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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How To Break Into Soaps, Part II:
Landing A Contract Role
By Naomi Rabinowitz

In the 11/29/OS issue, stars and casting directors shared tips on how a budding actor can break into daytime. Our panel of experts now reveals what it takes to land a bigger role on soaps.

You've taken acting classes and have had small parts on a couple of soaps.
Now'You feel like you're ready for a contract role on daytime. As with any other acting job, landing one of these parts is extremely difficult. However, you can increase your odds if you're savvy.

First actors looking to book large roles almost always need to have an agent or manager see sidebars). "I'd say about 98 Percent of the actors who audition for the contract roles have them," states GUIDING LIGHT Casting Director Rob Decina, "The rest are either people I've worked with before or who are recommended to me by my associates."

Even with an agent or manager, actors still have to beat out the competition. "We're not always adding new people," explains Decina. "When we are we get 150, 200 people reading far a part. I've even had as many as 500."

Knowing what "type" You play can be helpful, explains Michael Bruno, manager to many soap stars including Ashley Jones (Bridget, BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL), Austin Peck (Austin, DAYS OF OUR LIVES) and a judge on I WANNA BE A SOAP STAR. "Not everyone can be a leading man or woman," he says. "Know if you're the rich, bad guy, like Paul on AS THE WORLD TURNS, or the doe-eyed innocent girl, like Jennifer on DAYS, and then market yourself that way."

If you're not sure, "Watch soaps to get an idea of what type you are," advises Mari Lyn Henry, former East Coast Director of Casting at ABC Daytime, who is now a talent manager and co-author of Now To Be A Working Actor. "Whether you fit the part is important. Alicia Minshew [Kendall, ALL MY CHILDREN] was a perfect find because she's a great actress, and she looks so much like [on-screen mother] Susan Lucci [Erica]."

Indeed, casting directors are usually searching for something very specific. "We might look for someone with a specific look or race" says ATWT Casting Director Mary Clay Boland. "It may have to do with coloring, or who they're related to on the show."

When recasting, "We try to aet someone with similar qualities to the last actor, but who can make it their own," states Decina. "I think we did that with Nicole Forester Cassie . I knew Rob Bogue for years so I [said], 'He'd be perfect for Mallet because he's funny and this role is a guy's guy role.'"

While appearance is important, it doesn't always help. "I had one client who was very good-looking and tested for almost every soap," shares Mara Santino, who is a talent agent at Kazarian/Spencer & Associates, whose client list includes Jay Kenneth Johnson (ex-Philip, DAYS), Jason Thompson (Patrick, GENERAL HOSPITAL) and Adrian Bellani (Miguel, PASSIONS). "But the actor with both looks and talent would always get the part instead. Talent is important, which is why I continually encourage my clients to take acting classes:'

Ultimately, casting directors choose actors who possess a combination of looks,talent and that indefinable "it" factor. "We want someone who shines," declares YOUNG AND RESTLESS Casting Director Marnie Saitta. "We also look for someone who has chemistry
with their screen partner." "We want someone who pops in the room and onscreen, and seems to really have sparks and be charming," shares Boland. "We want to find a star."


Hot To Get A Manager

"Getting an agent or manager is extemely difficult to do," stresses talent manager Michael Bruno. "There are theatrical bookstores where they have books listing managers or agents. If you come to L.A. and do an acting] industry, showcase, they invite the so managers often come to those. Anyvm can call himself a manager, so you need to ask nicely who that person represents and see if there's money coming into that office. Neither a manager nor an agent should ask for money up-front. Also be wary if they tell you to go to a certain photographer for pictures -- it probably means they're getting a kickback and it's a scam. And be careful about manager contracts. You want to get the shortest contract available to see if the manager is a good fit."

As for the difference between agents and managers, runo explains, "Basically, a manager cannot close a deal , moneywise or any way else. Only an agent and lawyer, An agent is about trying to get you work, whereas a manager is there to advise you on a long-term career."
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