An Audition I Passed Up

INT: Home Office

Lukas sits at his desk in front of a computer. He just received an audition for a popular crime drama. He is reading the sides, the scene pulled from the script for the audition, that his manager sent him twenty minutes ago. His manager is really happy to get this audition: it is a highly regarded show, there is an A-list director directing the episode, many star actors are leading the show, and it is airing on a great network. It shoots in New York and Lukas lives in Los Angeles. He would get to travel, which he loves to do. They are also offering scale and a half, which is about $15,000 for 8 days of work. He is happy to audition because it’s been a few weeks since his last audition. As he reads the sides, his face grows from smiling with excitement to sad and depressed.

The scene is about 28 yr old Tommy Schrader who is a pianist and painter, living in a loft in New York. His father passed away, and he is composing a song for his funeral. Lukas is moved by this start to the scene as he also loves playing the piano and painting. As the scene unfolds, Tommy gets angry, leaves his loft and goes walking on the streets.  We see the anger in Tommy’s eyes. He turns the corner and sees a girl in the alley talking on her phone. He overhears that she is talking to her dad. Suddenly he walks over to her, grabs her phone, breaks it and knocks her out. Then he rapes her. Leaving her knocked out, he walks back to his apartment and plays the piano.

The following scene involves an interrogation with a police officer, the lead of the show and a well known actor. The interrogation scene would be incredible to perform and in the end, Tommy breaks down, confesses and repents for his action.

Lukas sits there staring at the screen.

FADE TO BLACK

End of scene.

Initially, this seemed like a perfect fit. I have been waiting for an audition with an interrogation scene and through my acting, I want to tell stories about repentance. However, in order to do this, I would have to do a scene simulating the raping of a girl. Even though I know I am not really raping her, I have to create in my mind this intention and actually do these actions — see this girl, hear her scream, grab her, etc.

For years, I have been encouraged by other actors that acting is not real. Yet, I’m trained in my art to make it as real as possible in my mind. If I did a scene like this, I would go home after filming and remember it differently than the viewer or any of the other cast and crew. I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to spend time creating in my mind the passion to do that to someone. This goes against my reason for acting. I don’t think it would be pleasing to God.

I call my manager. I have to tell him thanks for his hard work getting this audition together but I am going to pass. ‘Would you please tell the casting director I would like to come in on another role someday?’ He asks why. I tell him my reasons. He reminds me the scene is not real and that I’ve passed on the last three auditions he’s set up for me. They were all great opportunities for my career and if I keep doing this, he may not be the best manager for me. Most actors would love to have this audition. I tell him that I’m sorry but I don’t want to perform this scene. We hang up.

 I believe half the reason for this happening is to share my belief with my manager. I pray that I don’t lose my manager because he is really good. I pray for another audition.

The reason I act is to tell stories that uplift and encourage people in their lives and show the love of God, whether it be direct or indirect. I want to perform for audiences stories that are real and honest. While I know stories like the scene above happen, I don’t want to tell them at the cost of creating sinful, lustful thoughts for myself. It feels contradictory to me. I had the idea to pursue an acting career when I saw a play and experienced the power of its impact on me. I realized acting was an amazing way to convey a story, any story I wanted to tell to someone else. Part of my drive to act is the way it moves me to create characters, which develop the lessons and character in me. This is why I want to be careful what characters I create.

10 Comments

  • Jim Watkins says:

    Lukas, thank you very much for this honest reflection on what must have been a very difficult decision. I have actually spoken to other actors who were asked to perform scenes that made them feel very uncomfortable. I recognize that there is often a great deal of pressure from directors, managers (as in your case), and others placed upon actors to be able to play any role and depict any aspect of humanity. This idea seems a bit idealistic to me as it does not take account of the actor’s personal feelings, beliefs, past, etc.

    I wonder if you would mind reflecting further on other scenes that you found difficult to perform. It particular, I am curious to know what makes it easier for an actor to perform a difficult scene (such as a murder, a rape, sex, etc.) without feeling that they have personally compromised him or herself. In one sense, your manager was right to point out that the scene is not real, but you were also right to say to your manager that you did not feel safe or comfortable playing that role. But I often find film and TV that portray difficult and complicated aspects of human life to be very helpful because they allow me to reflect more deeply on my own complicated life, and also on the difficult situations that other face. Do you have any thoughts about what makes for a safe environment where actors feel free to explore the darker side of humanity? I am sure that one must consider each individual situation uniquely, but I thought you might be able to point to some general good advice.

    Thanks again for your post!

