I've had some good luck lately, landing a role in the new Garry Marshall film, "Valentine's Day." In the movie I have a few great scenes with Jessica Biel. So you'd think a credit like that would get me a decent agent, wouldn't you?
Instead, in quick succession, five agents in five weeks have passed on representing me. They all used essentially the same reason—in fact, nearly the same words: "We have too many blondes with far more credits who are just like you."
The meetings typically went like this:
1) I meet the agent in his/her huge office, which inevitably has a chrome desk and floor-to-ceiling windows.
2) My reading goes brilliantly, since I'd prepared vigorously the night before.
3) After that, we chat for up to an hour, laughing hysterically, as though we are lifelong friends.
4) I leave his/her office, absolutely convinced they have seen my 'star quality,' will sign me, and in a few short weeks I'll be jetting to Manhattan, London, or Madrid to appear in the next Woody Allen film, handily replacing Scarlett Johansson as his muse du jour.
5) Two days later, my manager calls. They passed. He says chipperly, "Onto the next agent!"
By now I'm wholly dispirited, and contemplating (a) a dye job to flaming red hair, (b) a career change, or (c) a request for a spiritual intervention by the Dalai Lama.
My manager calls.
"I have a meeting for you. Eddie [Bigname]. Careful. He's like Ari Gold from 'Entourage.' He's a man-eating shark, but a damn good agent. I feel goooood about this one." (My manager says that every time.)
I agree and he sets up the appointment, but I'm very pessimistic. I don't know if I can hear another 'no' this month—especially from someone with such a high-powered reputation.
They say you need a thick skin in this business, but I need to be honest. After this month my skin has definitely thinned.
On the day before I receive the sides we'll be using. Usually I pride myself on being super-prepared for everything. My friends kid me because I'm always forty-five minutes early for appointments, with all my work checked and re-checked.
Not this time.
That night I quickly skim through the pages, then remember I have to call a friend back. Afterward I make tea, and notice "The Darjeeling Limited" is playing on HBO. I re-watch it while making dinner. Later I check my email, pay my bills, and... before you know it, I'm asleep, dreaming of my next trip to India.
The next day a sudden torrential rainstorm hits Los Angeles right after I leave my apartment. I'd overslept a bit, I was running late, and now traffic is a nightmare.
As I pull into a parking lot near the agent's office, people are running down Wilshire Boulevard with coats over their heads. It's already ten minutes past the appointment time. Of course I have no umbrella with me, and the rain soaks my hair and wrinkles my blouse. Worse, a pen had exploded in my purse, which stains my hand when I reached in to put away my car keys.
On the elevator, I look through the script pages. I get off on the eighth floor, and run to the receptionist, who directs me to his office. I sit and try to gather myself, and clean the sticky ink off my hand. His assistant fetches me.
True to form, Eddie's office has floor-to-ceiling windows, but the room is smaller and more unassuming than most. The man behind the desk matches his office, both in stature and appearance. He's short and swarthy-looking with pink, soft cheeks and spiky black hair.
He's not the usual flashy agent cliché I've come to expect; he reminds me more of a junior high basketball coach than a high-powered agent. I'm thinking, is my manager confused? This guy's a shark? I don't think so. He looks more like a fish—maybe one that glows in the dark—but definitely not a shark.
He extends his right hand, but I give him my left—the un-inked one. I show him the stain.
"Sorry—pen exploded," I say, smiling awkwardly. He doesn't.
"You're late. Where you from?"
I apologize and blame the rain, knowing how silly that sounds as I take a seat.
He sits comfortably in his chair directly across from me, crosses one leg over the other as if to show off his white gym shoes. Without much small talk, he asks me to stand and we begin to go through the scene.
I read the pages, but deep down all I keep thinking about is my last agency meeting. And the one before. And the one before that... Pretty soon I'm lost when I should be at my most focused.
After a few pages he interrupts me. "This is ridiculous," he blurts out. "Is this a joke? Are you fucking kidding me?" I feel like I'm back in grammar school being reprimanded in front of the class for not doing my homework.
"Sit down. Just stop." He stares at me as he gathers his thoughts. "So, you're one in a million blondes in this town, yet you walk in my office, do that, and think I'm going to sign you." He laughs. "What kind of acting was that?"
"Are you an acting coach?" I retort, knowing I should say nothing.
"No. I'm an agent. And I'm the guy who'd fight like hell for you. But I don't represent lazy actors."
I'm horrified, and furious. It's like a nightmare. This man is speaking to me, but it feels like he's talking about someone else.
I know myself. I'm not lazy. I'm always early and I'm always prepared. Many times I've cancelled plans before an audition, gone home and worked until I've memorized every word and written a ten-page biography about the character. How dare he say that?
I'm about to blast him, but something stops me. My mouth opens, but I say nothing. I'm never shy about defending myself, but this time I just can't. Instead, I'm suddenly embarrassed. Actually, mortified. I realize he's right. I was not prepared.
"Alexis, when I looked at your resume and your clips, I was impressed. And I don't get impressed very often—especially by the women who walk in here. Then you start acting. And all I see is someone who couldn't give a crap she's here."
Eddie leans forward, intently. "You stand there and embarrass yourself because you either can't act, or you haven't looked at the sides I gave you. How do I know you can act?"
"Why don't you call Garry Marshall and ask him?" I blurt out, my ego wounded.
He says nothing. He just stares at me, and twirls his pen among his fingers.
I look away. I realize I made a mistake. I let my emotions and fear of being rejected sabotage this meeting.
He doesn't know me, I realize. How can he? But I'm determined not to let this opportunity be a total failure.
"Look, I'm a dedicated, serious, talented actress. I didn't show you that today. Let me come back tomorrow and I'll show you what I can do."
Eddie takes a breath, assesses me, looking at me like I'm an alien. He nods in agreement.
"Don't waste my time tomorrow," he says as I leave his office.
The next day I arrive fifteen minutes early, and I'm fully prepared. I worked on the pages all night and had a session with my acting coach that morning.
Afterward, Eddie was complimentary. He even said the one thing I've wanted all those other agents to say: "You have star quality."
I get home that night, and I'm glowing. I went to the edge, and had nearly blown a great chance. But I redeemed myself. And I learned my lesson. I had a human moment, but I was able to make up for it. Maybe there is justice in this world. Maybe I can land the agent who will take my career to the next level.
The next day my manager calls me, and says, "They loved you!"
Alexis Peters is hosting "The Lingerie Fashion Show" on November 21, 2009 at Club Cinespace in Hollywood (6356 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA). Doors open at 10 p.m.; the show starts at 12 midnight. Admission is $20. There will be a raffle and lingerie available for sale.
This fundraiser supports Global Orphanages, Inc., which was created in order to open orphanages in third-world countries. All of the event's proceeds will go toward opening the "Alice in Wonderland" orphanage in India. For more information, please visit volunteeringlove.org.
Recently, Alexis Peters filmed a role for the upcoming Garry Marshall film "Valentine's Day." On the ScyFy Network, she was Ingrid in the original film "Grendel," and Sif in "Thor: Hammer of the Gods," which debuted in spring 2009. Other TV work: "Days of Our Lives," and the FOX pilot "Faceless." Stage roles include "Summer and Smoke" and the 2004 ADA award-winning "Moonchildren." Alexis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.