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I had an audition for a popular TV series yesterday. The actress who served as my reader called it her “favorite” show. No, I’m not going to name it, but I will tell you my scene involved getting bitten in the neck. It’s familiar ground for this actor who television audiences saw getting shot and killed this month on Investigation Discovery.

I do tend to play victims and all-around nice guys a lot. Friends will recall my appearance in the pilot of the ABC series Final Witness where I reenacted scenes involving a Texas father who survives a murder attempt set in motion by his own daughter. But I have been open with my agents about my desire to be considered for darker and more complex roles.

After taping the audition yesterday, I spent several minutes chatting with one of my agents about this nice guy persona. She was very candid about her assessment, and I like how she said my “good heart” tends to come through even when I’m attempting to be not-so-nice. It’s all about the look in an actor’s eyes, she explained. Some actors have it naturally, and many of us have to work at developing it.

In 2012, I played a bad guy in one short film and a self-absorbed soap opera director in another. Also, I auditioned for at least one “bad guy” role, including a taped audition for an Emmy award-winning dramatic series. I didn’t book it, but felt “good” about the opportunity.

I think the beard helps move me a few steps away from the nice guy persona. Even away from acting, I notice people react differently to me when I have facial hair. They don’t run away or hand me their wallets, but it’s a noticeable change in facial expressions and body language.

Of course, simply aiming to play a bad guy is a rather empty mission. For me, the goal is not the label. It’s about being considered for a wider variety of roles and discovering new acting challenges. Even now when I hear from a film producer who sends me a script to consider, I look for what makes a character seem new and different. I like to cover new territory, or at least find a perspective that makes a familiar role seem fresh.

I suspect that I will get at least one bad guy role in 2013. It could be the kind mentioned by my agent yesterday when she referred to Mark Harmon’s role in The Deliberate Stranger. Even if it doesn’t come, I will work harder to heavily layer every character with a unique history, unique goals and unique quirks to create a nuanced performance every time.

Tormenting Brenda Pentecost on the set of Trinity of HorrorPhoto by Darla Barton-Guyton

Tormenting Brenda Pentecost on the set of Trinity of Horror
Photo by Darla Barton-Guyton