    • Lukas says:

      Great reply. Each time seems to be a unique individual situation. For myself, it is namely once it crosses into the category of sexual scenes. Different than filming a murder; where I am not truly choking this person and all efforts behind the scenes are planned out and practiced, after the scene, the person has not truly been choked. In a sexual scenes, I would really be in bed with a naked woman and going as far as the scene takes it, and afterwards, we did go that far. We wouldn’t have sex in the scene, but I have noticed that it creates something different in real life than doing a scene of murdering someone. I have seen more adultery or cheating go on between actors who perform scenes like this, compared with actors murdering after playing a character who murders someone. Upon my review of film and TV, I have seen many scenes that do a remarkable job of showing the darker side of humanity to you (the audience) with different ways of filming it. Shots of a face full of emotion can show you what that person is seeing is horrific.
      Watching two people walking into a room and close the door, with certain music playing, can tell you what they went to do. A dark screen and then a scream then a shadow on a wall can tell you whats going on. As a filmmaker, is it necessary for me to film them doing it? As an actor, is that the best way to tell that story? It is known that there is an audience that wants to watch that, so they will film it, and many actors have no problem with it at all and want to do more of it.
      I don’t have as difficult of a time playing a character where I would talk about the darker side of my character, hopefully conveying to the audience a connection and having them reflect on their lives. It is not that I want to hide from that fact that these things go on. Moreso I want to tell stories that deal with deep issues, just not at the cost of sending me to do darker things. Did that further answer any thoughts? Please inform me. Would love to share more if I didn’t quite answer your point. Peace, Jim!

  • David says:

    Lukas,

    Thank you for your honesty and transparency, I applaud the way you have protected your integrity as an actor, Christian, and human being! Particularly since becoming a father, I find the direction crime dramas are taking and the limits they are pushing quite uncomfortable. Law & Order SVU can be especially nauseating. Integrity is a virtue too often ignored but the most critical to protect in order to be taken seriously as a human (especially as an artist). Hold your convictions tightly, a city on a hill cannot be hidden! Continue proving yourself faithful and God will bless you with more opportunities to shine (on and off camera).

    • Lukas says:

      David,
      Thanks so much for your encouragement. I hear fatherhood does something like that to us! For my info, do you watch the show even though it causes that feeling? If so, what is it that keeps you watching? I just wonder because I hear that every so often from people; that it is uncomfortable, but they watch anyway? Thanks for your info if you reply! Peace David!

      • Dave says:

        Lukas, I really appreciate your willingness to share some of the challenges that come with an incarnational art like acting. There is something about speaking the words and performing the actions of someone other than yourself—in other words, bringing a character to life—that can be both exhilarating and terrifying. I am also an actor and, for many, many years have struggled to know what roles to accept and which to refuse. Your criteria of ‘what will performing this role do to me as a person?’ is intriguing and understandable. Because acting is embodied, it is fairly disingenuous to say, ‘Oh well, that’s not really me, it’s just a character I’m playing.’ And yet, isn’t there some truth to this kind of thinking? Do you see any merit to the idea that, as someone who sees acting as a vocation, you are called to faithfully represent the characters you play, but that it is possible to do so without taking on their traits? I know there are some schools of acting which would tend to push actors to ‘become’ their characters in ways which blur the lines between the identity of the actor and the character, but I think those schools of thought are misguided. Could God call us as actors to faithfully represent those we are not for the sake of telling stories that reflect both the beauty and the brokenness of this world? Again, thanks for being bold enough to share.

        • Lukas says:

          Dave! Of course there is some truth to the idea that it is a character you are playing. But what else is character? And who else is you? If you are playing a character, you are doing that. The largest proof I have found is in that of audience.Play or TV or film, when I have someone come up and say hey ‘You’ were in that one show. When ‘You’ did this it was so scary, when ‘You’ said this it was really funny. I definitely know the difference between me and a character that I play. I massively believe that God calls us to faithfully represent peoples stories of brokenness and beauty. Why must that include the scene above that I passed up? I can tell brokenness in so many ways. And I do it for the reason that I believe I am called for by God. Thoughts?

        • Dave says:

          Lukas, I think you hit on something that has recently become more central to my thinking about acting: the audience. Specifically the idea that there are some works of drama that are completely inappropriate for some people, but for others the same dramatic work might speak powerfully to them—might even be used by God to reveal something that other mediums failed to. What is still difficult to come to terms with in thinking this way is: what responsibility do we as actors bear for a dramatic piece being viewed by someone it was not intended for? Are we responsible for people not making the distinction between us as actors and the characters we play? Discerning these things seems like a matter of conscience and not something we can make hard and fast rules for. It sounds like you discerned that the scene you passed up was not one you could perform, and yet, one which involved another kind of portrayal of violence might not phase you. From what I understand, you made this judgement based on what playing the role would do to you rather than to the audience, but it was a similar process of discernment. And, just so we’re clear, I don’t think all scenes are playable by all actors (nor should they be). If being selective in your decisions about which roles to accept and which to reject serves to keep you in a state of spiritual health, it seems to me that such health will, in turn, serve to enable to you bring characters to life with unfettered passion and, hopefully, joy!

