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Secret Agent Man

A Peek Into the Mind of Secret Agent Man

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A Peek Into the Mind of Secret Agent Man
Photo Source: Jonathan Bartlett

One of the most frustrating things about writing this column is that I often come up with interesting angles that can’t be fleshed out into 650 words. When that happens, I slip the ideas into a folder called “The Trash Can,” and the lonely kernels sit there forgotten, just like my dreams of being a race car driver.

This week I decided to look inside that folder and see if there was anything worth saving. Most of it was junk, the drunken rants of a lunatic mind, but there were a few nuggets worth mining. So I now present you with the official contents of the Secret Agent Man trash can, random thoughts from a man who hides behind a mask.

• The Breakdowns are electronic listings of projects that are currently casting. Each one has detailed character descriptions, and agents use these breakdowns to submit their clients. It’s a basic but essential tool that’s been around since 1971.

I’ve been reading these things for a long time, and I’m still surprised by how some of the descriptions are worded. Just take a look at this one:
“Chuck (40–50) has been working in the post office his entire life. He is a grotesque, obese man who has never experienced the touch of a woman. Please submit your best character types.”

As an agent, I have to read descriptions like that to my clients. How would you like to know you’re perfect for this part? I may not be Hemingway but I’ve been writing this column for a long time, and I would argue there’s a more sensitive way to describe that character.

Now look at this breakdown for a role on a hit network show:
“Lisa is an attractive, sweet civil engineer who is a Peace Corps volunteer. She is very conservative. Must look good in a bikini.”
The contradictions of the casting world never fail to amaze me…

• In 1948, a British stage actor named Diana Wynyard decided to play the sleepwalking scene in “Macbeth” with her eyes closed and ended up sleepwalking right off the stage, falling 15 feet. In the best show-must-go-on tradition, she brushed herself off and continued the performance.

I would be a wealthy man if all my clients were that dedicated.

• In Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and drowned trying to embrace it. I bet he was an actor.

• A friend of mine recently signed up for an online dating service. Curious, I sat down next to him as he explored the site. As I stared at the bizarre collection of pictures, a thought popped into my mind. If you want to learn the difference between a good and a bad headshot, just sign up for eHarmony and explore the pictures that some people think make them look attractive.  

• Back in a time known as the ’70s, a band called Kansas had a hit song titled “Carry On Wayward Son.” It’s always been one of my favorites because the lyrics could easily describe my life as an agent: “Masquerading as a man with a reason/My charade is the event of the season/ And if I claim to be a wise man, well/It surely means that I don’t know.”

Agents like to pretend they have all the answers, but nothing could be further from the truth. We’re just doing the best we can. So listen to your agent, but always make your own decisions. Remember, it’s your career, not mine.

• Oscar Wilde has a great quote that sums up the spirit of this column: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” 

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