Hitting the Big Apple!
Who’d have believed it? They came from as far away as Texas and close as Manhattan’s Upper West Side; actors, teachers, dancers, friends of actors, fans, and All My Children fanatics. At last estimate there were well over 1000 hopefuls waiting in a line as far as the eye could see down West End Avenue on a bitterly cold Saturday morning. With the sun at their backs, an ocean of faces, with one common goal: I Wanna Be A Soapstar! Some people had never seen an episode of the 35-year old history -making daytime drama. Others confessed that they had been watching Dr. Joe and Erica Kane since they were, “in the womb.”
Producer Eric Schotz has a mandate, “We’re looking for greatness. I don’t care how we get greatness. What we do to get it, we’ll see a 1000 people, we’ll see 4000 people. We’re looking for 12 great people.” Since they’ve already seen hundreds of actors in LA, the pool just increased 10-fold and the production team’s job seems daunting, “Usually we see about 5,000 or 10,000 people, something like that. We’ll whittle that down to about 100 and take that down to 50, take that down to about 25, and vet out 12.” The process ends the day LMNO Productions starts shooting in April on the General Hospital stages in Los Angeles. Before they get there, Shotz and his band of brothers and sisters have discovered a new set of challenges here in New York, “It’s a different type of actor here. A lot of theatre background. In LA, it was a lot of commercial and television stuff.” As Eric was talking about the actors here in New York, the noise level rose considerably across the studio. There were four audition stations and lots of emoting, “A little louder and more dramatic and it works for soaps.”
As the first actors entered The View’s studio hundreds more were slowly waiting for their moment to shine. Meridian, Mississippi native, Christopher Hunter arrived in New York three years ago and has been pounding the pavement since day one. He’s worked in a bank, but feels he’s got to do more to put himself out there. When Soapdom wanted to know if he was familiar with AMC, he laughed and laughed, almost afraid to answer, finally, “I have to say not really. I’m just here for the job. I gotta do something!”
Jeanne Kondilas, a Special Education and English teacher from East Brunswick, New Jersey believes, “The classroom is my stage. My poor students.” Why did she show up? “I’m not gonna be cliché and say I Wanna Be A Soapstar, but I really want to say that. I watched the show last year and I said to myself, I think I can do that.” She gets SOPnet, “The best thing that happened to cable.” She’s been watching AMC since forever, “I don’t want to date myself, but in the early ‘70’s I used to watch it through a crack in my little door when my mother was watching it.” Jeanne studied acting with one of All My Children’s former acting coaches. Will that give her a leg up? Only time will tell. But this special teacher seems happy just to have the opportunity.
Shaun Rasmussen from Brooklyn, New York just came along for the ride, “I’m here actually to support my best friend.” But the only way he could come with her was to sign up. So, he did. He threw his arms around her, as she reiterated, “I’m his best friend, "and like best friends, he talked right over her, “We’ll see how this goes!”
From the Museum of the Hard to Believe, Anna Reilly, journeyed over 1000 miles, from her home in Bowmont, Texas just for a chance to be a soapstar, the anthem of the day, “I just wanted to audition. I’m a theatre arts teacher. I teach middle school. And even though I love my students, acting is in my heart.” Anna’s devoted to the ABC daytime line-up, but she’s here because her heart belongs to Pine Valley. She’s been watching AMC since about 5th grade, which is almost 17 years. “I see myself as having a lot of fun, but I’ve thought of characters for myself on pretty much all those shows.” Is she ready for the Big Apple? “Leaving my students, I would be sad, because I love my students, but I love performing a lot.” She started to giggle, “Leaving Texas is no problem for me. I’ll move anywhere.”
A Long Island native, Ron Palais told Soapdom, “I’m an aspiring actor and I want to get that big break to make it in the business. To be on this show would give me a lot of exposure and I’d learn a lot. And, I have a friend on this show, though I don’t know her that well anymore, but we were in an acting class together. Rebecca Budding, the beautiful conniving Greenlee Smythe. I’m hoping that she’s in there now, so I can at least say hello."
Kevin Barrett trekked up from Delaware where he works as a purchasing agent. He doesn’t think he’s company has any idea he’s in the Big Apple. A theatre minor in college, he picked up and took a chance to meet other AMC fans, just like himself. “I wanna play a role like David Hayward -- smarmy! He’s got his own set of ethics, plays by his own rules, but he’s not evil. He’s not like Michael Cambias.”
