? How can there be so much?” But that’s what they’re shooting for so you’ll know pretty much what they’re doing.
A lot of the times, if you’re doing what they want you to do, there’s not going to be a lot of chat. You’re not going to have a relationship with your director. It’s not like in the movies. If you’re doing your job right, it’ll be like, “Hi. This is Marty.” “Hi.” You’ll do your job. At the end of the day, they’ll give you some applause and you go off and head home and have a good night’s sleep.
Lindsay: How long do commercials usually take?
Marty: It depends on where you’re at in the commercial. Some of them, if you’re featured, like I did one years ago which was a Bingo commercial and I was in a car. You guys, I don’t know if you guys remember this but I was in a car with my wife, Kimwun, some friend of mine who was my wife in the spot, and we’re playing scratch tickets while we’re going through the Bingo and I hit the power window on my car as we’re going through because I’d just won and the window goes down and then the spray comes into the car and literally fills up the car with water while we’re trying to stop the spray from coming in and then we get to the other side of it and we open the door and the water comes out at our feet.
Lindsay: I remember that.
Marty: That was probably about a ten-hour day because there were so many different setups. We had to literally fill up a car with water. Open the door and step out of it. We had to the going through the carwash so many times. It was very detailed work and it was the most fun because I kept getting sprayed with this water before Kim did and she kept wondering how cold the water was going to be and I kept telling her it was freezing and I kept her going on at this for about two hours until she finally got hit with the water and it was really nice and toasty warm and she started hitting me because she was anticipating this terrible icy cold water when, in fact, it was rather pleasant. And they had to have, I think for each of us, eight changes of wardrobe.
Lindsay: I was going to say, like, how many clothes did you have to go through?
Marty: We went through, well, eight changes and there was constantly something in the dryer.
Lindsay: Oh, man.
Marty: And you have to, like in the theatre, there’s not a lot of modesty. You’re basically getting changed in the parking lot. “Put this on.” “Okay.” You know? There’s no room at a carwash for you to go and change in, unfortunately.
Lindsay: Have you eating done an eating commercial?
Marty: Yeah, I did the Campbell’s.
Lindsay: Yes, of course, you did.
Marty: Campbell’s chunky soup.
Lindsay: Okay. So, do you eat the product when you’re doing a food commercial?
Marty: Oh, that’s funny! I’ve never had to go through the chocolate. Apparently, chocolate is a terrible thing to have to go through.
Lindsay: Oh, you mean, like, to eat a piece of chocolate?
Marty: Yeah. I don’t know if I should be mentioning product name. You know Mark right?
Marty: Mark had to do the M&M’s spot and it was running in some of the theatres, I think, until quite recently where he’s sitting there with the two little M&M characters and he’s having M&M’s in his popcorn and they’re at a horror movie and, of course, the little M&M guy’s reacting in horror to him eating a handful of popcorn mixed with M&M’s like he’s some sort of crazy cannibal. So, he had to go through that and he had to eat those over and over again. What they’ll usually do – forgive me, and you probably can guess – they usually keep a bucket beside you so can just put it in your mouth, chew it, spit it out, because otherwise, you will definitely get sick after eating handfuls of M&M’s. Like, it’s more than you would eat at normal movie – even more than I would eat a normal movie.
Lindsay: I can imagine a ten-hour day where all you’re doing is eating, eating, eating. It’s like, at some point, you’re going to be like, “Yup. I’m going to just spit this out right now.”
Marty: That’s right, and sometimes you’re just waiting for them to make the product look beautiful. Like the soup. I remember there was a lady with a brush who would sort of just brush little bits of pepper around and make sure that the nice noodles were at the top. They can’t change the product.
A long time ago, there was this terrible thing that happened I think with a breakfast cereal where they would put ball bearings in the bottom of the bowl so that, when the cereal was in there and they added milk, it didn’t sink as cereal does. Because of that, there were laws built into advertising that stated you could not have anything except the real product as it would be. So, they find that real product and they make it as pretty as possible. But, sometimes, you’re sitting off to the side, waiting for them to, you know. The product is more important than you are and you always have to know that. That’s your job.
Lindsay: Do you remember your first commercial?
Marty: I do remember my first commercial. It was for – I’m going to say the name – DuPont Chemical and I got it because I fit a costume.
Marty: The actor who was supposed to do this commercial – remember Dean? Dean and Tory. Well, Dean, who was a Toronto boy, was here and he was working at Seiflow’s. I knew him as an actor. We both started out at the same time. He was the first choice for this commercial. But, unfortunately, Dean, at that point, was
having some terrible migraine headaches and one just happened upon him the day of the shoot so I got a panicked call at 7:00 a.m. saying, “Can you be ready in an hour?” and I’m like, “Yes, I can,” and by dint of good fortune and the fact that I was a little bit more fit at that time, I fit his costume so I got to do his spot.
So, my very first spot was because I fit somebody else’s costume.
Lindsay: And because it came at the last minute, there was no time to be nervous, was there? Or even think about it. You just had to show up and do it.
Marty: Yeah, I showed up and did it. It was great. I got to waltz with a very pretty girl on a porch and drive around in a vintage pick-up truck. We were at the Anne of Green Gables house. It was used in all the films. So, that’s the one we got to shoot that commercial in.
