Arrivederci, A******

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Dear Michael:
I recently interviewed with a new agent. While the office impressed me, there were some red flags.

First, I felt he was too touchy-feely. He has a thick Italian accent and told me he is from Italy, so when he kissed me hello, it seemed warm and welcoming. But when I got up to leave, he touched the side of my body and said, "Ooh, nice body" and kissed me again and mentioned something about "getting coffee together" at a later date. Since his English is broken and I could tell he didn't understand some of the things I was saying, I chalked it up to a cultural thing and thought that for our next interview, I would have prepared questions. During this interview he was pressed for time, so I listened more than I talked and didn't have the opportunity to ask specific questions. It all happened so quickly; I was trying to process it.

Also, he promised the world and talked a good game, but of course I took it with a grain of salt. He started telling me how he's friends with a certain celebrity. Since my husband recently worked with this celebrity Off-Broadway, I mentioned this to the agent, and he immediately lit up and started asking me questions. I could tell he didn't even recognize the name of the Off-Broadway play, but due to the time constraints, I didn't ask him about it to see whether my instincts were correct.

I tried digging up as much info on him as possible. On the Back Stage message boards, there were mixed feelings. Some said he talks a big game but doesn't deliver, while one girl said she booked two major speaking roles on TV through him, plus was sent out on other legit auditions for principal roles. One nonunion actor said the agent demanded 20 percent from her for a job! Another guy posted that he worked with a known actor who is also represented by this agent and who said he has not gotten any auditions from him. Of course, I want to see how everything pans out for me. Even with the red flags, I was willing to audition and possibly work with him.

The agent asked me to audition for a producer at a different office at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday. I also thought this odd, but I agreed. Due to his broken English, I thought he said any Wednesday at 6 p.m. I said I would go the Wednesday after my interview. As the gods would have it, my husband didn't get home until 5:45. We have two kids, so I couldn't just take off. Not having the producer's number (I also tried digging up information on him but found nothing), I called my new agent and said I was running late. He told me I had to be there at 6 p.m. I apologized and explained the mix-up. He told me he sends "no more than seven people at a time" to this producer. I asked if I could reschedule for the following Wednesday. He told me the producer was booked next Wednesday, but possibly Friday at his office or a later date and that he would email me.

I called him the next day and left a brief message. I didn't hear back from him. I emailed him saying I'd be available. It's only been three business days and I haven't heard back, but I think I screwed myself. Your opinion? How do you think I should proceed from here?

via the Internet

Dear Trying:
Wow. To say that this man's conduct is unorthodox is an understatement. If it were not for the few positive responses on the message board, I'd dismiss him as a complete charlatan. But let's look at what we know.

During your first meeting, he touched you inappropriately and commented lewdly about your body. In Italy this may be the equivalent of an innocent handshake, but not so here. And he's been in the country long enough to know that. So, Italian or not, that behavior is off-the-charts unacceptable. And it's unacceptable in a way that doesn't call for a second chance.

He wants you to meet some guy after business hours. And the guy—about whom you know nothing—can only see you at a specific time. Please listen: You should not go to this meeting, whatever it's for, under any circumstances, unless your husband is with you. What is this man casting exactly? Did the agent say? And have you ever heard of an audition that took place only at 6 p.m. sharp? And note that when you needed to reschedule, your agent knew the producer's schedule off the top of his head, without having to call him and check. Something is shady here. I know of no legitimate casting session that fits this description. Drug drops fit this description. Plans for sinister capers in gangster films fit this description, but not casting sessions. You need more info, and even then, don't go alone, just in case. If I were you, I wouldn't go at all.

You're now worried that you've botched things with this agent, whose behavior has been questionable at best (and you've only just started working together).

Rather than trying to fix things, maybe you should pay attention to your suspicions. You could track down more clients and ask them what the deal is. You could speak with casting people who've dealt with the agency, or call the Screen Actors Guild and see if it has any more info. But here's my question, regardless: Is this really someone you want to work with? Why would you enter a business relationship with someone who sets off your warning bells? Don't you deserve an agent to whom you can relate with ease and comfort?

Remember, your relationship isn't the only issue. He would also be representing you. That means, first of all, making appointments and negotiating on your behalf in an accent that, according to your email, seems to cause misunderstandings. What's more, he could be just as inappropriate and unprofessional with casting people and producers, and that would reflect on you. I'd be very concerned. My advice: Move on rather than give him the benefit of the doubt. Don't be like the woman who waits by the phone hoping her abusive lover will call. Dump him.

I'm always an advocate for actors cultivating a sense of dignity and not allowing anything to compromise that dignity. We're in a business that can sometimes challenge that, but we need to hold fast and never get so desperate that we ignore our knowledge of what's appropriate.

Any questions or comments for The Working Actor? Please email Jackie and Michael at [email protected].