When I was selling radio so many years ago, my boss Pat Tocatlian would often remind me how “a No is better than a Maybe.” I apply the same principle to looking for work as an actor. Maybe is a time waster, perhaps the King of Time Wasters.
I’ve met a few Maybes lately and I’m sure I’ll meet a few more in the weeks ahead. A Maybe comes as a phone call, email message, or even in person when talking to someone face-to-face. Maybe might say, “I know a role you would be perfect for.” Maybe might say, “I would love to have you be a part of this project.” Maybe tends to be seductive, and who doesn’t want to be seduced?
The trouble isn’t the Maybe. It’s how we react to the Maybe. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with someone telling you how you might get something. The trouble comes when we treat the Maybe as if it’s a Yes. We start making decisions prematurely, as if we’re ready to cross a bridge that hasn’t been built. If we’re very hasty, we start telling people we got the Maybe role before the decision is final, then have to look foolish when our friends and colleagues discover the role went to someone else.
During my first gig in Houston, producing a local talk show, I met an acting coach/manager with a young daughter who was working regularly in LA. They shared a terrific strategy following auditions. After each one, they simply said to themselves, “NEXT!”
The word “NEXT!” was used to remind them to keep moving forward rather than holding their collective breath and wondering how the casting would play out. It stuck with me as a sensible choice. I could even visualize an actor desperately waiting outside the casting room for days hoping to find out he booked the role instead of moving on and keeping his focus on the opportunities ahead of him.
When I finish with auditions, there is still a lingering thought about whether I booked the role or not. I let it stay briefly, then I kick it out. I don’t want to dwell on it too long. As someone who auditions A LOT, I would be left with lingering thoughts seven days a week and no one has time for that kind of nonsense.
It can be challenging when I run into other actors who had the same audition, and they ask me if I’ve heard anything. I start to replay the audition in my head and want to fix any mistakes after the fact. But I quickly let it go and find myself feeling happy for anyone who managed to get a callback and the eventual booking.
Perhaps that’s where the feeling of being at peace comes in. Celebrating another actor’s success is a quick way to avoid feeling negative about our own experience with a particular commercial, film or TV opportunity. Maybes will come and go but dwelling on roles lost and out of our reach can turn actors into self-destructive creatures. And maybe I’m wrong, but becoming bitter doesn’t seem to be an ideal way to build a career in any industry.