Posted on Sun, Jun. 30, 2002
They dream of stardom - or at least a call
By Chris Gray
Inquirer Staff Writer
Sitting calmly in her stroller in a block-long line outside a casting agency yesterday, 9-month-old Julia Frank seemed unaware that her first crack at television stardom was imminent.
Her mother, Jodi, however, had prepared for her tow-headed charmer to shine. "Everywhere we go, she turns heads," the Wilmington resident said as she stapled glossy photos of the tot to the firm's "talent information" form. The one-page questionnaire required participants to list everything from their shoe size, to car ownership and ventriloquism experience. "She can be very photogenic."
Julia was perhaps the youngest of the more than 600 aspiring actors who answered an open casting call for extras in Hack. The CBS fall drama will star area resident David Morse as a disgraced cop who solves crimes as he drives a cab for a living. Filming for the 13-episode, Friday-night drama will take place entirely in Philadelphia, beginning in mid-July.
The line for the cattle call - known in the business as a "look-see" - started forming outside the Mike Lemon Casting agency in the industrial no-man's-land between Old City and Northern Liberties at 7 a.m. While most of the participants had some acting experience, models, screenwriters and curiosity-seekers from as far away as Baltimore queued up for the chance to share scenery with Morse or costar Andre Braugher.
Model Christien Copes wished to move her resume beyond her previous performance: a role in a Keystone Health Care training video. "This would definitely be a step in the right direction," said the Wilmington resident, 28.
Others were there to schmooze.
"It's good to take anything you can get. You never know who you might see," said Jonah Wanicur, a 22-year-old actor from Cinnaminson, Burlington County, whose previous gigs included a stint as the butt of rapper Eminem's jokes on an MTV special titled EmTV.
"It's a tough business. You've got to keep working at it and meet a lot of people," Wanicur said.
The shelf life of a Philadelphia-based TV show could be short, if the one-season run of the Kim Delaney series Philly is any indication. But those who took the trouble to show up yesterday could find themselves called for one of the agency's other clients - an Imax film called Faces of Philadelphia for the Franklin Institute and another film project starting in August that casting director Diane Heery refused to name.
"It's bad luck to talk about it before we know for sure," she said firmly, although more than one person speculated about Kevin Smith's forthcoming film Jersey Girl.
As the hopefuls waited in line, Heery held court in an office framed with posters from her previous films - 12 Monkeys, Philadelphia, The Sixth Sense. Most recently she found faces for Signs, the forthcoming crop-circle-themed Mel Gibson movie filmed in Bucks County by director M. Night Shyamalan.
With 10 years in the business, Heery has an eye like a digital camera - helpful in a profession where you might have to produce a bodega owner or a bike gang on a moment's notice. Because she hasn't seen the scripts for Hack, the casting call was more of a way for her to see what kind of acting pool Philadelphia has than a star-making experience.
"For extras, it depends on the scene," Heery said, dividing photos into cardboard "men" and "women" boxes. "I have no idea what we need. This is a way of seeing who is out there, who is interested."
Hopefuls expecting to deliver their favorite Shakespeare soliloquy were disappointed. They filed into one of four offices in groups of 20 for a 10-minute spiel from Heery and other casting agents that left little time to make personal impressions.
Sometimes extras wear wacky clothing hoping to get noticed, Heery said, although little of that passed through her office yesterday. Others stand out simply by their physical attributes - tall guys might have stood straighter had they known that one of Heery's colleagues was looking for an Abe Lincoln.
Heery picked up one lucky guy's resume.
"We're looking for a David Morse stand-in," she explained. "Let's see, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds - hmm, possible."
She refused to reveal his name, primarily to spare her coworkers headaches.
"Otherwise the guy will be setting up camp here," said Terry Mardsen, an intern at the agency.
Heery told prospectives that they could hear from the agency between July and December. The answer wasn't specific enough for Frank, who approached Heery with Julia hoisted high on her hip.
"Are you looking for children?" she asked.
"I don't know yet," Heery said with a chipper voice well-versed in the friendly brush-off. "We'll call you if we need you."
Contact Chris Gray at 610-313-8108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.