Lindsay: Wow. What a great way to start.
Marty: It was a terrific way to start. Absolutely! Funny enough, the last commercial I did which was a couple of weeks ago was for DuPont and I haven’t done anything in interceding years for them – sort of bookend. I hope that doesn’t mean my commercial career is ending.
Lindsay: No, no, don’t say that. Don’t say bookend.
Marty: Oh, god forbid, I’m knocking on wood. Sorry. Sorry, listeners! I’m drumming, but yeah, that’s how that started.
Lindsay: So, as we wrap up here, what would you say are the most important keys to commercial auditioning? What are some things that you’ve learned over the years that have stood you in good stead?
Marty: Well, I think it holds true with anyone. The casting agent is your friend. The casting agent wants you to be amazing and win the role. The casting agent is not your adversary. I think a lot of people go in and feel a sense of judgment and, yeah, they are sort of looking at you to determine if you’re right for something. But the fact that you’ve gotten an audition means there’s faith shown in you. They think that you can do it. They want you to. How easy would their job be if you came in and just blew everyone away and got the role? It makes them look really good. So, when you’re preparing, you’re not only doing it for yourself. You’re doing it for them and they will thank you for it.
If you go in and deliver every time – hey, it’s not, like I say, it’s not Shakespeare, it’s not Albee; you’re not going in there to really move someone in that way. But, if you prepare and you take it seriously and show that you care about your work, then you ultimately show that you care about their work and they will remember you for that, and this casting agent might not just be doing commercials eventually. This casting agent might not, you know, this director who’s directing in a commercial will eventually be doing films. So, you always have to keep that in mind. They’re growing as you grow.
And the other important thing is to always be kind to everyone you’re with. It’s just a good way to live your life. But, secondly, these people are people you’re going to know twenty years down the road. I’m now in rooms with guys that are my age. We come in, we’re always happy to see each other. We always shake hands and, at this stage, it’s, “Well, whoever gets it, best of luck to one of us,” because we know, we’ve been in it that long, it’s going to happen for one of us and we’re just happy to be there and still be considered.
Lindsay: What better attitude to have than to walk in and be competitive or to walk in and be, “Well, I’m the best looking so, obviously, I’m going to get it.” Attitude really is a big part of acting and acting in anything, isn’t it?
Marty: Yes. Well, you’d know about great attitude. You and Craig have always had a great attitude in all the years I’ve known you. As an actor, it cuts out so much static that you don’t need to deal with. If you just are happy to be somewhere, it helps, you know, to know that these are your friends, not your adversaries. You will go into an audition, some of you, and you will eventually be able to see the person who’s trying to throw you off your game. They exist. I hate to say it, but they exist. They’re in your face. They’re chatting with you all the time. They’re making things uncomfortable and it just happens. It doesn’t really help them but it certainly doesn’t help anyone else. So, there are troublemakers out there, but they don’t tend to last very long.
Lindsay: Right. Absolutely.
Marty: The guys I’m with now, you know, like I say, we’re veterans.
Lindsay: You’re kind veterans.
Marty: We’re kind veterans, exactly.
Lindsay: Oh, Marty, this has been a lovely chat. Thank you so much for taking the time out and just sharing this particular path in your acting life. It’s been great.
Marty: Well, thank you so much for letting me share, Lindsay. I really appreciate you asking me to talk about my experience and I really truly hope that it helps someone out there and, if there’s anything else to elaborate on, you can put them in touch with me. I’d be more than happy.
Thank you so much, Marty.
Marty and I haven’t seen each other in a few years but it really felt like no time had passed at all. He is an absolute doll and I really, really, really, really thank him for sitting down and talking to me.
So, this series would make a great reflection topic for your students. What were their preconceived notions of commercial auditions and how have they changed? You could also create a listening quiz for them or you could keep listening to find out how to get a listening quiz or you could keep listening to find out how to get a listening quiz already done up for this podcast series.
On that note, before we go, let’s do some THEATREFOLK NEWS.
First off, I want to mention the other actors and topics for the Working Actors podcast series. So, Steve Ross is next and he has just spent the past eleven years at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival; Heather MacGuigan has toured North America with Mary Poppins; and our very own Craig Mason, he spent fifteen years as a working actor and he’s going to share his children’s theatre experience.
Just a moment ago, I mentioned a listening quiz. If you are signed up for our Theatrefolk email list, this week, you got a listening quiz, an answer key, and a written reflection for this week’s podcast. I’m going to include one of these for each podcast in our series. What if you are not signed up for our email list? Sign up now! Go to the show notes for this episode at theatrefolk.com/episode113.
Finally, where, oh, where can you find this podcast? Where can you direct students to find this podcast? We post new episodes every Tuesday now at theatrefolk.com and on our Facebook page and Twitter. You can find us on YouTube.com/Theatrefolk and you can find us on the Stitcher app. You can also subscribe to TFP on iTunes. All you have to do is search for the word “Theatrefolk.”
And that’s where we’re going to end. Take care, my friends. Take care.
Music credit:”Ave” by Alex (feat. Morusque) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.