March 4, 2004
In February's newsletter, I wrote, "Hopefully my next email will contain some juicy pilot information." Wow. Get ready for a doozy.
I watched the Oscars with some friends. The Oscars are always both depressing and inspiring for me, bc they remind me of where I want to be, and how I want to work to get there, but also that I'm not there yet. Several times during the show, my friend Katie and I would look at each other and say, "I wanna do that" or "someday". Not in a sad, "I'll never be that lucky" kind of way, but more like "I have to do that". "I'm GONNA do that".
Backing up. About a month ago, my bud Rahul told me and our buddy Dave that he had an audition for the lead of a new NBC sitcom, Nevermind Nirvana, about an Indian American (not American Indian!) guy and his wacky family and white girlfriend. We did our best as peers to coach him on the material. It occurred to me, "why am I not reading for this?!!" but I figured, I know my agent Sohl is working on it, and maybe they're trying to be authentic and have only East Indians read for it. But a week or so later, I ran into my buddy Assaf, who's Israeli, and he told me he read for it. So I was all like, "Oh hells no, I'm all over this biotch." I emailed Sohl to get the scoop. She said she was working on it, and wanted to know if I identified most with the lead or the lead's brother. I told her probably the lead. She said she'd ask a friend at Will & Grace to put in a good word, but cautioned me that the casting directors at Nirvana tend to work very last minute, so to be ready to go at a moment's notice.
I went online and found the audition material for the lead and the brother. I called Shari Shaw, an awesome sitcom coach. We met for a half hour, and she gave me some awesome stuff. Although I didn't even have an audition appointment yet, I was totally ready if the call came in. Sohl called a few days later and said, "You're definitely getting an audition, I just don't know when yet." OK. Then several days go by. End of the week. Nothing. Over the weekend, I get this weird feeling that I'm gonna get the call. But I don't. Monday morning (March 1st, *day after the Oscars*), I'm eating my Crunchy Corn Bran (which BTW, is shockingly tasty for a high-fiber cereal), and the phone rings. Panic: "They left a message Friday night. They want you to come in today at noon, and there's no wiggle room on the time. They want you to have both roles prepared". I hadn't worked the brother part with Shari, but it would have to do.
I went to a commercial audition first, and then to Nirvana. I could tell I pretty much nailed it. Barbara the CD said, "That was really great. Can you meet my producers later today?" "Sure... for which... role(s)?" "I'm trying to figure that out. You read both of them so well." I know. "Aw, why not both?" "Why not. Talk to my assistant and she'll give you an appointment."
Go home, chill, and then over to NBC. In the waiting room, there are a few Indian guys, and a bunch of potential girlfriends. I pick a couple girls at random and ask if they want to go over the scenes in the hallway. One of them, a girl named Liz, is really nice and really talented. It does occur to me that there's no way we'll both get it, bc she has about 4 inches on me.
Anyway, I go in, read for the producers, and it goes really well. I do get more laughs for the brother character than the lead though (like I care). Afterward, I kind of doddle in the waiting room, because sometimes after you go, they rush back out to get you (they actually did that with one girl). I sort of chat with someone, but then I decide to leave. But then I need to go to the bathroom, so I come back in, leave my stuff in the waiting room, go to the bathroom, come back, linger a little more (still nothing!) and finally decide to leave. When I get to my car I have a phone call to make, but suddenly my agent's on the other line: "Get back in there, now. Can you? They want to work with you a little more to prepare you to test for the network tomorrow." I'm still in the lot, so yeah. As I'm walking back in, guess who else is? Liz! We, and others, are there for 15-minute "work sessions". That means the producers are basically going to coach us and make sure we're completely prepared for the network suits. It's funny, bc it's like one moment they're "judging" you, and then suddenly they're on your team, getting you ready for your big moment. I'm a bit intimidated, bc also waiting for work sessions are the Indian guy from Van Wilder and the Indian guy from Office Space (I hear they do have names) -- they seemed very personable, btw. Somehow Liz picks up my nervousness, and jumps over to my end of the couch, and whispers "Amir, don't worry - it's just a work session. They're done making decisions for the day; it's all up to the network tomorrow." Liz rocks. I feel more clear-headed. People are taking a long time with their work sessions, but mine is pretty quick. I do it once, they give me an adjustment, I do it again. I'm really good with adjustments, I've learned. They look at me sort of puzzled and struggling. "...Yeah... Just like that." They seem to struggle for something to fix. "Just do that tomorrow!" Word. Funny, that's kind of how my Onion audition went.
I leave, and I spend the next 3 hours on and off the phone with Sohl. The way it works is that you're not allowed to test with the Network until you have a contract in place. So Sohl is hammering it out with NBC business affairs. She asks if I want to get an entertainment lawyer. I have no clue. She tells me, "He'll definitely know the ins and outs better than I, but I don't know how comfortable I am bringing a stranger in to help us so incredibly late in the game." I'm testing in 12 hours!! I tell her to use her best judgment. She makes a few calls, and recommends that we should. Although he takes an additional 5% of whatever I get, it's worth it, bc he'll probably be able to negotiate at least 5% more in pay, plus he's even better at preventing me from being taken advantage of. So they go off and talk. Meanwhile, I go to the Groundlings to see my friend Kurt's show.
Sohl faxes the first draft of the contract to the Groundlings so I can look it over before the show and during intermission. I'm looking it over, and it's just crazy. First off, it has the NBC logo at the top, which now that I'm writing that, sounds ridiculous, but my point is that it just made it so damn real. Also it talks about the fact that a decision will be made within 5 days of testing. Talk about real -- by the end of the week I could be guaranteed tens of thousands of dollars. And then there's stuff about merchandising and whatnot. This is insanity. Sohl calls during the 1st act, and I duck out and take the call. "Jeff (the lawyer) thinks he can get you 30% more than NBC is offering." Um, yeah, that's pretty much... fine.
She calls again at intermission (~9pm), and she almost sounds like she's crying. "I have bad news... They dropped you from the test list." WHAT????? "They decided at 6pm that they had too many, and they never gave word to business affairs. Jeff and I have been talking contract on the phone with business affairs for 3 hours, and business affairs just found out and let us know. I'm so so sorry."
It was pretty crushing, I'll be honest.
Silver linings? Sure, a bunch. A few more powerful people know and like my work. I made it further than I ever have. And the fact that it all happened in one day did keep me from getting my hopes too high. Imagine if I'd had a week to look forward to my test, only to be dropped. So on to the next thing, I guess. Sorry if this is a downer of an entry. But don't feel bad. Really, I'm largely over it, and to be that close, ultimately, reminded me that I'm not that far.