in which i briefly consider punching Alan Ball in the knee, or how i came to be on true blood

I love Alan Ball. Love. Alan. Ball. His work. "Six Feet Under"? Watched every episode and was more affected by the series finale than any other single episode of television I can remember. American Beauty?  I mean...c'mon. I've read, watched, listened to every interview with him I could find. I even wrote him a letter once years ago telling him how much I love his work. And then a few months ago, after years of devouring just about every TV show, movie and play written and/or directed by the man (if you haven't seen Towelhead, you should), I found myself three feet from him during a last-minute audition for a guest star on his fangtastic series, "True Blood."

The call from my manager came at around 11:00 am: I had just under four hours to learn the sides, drive to a coaching session with Robin in Woodland Hills, get back to Studio City to shower and change and get myself to The Lot on Formosa Drive in Hollywood. In the busyness of it all, it hadn't occurred to me that Mr. Ball would be in the session. Duh.

Sitting in the waiting area of the tiny cottage where the casting directors for the show work, I could hear the auditions of the women who went in before me, almost all of whom I recognized from some TV show or another. When my turn came, I was ushered into the little office and introduced by the casting director who motioned me to take my seat in a chair opposite her. There was no camera to record the session. There was, however, the man himself, so close I could have reached out and punched him in the knee.

{A confession: I am a person who regularly flashes on the numerous inappropriate behaviors I might perpetrate at any given moment, and how they would play out. How, if I chose to, I could actually do something as odd as hitting Alan Ball hard on the knee, and would that just blow the whole thing? What would the others in the room do, I wonder. Ask me to stop hitting and please read the scene? Stare at me blankly before calling security? Maybe Alan Ball would hit me back. Would he laugh? Yell? Cheer? The astute reader will note that he has been known to give his characters ruminations just such as these to great dramatic/comedic effect. So I guess my point is that Alan Ball and I are ALMOST THE SAME PERSON. Think about it.}

But instead I replied 'hello' to his same, sat, and proceeded to play the scene with the cd, keenly aware that one of my creative heroes was assessing me and my work but oddly calm in the face of it. The scene ended, it was quiet, and then he said it was good--he made mention of a specific beat in the scene that Robin and I had carved out together. Then he asked me if I could do it again with a slight adjustment. Fight harder for what you want until this line, he said.

{One more digression, if you don't mind: earlier in my career I might have said, "That's a great note!" I don't say that anymore, ever. As true as it might be, there is no way to say that in an audition without sounding like a sycophant, and if I learned anything in kindergarten at all it's that nobody likes a sycophant. And besides, he knows it's a great note. He's ALAN BALL for God's sake.}

I said yes, sure I could, happy to spend another few minutes in this tiny collaboration. Getting the job was the furthest thing from my mind at that point. I'm not being disingenuous here. Getting the job was not in my mind at that moment. This was the work--this was what I'd prepared for. I read the scene again, incorporating the note. And then it was done.

We said our mutual thank yous and goodbyes, and I walked on air across Santa Monica Blvd. to my car. At that point, I had done my job. As ever, the rest was out of my hands. I told my manager on the phone that I had no idea if I'd booked it (You never do! They might want someone shorter. Blonder. More famous. Less famous, although in my case that would be tricky.) But I did know I had shared a little piece of me, of what I do, with this man I'd looked up to for so long, and he'd been lovely. I had, finally, worked with Alan Ball. That was enough for one day.

The episode, entitled "Somebody That I Used to Know" airs July 29 and in it, I play Sarah Compton-Harris, daughter of vampire Bill Compton. The episode happens to be the series directing debut of star Stephen Moyer who plays Bill; simultaneously acting with and being directed by Stephen and playing writer Mark Hudis' terrific writing was very very good fun, but that's for another post.


Thank you, Mr. Ball.