The Truth About Landing at a Big Agency

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Repped asks L.A. agents to get real about Hollywood, what they want from prospective clients, and more.

This week: Jackie Lewis, president of LB Talent Agency. Her diverse clients have recently booked roles on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and its spinoff “Station 19,” Nickelodeon’s “The Thundermans,” Showtime’s “Shameless,” and Tru TV’s “I’m Sorry.”

Describe your talent roster.
An eclectic interesting list of approximately 160 talented theatrical clients [ranging from] about age 7 to early 80s. Most are credited actors with very strong training.

Are you looking for any particular types of clients right now?
I see the breakdowns every day and I see what my list looks like versus what I still need. I try not to take on the same type over and over again. We treat our company as a boutique agency. Right now it is very ethnically driven and gender fluid.  

How often do you meet with new talent?
Almost every week.

What should they have prepared for a meeting?
Depending on their résumé and their age, a very well-known actor who has been in the business just comes in and we discuss things. If an actor has no credits, I would need to see some work.

What are some common misconceptions about top-level agents?
That they package people into projects. Unless you are a very big name, you go to an audition and read for the part. You would be surprised by the people you see still auditioning. And some people think that being with a big agency guarantees you success.  

READ: 6 Ways to Find the Best Agent for You

What stops you from signing an actor?
If they are very Hollywood and only interested in me doing all the work. If they don’t treat it like a business, don’t have any interest in training, or agent-hop—going from agent to agent every season, which is common. If they don’t have a strong sense of self or badmouth other agents or managers.

What do you like in a headshot and showreel?
The headshot should reflect who you are. It shouldn’t be cookie-cutter or uninterested or bland. We are going for a more editorial feel these days and sometimes black and white shots work, especially if you are a beginner. I don't need smiley happy-go-lucky shots.

Would you recommend actors relocate to L.A.?
I find that people who come to L.A. want to be stars, not actors. Be prepared to give this the long haul. Most careers take three to five years just to get started. Invest in your career. Learn the craft, take many different types of classes, train train train. Seek out great advice from strong professionals. And watch TV and go to the movies to see what is current.

Are there any particular industry changes you have noticed recently in addition to movements like Time’s Up and MeToo?
I notice a big change in what pilot season looks like. We aren’t married to the idea that our clients book a series in February or March any longer. And there are so many different channels and outlets for actors to perform on. There is so much content that we can’t keep up.

How has the business changed since you began?
It was a phone-centric business, building relationships one phone call at a time. I went from my phones ringing off the hook to mostly emails. It’s much more difficult to maintain a strong relationship with casting if you aren’t talking to them each and every day. We used to have the breakdowns arrive in the morning, we submitted and were done. Now it’s a 24/7 job. I get appointments from casting in the middle of the night, so basically, we are on call all the time.

Which recent client performances are you especially proud of?
Matthew Arkin in “Get Shorty,” and John Posey in “How to Get Away With Murder.” And I’m especially proud of my former assistant Chrissy Metz’s work on “This Is Us.” She worked for me for four years because I needed an assistant and she needed a job!

Check out Backstage’s Los Angeles audition listings!