By: Frances Brennand Roper
I am writing this at the beginning of the year in the hope that I can inspire whoever reads it, that staying open and focusing on the "long game" as Kevin Spacey puts it, will always win in the end.
At around this time last year, I got a phone call from Jen, (Whom I have know for a very long time and love!) At the moment she called I was in the gym getting "ready" for Pilot season...I didn't however have an LA agent or manager at the time and believe me those rooms are very difficult to get into unless you have help!!
She said, "Ross Meyerson needs help in LA with a pilot, are you interested?" "Let me call you back asap," I said. I immediately picked up the phone and called my then manager in NYC and asked him what he thought, considering working on the pilot would take me out of being able to audition for any jobs for at least 6 weeks...he said "why not?" and he was right!
"Yes, I'm in!" I said twenty minutes later. "Great, I'll email Ross." Now let me say at this moment that I had never worked as a casting assistant before on a pilot. I had helped cast commercials, yes, and a couple of movies, absolutely, but nothing and I mean nothing prepared me for the whirlwind that was about to move into my life.
When Ross emailed me I won't lie, I was terrified, having known nothing about what project I would be working on when I said yes, I then found out I would be working on CBS'S Limitless with Bradley Cooper and K/O Paper Products producing, and Marc Webb (500 days of Summer and Spiderman) directing the Pilot. I mean talk about getting to be in one of the most exciting casting rooms in Los Angeles...and believe me, it was.
I just kept saying to myself, I am going to get the absolute most out of this experience and work as hard as I possibly can to help Ross find the best cast!! I tried to learn on my feet as quickly as I could, while being totally in awe every morning as I drove onto the Universal parking lot. It was like a dream come true, to work with this amazing casting director, to watch him work with actors, to be in the producer sessions and to truly see how the other side of pilot season works. I took time to talk with everyone, from producers,and writers to assistants, interns - while not getting in their way!! And I did everything I could to try and make Ross's Job easier. We sometimes worked from 9am till 11pm, but we laughed as often as we could and ate lots of m & m's!! After 6 weeks and a vigorous search of the world, Limitless was cast and I cannot express how proud I was to be a part of it.
Let me just say at this point, that Casting Director's are incredible and I have nothing but the upmost respect and appreciation for the amount of work they pour into making what we see on tv and in films compelling. They are genuinely the unsung hero's of the entertainment industry and we should all be aware of that every time we get the opportunity to audition for anything no matter how big or small it is. #castingdirectors4oscars
Working with Ross and the rest of the team at Tucker Meyerson, was one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had and this was only the beginning. He introduced me to a few of the agents he thought would be appropriate for me in LA, and personally recommended me. After emailing lots of different agencies and taking meetings I was thrilled to sign with Monica Barkett at Global Artists Agency. She then also introduced me to the wonderful woman who is now my manager, Kelly Tiffan at KTM Artist Group. Both these women have worked at one the top three agencies (you know the ones) and moved later in their careers to develop talent. They are amazing, and I have to pinch myself most of the time that in just one year I went from 0 to 100 and now have a team who believe in me, and who I trust entirely.
I began almost instantly to audition for bigger jobs, and since then I have consistently been sent to producers for recurring guest stars, series regular roles, and auditioned for lots of amazing movies. I also kept in touch with many of the producers from the show and drummed up the courage to pitch episode ideas to the show runner, Craig Sweeny. He and I had many long conversations about network television and telling stories. He even at one point suggested I should be a writer, and I am proud to say that having pitched my ideas as a freelance writer, Episode 109 of Limitless entitled "Headquarters!" this season was mine. I even got a full "story by" credit and my own title card on the episode, and am now a member of the Writers Guild of America.
Even in writing this it is hard to fathom that I did all of this in one year, but it all started with me saying yes to someone that I trusted and doing something completely unknown. I took a risk, stepped outside of my comfort zone of just "being an actor" and learnt more than I could possibly write in this message.
My intention in writing this is only to encourage everyone who reads it to do something that normally terrifies you and stay completely open to the challenge. As artists we have no idea what might happen from one day to the next, no idea at all. But, if you can keep your heart open and your head up, then life is literally a canvas at your fingertips.
Having a team of people who believe in you, who you are grateful for and trust is like having a family you built yourself. The Actors Green Room is the first place that I learnt that, it's the first place I ever felt at home and accepted and there is a reason why it is such a success. It's because Jen runs it from her heart, from her passion, her love of actors and all the things we can create as a community. And to this indomitable woman I am abundantly grateful! #jen4president
Let me finish by just saying, oak trees do not grow overnight. Anything worth having takes time, effort and patience. But, I truly believe that whatever you put out into the universe will be reflected back at you and I know that if you put your heart and soul into everything you do, and be kind and gracious along the way, that in time, when the moment is right and you are truly ready, whatever you dream of will manifest. For the first time in my career as an actor I am looking forward to having a busy and exciting pilot season, and "fingers crossed" writing more stories for the show where it all began!
To 2016 - I hope everyone of you has the most amazing year and that all your dreams come true!!