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ACTORS' DIALOGUE: Dana Daurey & Frank Grillo

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Reporting and photo by Jamie Painter

Dana Daurey currently stars as Heather Tupperman on the NBC drama Providence. Originally hired for a single episode, Daurey turned her guest-starring role into a recurring role, which eventually led to her becoming a regular cast member. A former Junior Olympics gymnastics champion and a teen dance finalist on Star Search, Daurey found her true calling, acting, while attending the Van Nuys High School of Performing Arts. Immediately following graduation, she signed with a theatrical agent and on her second audition booked a three-year stint on the sitcom Unhappily Ever After.

Frank Grillo can be seen as detective Anthony Stigliano on the new NBC sitcom Battery Park, opposite Elizabeth Perkins. Raised in New York City, Grillo attended New York University, where he earned a degree in finance while studying acting on the side. Just out of school, Grillo sustained himself by working in numerous national commercials. He later starred as Hart Jessup on the daytime drama Guiding Light, which was his first steady acting job. After three years on the show, Grillo left to work on the ill-fated Kevin Williamson series Wasteland (which was pulled after two episodes). His feature film credits include Mambo Kings and Deadly Charades.

Frank Grillo: I think a lot of [getting the job] has to do with perseverance and confidence. When you walk into that room, you cannot be insecure with yourself. You cannot be unsure about what you have to offer. That shows when you walk in the room. It's obvious.

Dana Daurey: When I auditioned for Providence, what was written on the page-the character breakdown-was very helpful. But there's so much more that you have to do than is in the character breakdown, because you can change their minds like that. (Snapping her fingers.) I read for a guest-starring role and now I'm in all the episodes. That's different from what it initially said in the character breakdown. When I was working on the show, I was doing everything in my power to win the hearts of the producers and the fans, and I did. I worked my butt off trying to accomplish that.

Frank: I think the same people write the character breakdowns for every role. They all seem the same. They're very safe. I have a lot of friends who are talented but afraid. They don't take any risks when they audition. It's not that they give a bad audition, but they give the same audition as the man or woman before them, because they play it safe. You have to take that chance. You read the breakdown, but then you need to go a step further and play. That's when they open their eyes and go, "Oh, somebody with imagination!"

At the same time, there have been actors who have done a great job in the audition and can't keep the job once they get it-this happened just a month ago. This guy got the job [on Battery Park] and we do the table reading on Monday morning and we're all looking at this guy, and our executive producer, Gary David Goldberg [Spin City, Family Ties], is looking at the guy, because he hired him, and there was just something missing.

After the table reading, this actor went to rehearse, and in the afternoon he comes down with his duffel bag and I said, "Where are you going?" He said, "Um, they're replacing me." This guy evidently knew how to audition, but once he got there, he didn't know what to do. That's 20 times worse than not getting the job.

From the Front Lines

Dana: I went in for the first call for Providence in the morning and I got called back that afternoon. The people who were there were all very recognizable. I saw this one girl, in particular, who I think is so talented and brilliant. I had just seen her the night before on something and I thought, You know? I'm just going to go tell her that I think she's great, because I'm up against her, which means that I'm doing something right. I thought, This won't be my time, but it will be the next time. So I told her how great she was, and I think she was really shocked, and all these girls were looking at me like, Why are you telling this person that? And I just thought, if the tables were turned, and she felt that way about me, I would want her to say something to me.

So I go into the room and I start my audition and I don't think I'm doing a very good job. In the middle of the audition, I see one of the producers hit the other producer and point down at my feet like I'm short. I'm 5'1/2" and I always wear platforms. So I'm seeing this in my peripheral vision and I'm thinking, They don't like me. I should just stop right now, but I don't. So I do the second scene and I didn't do what I wanted to do.

I get up and I'm leaving, and they're like, "Thank you, and don't trip." And I replied, "Yeah, I saw you staring at my shoes in the middle of my read-thank you very much," and they all started laughing. I leave and I'm like, Goddamn it! I really liked this part! I was so mad-and I got it. I have no idea how I got it.

Frank: Because it has nothing to do with anything you think it has to do with.

I think the worst thing that ever happened to me, audition-wise, was when I first got here, less than a year ago, and I auditioned for a decent-sized film with this big casting director. I get home that night and the casting director called my house. She had spoken to my agent and got my number. She said she loved what I did. She said the producers were coming in the next morning and she wanted me to come in so she could talk to me and tell me what I could do differently and do better. She thought I had a good shot at this. I hung up the phone and worked on the material. She called again that night and said, "I just want you to know, I've been thinking, and this is your role. You are my guy," and I think, Wow. I'm close! She calls me again the next morning and says, "I just had a couple of other thoughts. They're going to love you. Blah, blah, blah."

Dana: I've never heard of such a thing.

Frank: It was crazy. I called my agent and he said, "They love you. She has his ear," meaning the producer, "and we think this is it. You're not going in against anybody else. It's just you they want to see." Now, being an actor, you have to realize that most of it's bullshit. It's never as good as you think it is and it's never as bad as you think it is. You've got to live somewhere in the middle.

So I go and meet the producers. We talk for half an hour. I do my thing. I had such a confidence about myself, because I had such a good response, you know? I banged it out. I walked out of there and thought, Holy shit! I'm a movie star! Move over, here I come! I get the call and the casting director says, "You were amazing! You were fantastic for the role. We'll talk to you in a while." I don't hear anything for about four hours, and now I'm starting to go crazy. Then I get the phone call saying, "Uh, they decided to put an offer out to an "A' name."

So the moral of the story is: not until you're on the set, script in your hands, not even until the movie's wrapped, is the job yours. And I think that's the worst thing, really, because they bring you up to the penthouse floor and they want to show you the pool, then as you're looking, they push you off the building. So you have to be able to balance your emotions and not get too excited and not get too down. Live somewhere in the middle. And that's what I think a lot of actors don't do. They take it so personally.

Job Appreciation

Frank: The most gratifying thing is being able to do this and make a living at it. How many people are able to say, "I'm living my dream"? I'm absolutely living my dream. I'm very rarely sad. Sometimes I'm nervous. I'm anxious. I want to do better work. But I'm never sad. A lot of my friends who are in the business but not working are sad a lot, because they're not where they want to be in their life. To me, this whole thing is a banquet and every day I go to work, I get to pick something else off the table. It's absolutely amazing.

Dana: That's a good analogy.

Frank: I try never to complain and if I do complain, I try to catch myself, because we have no reason to complain. It's a gift. I'm friends with Mickey Rourke, and I think that this guy was touched by God. Mickey was brilliant when he was younger. He was so there, available, and raw. But he got sidetracked by other things in his life. He spit in the face of what it is that he was doing. He kind of kicked dirt on it, and now he's an unhappy person because he can't do it anymore-because nobody wants to see him do it anymore. And now he's saying to himself 15 years later, Why didn't I appreciate all that? Why did I take it all for granted? BSW

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