An Actor's Career-Destroying Screw-Up

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A Broadway production. An audition. An agent. An arrogant actor. Danger Will Robinson...

We all make mistakes. I've made plenty (even here openly on this intermesh thing). After three decades of working with and for actors, I'm still surprised by the career-destroying screw-ups that some actors will willingly and without-thought-to-consequences do with what little gray matter may pulse within their cranium.

Recently as I was sitting at a talent agency I witnessed a first-rate blunder by an actor that jeopardized his relationship with a Broadway casting office, director, producer and agent all in one simultaneous, mind-blowing shoot-themselves-in-the-career crash. It also made me never want to work with the actor as well.

For this exercise of discovery detailing what you or any performer should not do we'll tag the miscued thespian as Actor-Withholding-on-Logic—aka AWOL.

AWOL dumped his agent—via a weekend email missive—because he felt that his life was 'boring' and he needed a change. (No, that's not the main mistake for my mussing here, although being bored and leaving your agent because the Prozac dosage is no longer controlling the mood swings could be considered a career careening crash.)

As I was chatting in the talent agent's office, a call came from another casting director's office, at which I once worked. The casting director—along with a well-known director, choreographer and several producers—were sitting curious at a casting session for an upcoming Broadway production. They were left waiting for an actor who had not shown up to his scheduled appointment for a leading role within the production.

The MIA actor? AWOL.

AWOL's former agent got off the phone with the now-irritated casting director and called AWOL to ask why he had not shown up to the appointment he agreed to attend. He had gotten the audition appointment via his agent well before trashing said talent rep. AWOL informed his former champion that he felt he no longer had to attend the audition because he had just left the agency. Excuse me?!?

So here was an unemployed actor who had just dumped his agent while also dumping on a casting office and a production team for Broadway. Can someone explain to me—especially in this economic climate—why such arrogance and obvious ignorance exists? Wait, I may have answered my question: arrogance and ignorance are close cousins.

What's the moral here? No matter what your relationship with your representation, an actor must keep their commitments to confirmed audition appointments. Also keep commitments to commissions on projects for which your representation helped get you seen and negotiated the contracts. One of the few pardonable excuses on passing on a confirmed audition is passing—literally, as in six-feet-under or oven-ash time. (Even then you'll need a doctor's written note.)

Be considerate of others. Don't become known as problematic. The number of people working in this industry is very small. We talk. We share stories. Don't become a story that you would not want to be a part of.

Paul Russell's career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit