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Roughly ten years ago I first heard what I now consider the most powerful word in the English language. It’s not “yes” or “please” or “love.” It’s simply “next.” Yes, that is the magic word, in my opinion.

In context of the acting world, we may associate the word with getting moved out of the audition room so someone else can come in. But the way this particular word was shared with me way back when made it take on a whole other meaning. I pause to reflect today on those memories because the two people who introduced me to NEXT are no longer with us. 

In 2004-2005 I was producing segments in Houston for a national series called Smart Woman, distributed to TV news stations across the country. One segment I pitched involved a parent setting boundaries for a child actor. The idea came from my friendship and association with Skye McCole Bartusiak and her mom, Helen.

During the interview at River Oaks Theater, Helen and Skye shared the story of NEXT. It’s a word, they explained, that they said together after every audition. It served as a pivotal moment, pushing them forward to the next opportunity rather than lingering on what just happened and wasting energy on wondering.

For those unfamiliar with Skye, she worked with some of the biggest names in the business when she was a child. She brought her talents to the big screen, to television, and to the stage. She worked hard to achieve a great deal with the help and guidance of her devoted mother. I imagine for every big role she landed there were many other audition rooms she walked out of without getting the job. NEXT became a necessary tool to continue forging ahead with confidence and without regrets.

Last July we lost Skye unexpectedly at age 21. Yesterday, a week after Helen passed, family and friends gathered to celebrate her life in the fun-loving, gregarious way that reflected how we all saw this marvelous woman. At the dinner following the memorial service, I had a chance to share the story of NEXT with the crowd. It gave me a sense of peace to let her close friends and family know the impact of one word from Helen had defined my approach to my acting career these last 10 years.

I encourage you to integrate the same word into your audition process. When each one is over and you leave that room or you finish submitting a self-taped audition, pause for a moment on what you just accomplished then say to yourself, NEXT.  Open the door to what’s coming and what you’re summoning into your life and career. Avoid lingering on what could come from that audition. Waste no energy wondering if you’ll get a callback or the booking. Celebrate it for what is was and quickly move on. What’s coming next will always be sweeter.

RIP, Helen and Skye.

Skye McCole Bartusiak & Mom Helen during "The Patriot" Los Angeles Premiere at Cineplex Odeon Century Plaza Cinema in Century City, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)

Skye McCole Bartusiak & Mom Helen during “The Patriot” Los Angeles Premiere at Cineplex Odeon Century Plaza Cinema in Century City, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)