I have been working as a Legal Assistant since 1972, and it’s a very good job. The responsibilities are great, and there are many deadlines involved doing Legal Assistant work. Nothing is farther from the fantasy world of acting than working in a law office. However, now that I have had a taste of the fantasy world of acting, I’m hungry for more.
You’re probably asking yourself, how did a Legal Assistant get a chance to be an actress? Well the answer is as amazing as my acting career. First, my husband is an actor. He’s only famous to me and family, but he manages to get many auditions and has booked many parts. Then, back in 2007 he won a huge sum of money on a television game show. When he offered me the chance to take off from work for a couple of years after his huge win, I jumped into the opportunity like a teenager jumping into a cool lake on a hot summer day.
At the time my husband made me this generous offer, I was totally burned out from working for attorneys. I had a high volume, high-pressure job for a top divorce attorney, and was working long hours. My workdays consisted of tearful telephone calls from people battling out divorce, meeting court deadlines by filing legal documents, and fending off overbearing attorneys anxious about getting their work done because they were constantly trying to justify their outrageous hourly rates.
In addition to the pressure of my legal assistant job, my husband was pressuring me to get into acting. Every time his agent would ask him if he knew a middle-aged African American woman that would be interested in signing on with her agency as an actress, I instantly knew. At dinner my husband would drool over me more than the food on his plate, and would ask me again “Do you want to be an actress?”
After months of routinely asking the same question, to my husband’s surprise and delight I said yes. He didn’t ask why, he just acted quickly before I could change my mind. The next day my husband picked me up on my lunch hour and took me straight to his agent’s office. She signed me up with her agency, and made an appointment for me to see her photographer who took pictures of me called headshots. Within days, I had the headshots, and was sent on my first audition.
I still remember the audition, it was for an industrial movie about office behavior, and I played the supervisor. I was given a script to memorize, which is called “sides” in the acting world. Being a novice, I didn’t pay much attention to the script and didn’t think to memorize the words. When I was called into the room for my audition, I didn’t know where to stand, or what “slate your name,” meant, which is simply saying your name and the agency that sent you. When the camera began rolling, I was alternating between reading the script in my hand and looking at the camera. I must have looked as bad as I knew I performed because the audition ended abruptly with a loud NEXT!
The feeling of failure I had after that audition was something new to me. I am a top-notch legal assistant, and know that line of work very well. This acting thing was way out of my league. I decided then and there to be as serious about being an actor as I am about working as a legal assistant. My first step was stopping by my local library before going home. The library is my answer to any question I have. Since I had many questions about acting, I picked up books on acting terms, and how to act. Next, I called my husband’s agent and apologized for the terrible audition. I told her I was not comfortable with my performance.
The last thing I did was use my secret weapon, prayer. I decided to make it my routine to pray before every audition, and to do a quick prayer immediately before an audition. During later auditions, prayer actually calmed me down because it left the decision up to God, not me. I did my part by being prepared, professional, and polite during auditions. I also made a vow to know my “sides,” and to always arrive early for my audition. Another priority I developed later in my acting career was to make someone laugh during the audition. Especially the person behind the camera filming my audition. With my game plan in place, I was more than ready when my agent called me for a second audition. Apparently, my agent remembered how I felt after my very first audition. For the second audition, she sent me to an acting coach who spent thirty minutes with me just prior to the audition.
To make a long story short, the audition was for the part of “Florence” on a cable TV show called “The Shield.” I was astonished because it was my favorite show at the time. The most profound thing the acting coach Jarish Poindexter said to me during our thirty minute coaching session was “acting is you speaking someone else’s words”. He said acting is not complicated, mysterious, or difficult. You speak the words given to you, and add the characteristics of the person based on the script. I took his advice to heart, and got the part! Getting that part lead to my getting a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card and having the opportunity of working with C.C.H. Pounder! I know my secret weapon of prayer had a lot to do with it. I told God I wanted to do a good job for Him, and if He wanted me to be on the show, I would get the part! That is how I approach all my auditions.
Since the part on “The Shield” I’ve done a couple of movies, a music video, a play, character parts in two television shows, and a recurring role on a television show. I’ve only been acting since 2006! Within months of filming “The Shield,” I quit my legal assistant job and pursued acting full time. I found acting to be fun, easy, and I love it! Now, I fully understand why my husband wanted to share this occupation with me.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2010. During the SAG strike, we became financially strapped, and I told my husband I wanted to go back to working full time as a legal assistant. His acting career was stronger than mine was, and he has his own independent business. But, we were barely making it financially. After looking long and hard at our financial situation, we both decided it would be best for me to return to work full time. Now, I’m a legal assistant again. I still have an agent. I’m still being submitted for commercials, sitcoms, pilots, and other lucrative acting parts. And, I even landed a part as a recurring character on a Nickelodeon show that my job has been very understanding about. They actually let me use sick time to go film occasional parts for the show. But, the funny thing is this. Now that I have a full time job as a legal assistant that pays the bills, I can think of only one thing. I wanna act!