COVID-19 Has Taught This Casting Director That All Actors Need a Plan B

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Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

We are going through unprecedented times. There is no playbook. The global pandemic has killed scores of people, and even more are sick. Our infrastructure is bursting at the seams, and the economy is being tested daily. The unemployment rate is at a historic high in the U.S. and around the world. What has become apparent to me at this moment in history is who can pivot easily and who cannot.

Are you going with the flow and turning a desperate situation into a workable one, or are you digging your heels in because you not only hate change, but won’t change? How you react right now is the litmus test of whether or not you’ll make it through.

I remember sitting with actor Marilu Henner years ago, and she said something so profound, it’s stuck with me to this day. We were having a “big life” discussion when she said, “Life is about how easily you can slide into Plan B.” This struck me as wise, because, as we know, life doesn’t always go the way you planned. Her whole life concept got me thinking that not only should I have a Plan B, but a Plan C is also crucial. 

Then I started thinking about actors. In my opinion, no one is more prepared and equipped to pivot than actors. By virtue of their chosen path, they always have job insecurity. Many of the rest of us work nine-to-five, five days a week. For actors, it’s normal to not know what’s coming next, where you’re going to live, or how you’re going to pay your bills. Their training teaches them to be on their toes in every situation—to respond in real time to whatever is thrown at them. (Hello, improv!) Yet this profession is still sought after. Why? For many, the answer is, “Because I have to.” I would venture to say that actors are hard-wired to pivot.

As an independent casting director, acting coach, and intimacy coordinator, I am also used to my work ebbing and flowing. Sometimes I feel like a walking contradiction because I absolutely hate change. I like to know what’s happening next; I’m not the most spontaneous person you’ll ever meet. I sure don’t like it, but that’s the path I’ve chosen. I’ve become an expert at the pivot because I’ve learned fighting it does not help. 

I’m certainly not suggesting you concentrate on perfecting a professional pivot while you or your loved ones are sick; this article is directed at those who are well and able to do some work on themselves during this complicated time.

Many of us may be suffering from low-grade depression and panic at the moment, but it’s possible that you can turn that around by creating a routine and staying busy. Have you learned new skills these last few months? Are you reexamining your career? Have you looked into other lines of work? Have you done some deep soul-searching to work on old patterns that aren’t serving you? Are you living a life of daily gratitude? I sincerely hope you’re thriving and using this time to be useful and help one another. At the very least, we can come out of this global pandemic having learned something.

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 8 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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Marci Liroff
Known for her work in film and television, producer, casting director, and intimacy coordinator Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world. Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light.
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