I was a total geek during most of my school years. Even though I tried to hide it, I really tried to do my best in school even when I was doodling or didn’t understand what the teacher’s said. I was a horrible math student and I’ve tried to get better at doing basic math in my head as an adult. Because I always liked music, I chose to be in band class in the 6th grade. I wanted to play the saxophone and was assigned the flute.
One of the best parts of the class was having to watch Star Wars during class because we were learning how to play the Main Theme composed by John Williams.
In 7th grade I got into drama. I’m not even sure how it happened. There was one girl named Alice who seemed to hate me for no reason. One time, she and her best friend hid my shoes during production. Another time, they gave me a cinnamon roll and before I bit it, my friend Elizabeth, whom I’d known since second grade, told me that they spat on it.
I must have really liked drama though, because even though Alice was terrible and turned all the 8th graders against me, I stuck to it. I played a small part of a soldier in a hat that made my hair smell awful. I liked the acting exercises and my English teacher Mrs. Roberts, was cool. (I never told her this, but she was the best part of the class). She wasn’t scared to be weird in front of us, doing improv or letting us be silly while we went over our scenes. She wrote every play we ever acted in and taught us everything from sense memory to choreography, and to improv (as much as you can actually teach junior high kids how to do this).
In the 8th grade, I took drama instead of band so I could concentrate more, and I practiced after school during production. I would tell people I wanted to be an actor, but at that time I was a bit chubby and no one really believed I could do it. A few of classmates did, but we had no idea how I’d do it. On career day they tried to get us to be something realistic, like being teachers, scientists, accountants, just anything that was a step up. We were never really geared for creative jobs.
My grandfather was visiting from El Salvador I saw an open casting. The commercial explained that it was a thing you attend if you want to be an actor. Maybe you could find an agent or start in small bit parts. I goaded my parents into taking me. The commercial said to bring a headshot, and I had no clue what the was so I just grabbed a picture of me (probably a school picture, because it had my head in it), and we went.
I gave them the picture and they immediately looked disappointed. I was made to get in some set while my parents and grandparents were on a corner and say my name, and deliver a few lines (now that I direct I know this is called slating). The guy in charge looked at me and said “great job” the way you tell a pre-schooler that their finger painting of a potato is a masterpiece, and I never heard from them.
I didn’t go to another audition again. I didn’t know I could’ve. Yeah, I had a great drama teacher. In high school, one of my teachers showed us a screenplay he wrote (thankfully he didn’t make us read it), and then when I transferred to Hollywood High we were taught a lot about singing for musicals and producing plays. We had to have a tough work ethic and it was harder than anything I’d done before, but there was little talk about agents or talent scouts. You see, we had a wall of past attendees that made it in Hollywood, including people such as Olivia Newton-John. But my program consisted of a lot of students of color, most African-American students were bussed in from South Central and Watts, and there were a lot of students from East L.A.
Of course none of our teachers believed that we could get jobs as actors. Many probably felt their work was done because we were in Hollywood after school producing plays instead of joining gangs. There were so many talented kids there, and I don’t know if anyone is chasing after their dream now or if they gave up because they tried too hard, because they weren’t the right color or the right weight, because maybe they were outspoken about who they really were and felt unapologetic (a lot of my classmates were LGBT, from the hood, first-generation immigrants, or undocumented).
I guess I can’t call it a job from hell if I never got it to begin with. But after reading all of the Weinstein allegations and clapping for the women who are brave enough to speak out about this, I know that it could’ve been a job from hell. For for me, a short Latina that isn’t conventionally beautiful, it would’ve bee a job from even more hell.That time I tried to be a child actor Click To Tweet