Why Honesty Is Key When Meeting a Potential Agent

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

I would make a great detective. TV shows like “Law & Order” and “Elementary” have always fascinated me. There’s something very appealing about determined investigators trying to uncover the truth.

My favorite scene is the one where the hero peppers the suspect with questions designed to reveal his or her guilt; those are always the best because they climax in a “Gotcha!” moment where justice is served.

When I’m interviewing (grilling) an actor (suspect) in my conference (interrogation) room, I like to imagine I’m a detective who’s trying to find the facts behind the lies. Yes, I have a rich fantasy life.

But listen, I’m not that far off-base. Actors are rarely honest during agency meetings, and over the years I’ve gotten quite good at reading body language and understanding the meaning behind vague answers.

Here’s a transcript from one recent meeting:

Me: So did you leave your last agent or did he drop you?
Actor: I left him.
Me: And why is that?
Actor: It just wasn’t working out.
Me: How do you mean?
Actor: [Crossing his arms] He used to get upset for no reason.
Me: For no reason?
Actor: That’s right.
Me: [Leaning forward] I understand. Sometimes, I blow my top for no real reason. A client will make one tiny little mistake and I’ll freak out.
Actor: Exactly.
Me: So what tiny little mistake did you make?
Actor: I forgot to book out.
Me: That’s it?
Actor: Yes! And he screamed at me like a lunatic.
Me: Well, that doesn’t sound very nice.
Actor: Let me tell you something. My last agent was a total jerk. I mean, I only missed one lousy audition. What’s the big deal?
Me: Hey, it happens. And it’s not like he couldn’t reschedule, right?
Actor: Well, actually, no, he couldn’t. It was the last session they were having before testing.
Me: Oh, the audition was for a pilot?
Actor: That’s right.
Me: And the role was a series regular?
Actor: Yes.
Me: So, wait a minute. Did you leave your last agent because he yelled at you or did he drop you for missing an important audition?
Actor: Well…
Me: Dude, I don’t really care either way. I’m just curious.
Actor: [Shifts his weight]
Me: Seriously, it’s no big deal. You can tell me the truth.
Actor: All right, he dropped me.

At that point, I slammed my hand down on the table, signaling my partner to burst in and place the actor under arrest.

Wait, that’s not true. I actually ended the meeting in a pleasant manner and we both parted with smiles on our faces. But I definitely didn’t sign the guy. Nobody wants to work with a liar who blames others for his own mistakes.

When you’re meeting an agent, the best plan is to be honest. I need to know all the facts so I can address them down the road if we end up working together. I’ve had actors lie about their credits, training, fluency in a language, and a million other things. Trust me. None of those lies serve you. They just get in the way. And eventually, they will be discovered.

Now here’s my biggest fantasy. I would love to test myself against a brilliant actor, a master of deceit, a performer who could become the Moriarty to my Sherlock Holmes. And if that person is out there right now, reading this column, I have one question for you.

Shall we dance?

Ever wonder what agents are really thinking? Get more from Secret Agent Man here!

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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