Hit the Road, Jack

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Sometimes I wonder if actors are born with a genetic mutation that forces them to get in their own way. It's the only possible explanation for all the self-destructive behavior I've seen over the last 10 years. Is it any wonder I drink?

To illustrate my point, I'm going to share with you a tale of woe that took place at my agency. The name of the client and the titles of the shows have been changed to protect the stupid, but the rest is 100 percent true.

I represent a girl named Sally. She's in her late 20s, cute, but a little on the beefy side. When her manager introduced us, I wasn't impressed by her résumé. Sally had booked only three co-stars. That's not much compared to the actors I rep in her age group, but she was very likable in the meeting, so I decided to take a chance. I made it clear from the get-go that I'm a guest star–level agent and the co-stars would have to stop. If she wanted to be my client, she would have to play on my level. To her credit, Sally was game.

It took a while, but after about nine months, Sally finally scored her first guest star on the hit show "Cold Case." Three days of work, with an arc and everything. I had been thinking about dropping her, but this booking confirmed that my initial instincts were correct. Sally had potential.

The day after she wrapped, Sally announced she wanted to fire her manager. She explained that the guy wasn't keeping up with her growing career. I felt awkward about this because he was the one who'd introduced us, but that's life in the fast lane. You have to keep up or get out of the way.

Then a week later, the casting director of "24" contacted Sally directly to set her up for a one-line role. (They had an old picture and résumé on file from a showcase she did before we met.) When Sally called to tell me, I was shocked to learn she wanted to go in. "Why?" I asked. "Why take a step back now that we're finally moving forward?" Sally explained that "24" was her favorite show and she'd do anything to be on it. (This is what agents call loser talk.) I argued that "24" was a huge hit and wasn't going anywhere. So why not wait for a bigger and better opportunity? Sally considered my advice and agreed. She decided to pass.

And then she went in anyway.

I was stunned. Sally sent me an email after the audition explaining all the reasons I'd been wrong. The big one was the audition had gone well, and that meant the casting director would bring her in again. I wrote back explaining that yes, the casting director would definitely bring her in again—for more one-line parts! We emailed back and forth for the rest of the afternoon, but Sally refused to see I was just looking out for her. And then she decided to cut her own throat by calling one of the other agents in my office to tell her I was a jerk and should be fired. How cute is that? The other agent told me everything, we had a good laugh, and then I dropped Sally as a client. She was stunned. I bet she was thinking that maybe she shouldn't have fired her manager so quickly, huh?

As an agent, I don't expect clients to heed my commands and never question my judgment. That would be unrealistic. Agents expect to be heard, not obeyed. Experienced actors know this. But if you're just starting out, you need to remember that guys like me have forgotten more about this industry than you will ever know.

And by the way, Sally didn't book the one-line part on "24."
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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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