        • Lukas says:

          Good words. I think the responsibility that we have are – what stories we tell. I also agree that we cannot control how it will be perceived. Everyone is so emotionally different and also thinks different. I did base that decision to pass on that role based on what it would do to me, but that includes what I would want to perform in front of an audience to tell a story. Its a whole. I understand your comment on thinking all scenes are not for everyone. The decisions definitely continue to form the direction of the career that I want to have and the characters I want to play. I understand that other actors want to play roles that I have no interest in and I support and encourage most of that.
          I hope for the same joy and passion to fill you and the roles you choose to do! Acting really is an amazing thing to do. I love it! What are you working on in your acting currently?

  • Chad Glazener says:

    Lukas,

    I’m curious if you would be similarly unwilling to re-enact the stories we see in Scripture of rape, murder, and other examples of human brokenness.

    As an actor, I tend to hold an opposite view. I think that psychological and moral integrity can be maintained in a performance. (E.g. if your character commits a sin onstage, I don’t think you are held morally culpable as the artist who incarnates said character.) But you do raise good questions about the artist’s responsibility to the audience.

    Right now I tend to think that the actor’s responsibility is to love a character into existence, and to live truthfully in the world of the play or film, and that’s about it. If we are always only concerned with the response of the audience to depravity, then I think we unnecessarily censor ourselves from bringing truth and grace to those still-dark corners of our society and our own hearts.

    • Lukas says:

      Chad,
      First question:
      unwilling to re-enact rape, scripture or not.
      willing to re-enact murder, scripture or not. (I just finished a big show playing a serial killer, to tell a certain story)
      willing to re-enact human brokenness, scripture or not. ( have done it many times)

      Scriptures are stories that happened, and they happened then and happen now, correct?

      I love my characters very much. I believe I can tell a story of a man who has sinned, without re-enacting each sin. I think there are many ways to film/perform scenes without needing to re-enact the scene.

      I believe the point of giving a performance in the theater, or on stage, is for the audience only. Rarely do you find a group of filmmakers that make a film only to throw away all footage at the end saying that was just for us to perform that. Rarely do you find a group rehearse a play for 6 months to not put up the show, due to the feeling that all was accomplished. The point is to tell the story. We do find people that do scenes to practice for the real performance/thing, I.E. acting class and such, where the performance may not be seen except by others in the class, but that is for the future purpose to hone the skills to perform for an audience.

      We tell a story for others.

      I am fine to tell stories that bring on arguments and discussion and may bother many people, and I am not discussing trying to shy away from that. I bring up the point that if I dive into a character and prepare and rehearse a scene of doing the actions of rape, a bit of that might stay with me. Now, am I held accountable for performing this for 4 nights a week for 16 weeks? Mainly, will this affect my psychological and moral thoughts and mind? I have seen it do so. Why would I want to choose to do that out of all of the stories out there? Why would I be drawn to that? These are questions I ask myself. Ive been acting 16 years/ in conservatories and classes for 12 of them; and on TV, film and stage for all of them. I have argued ideas with teachers the whole time. Why does a teacher teach me that I must imagine (daydream) horrific disgusting things in order to play a role. If my character would do those things, and I choose to play that character, now for the next three weeks I am driving around daydreaming these things. I censor myself at this moment to write the specific things I am talking about with you because even to write them down to you will put them in your mind. Why do I need to do that to you in order for you to know what I am taking about. I don’t. By not, you still have imagined certain things, or guessed at what I may be talking about, and I have been generic as possible. Have I not been a true person in writing this to you? If I say ” I did a horribly bad thing” and the rest of the play you never saw me do it but saw what it did to me, how it eats me alive; did I not address the issue of human brokenness?
      I have seen actors’ roles rip them apart personally, their relationships apart, etc. Shall we say then that they need to get better at not letting it get to them as much as it did?
      I have found it better to be careful in the beginning, choosing what I am willing to put my thoughts into for the next few months. What does scripture say about thoughts, before even actions?
      And acting – is planned out thoughts/actions that we say are not really us doing them, but at the same time we want to say that we fully dove into that character and became them, but we are not held accountable, but we did willingly choose to do it, and may have desired to play this role – dichotomy?
      These are things I feel tested with and deal with when offered certain roles.

      Thoughts?

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