Ron Enericleo wants to be a soap opera doctor. He couldn’t have been plainer about his desires. “I don’t know if I should be quite that arrogant though, ‘cuz soap opera doctors are notoriously dashing. That’s the push.” At least he knows what he wants. Between work and a long commute he didn’t have much time to think about the audition. Then he hit the endless line and the jitters kicked in. “A nice five hour wait, plenty of time to get nervous.” Actually GH is his favorite soap, “I watched AMC pretty steady daily for about three years, unitl last year. When I started working, I had to give up one.” Then he looked around as if someone might hear him, and whispered, “It was All My Children, don’t tell anyone.” Everyone around him laughed.
What are the show’s producers and casting directors looking for? Producer Eric Schotz explained, “It’s easy to find ‘A People.’ ‘A People’ are easy. They jump off the page. I can find them in line. We’re looking for ‘B People’ that can be ‘A People’, which means it’s someone who can emerge on the show. It’s like someone’s going to blossom. If you look at a rosebud, it’s a rose. But until it blossoms, it’s not really a rose.” Schotz was having the...
...time of life. More than once he took actors by the hand and escorted them to the auditioning stations, encouraging and enthusiastic; he told each and everyone, “This could be your lucky day!”
Nicole Ashley Baker arrived at nine and stood in line for two hours just to get inside. A dancer, Nicole arrived in New York just four weeks ago after touring with FOSSE for a year. Before that she lived in her hometown of Tampa, Florida. Nicole performed an improv with another actor, an absolute stranger, “They had me do a scene, where this man was cheating on me and I had to confront him.” She had nothing to draw on, “I just took it and tried. Just for fun.” This call back is a great way to begin her new life in the Big Apple. What happens next? Stay tuned.
Nicolas Quilter had a grin as wide as the Hudson River pasted across his face. He got a call back and he’s over the moon. An Atlanta native, he’s been in the Big Apple for about 8 years and got his first acting gig as an extra on March 27th 2003 as a yuppie in an unreleased HBO film, Brooklyn. He’s had so many jobs, he’s never really seen All My Kids, but he’s thrilled for more than himself. “My grandmother’s been a big soap opera fan. I’m sure she’ll be really proud of me, if I get this.”
Joan McLoughlin was one excited woman, “I’m not a professional actor.” When Soapdom wanted to know about her day job, Joan’s throaty laugh stopped her cold, “I don’t want to go there.” She performed in high school, but never anywhere else. “I was a really shy kid. No longer shy, I thought I’ll just give it a try and we’ll see how far it goes.” She heard about the auditions on the radio, “I’ve been acting as a marketing director most of my life and thought I should try the real deal. So, I’m here and now I’ve got a call back and now I’m very, very happy.”
Dawn Leak, a tall striking woman who would stop traffic anywhere she goes found out about the auditions through Craig’s List and thought, “Why not come? I’ll just give it a chance, ‘cuz, I love soaps and I really love All My Children.” Dawn didn’t really prepare, “I’ll just do it cold turkey. The casting director told me to improvise and pretend to be a transsexual.” She hesitated in saying that last word, a little nervous about the part that got her the call back, but in the end Dawn was all smiles, “I guess I just got lucky!” If she gets the star-making role, Dawn has only one wish, “Don’t cast me as a transsexual!”
Another teacher, with stars in her eyes, New Jersey native, Ilana Seagull, heard about the auditions from her boyfriend’s sister, “It’s a shot in the dark, but it’s worth a try.” With her feet firmly planted in community theatre and off-B’way, Ilana truly believes “There’s always a place for education and theatre.” Whether she’s reading stories to her pre-schoolers, or performing a puppet play, “It’s all theatre.” She got her start as an 8-year old in commercials and films and even had an agent. But those days are long gone. If she does reach the summit of this mountain, “I think it would be like a dream almost. I’ve been watching All My Children since I was in the womb, thanks to my mother. I think it would be disbelief at first, but it would be such an exciting thing to do. My boyfriend, said. go for it. All my friends said, go for it. My Mother is not as much a free spirit as she used to be, “you have to be an adult, you have to do your job. But deep down inside, I think she’s rooting for me.”
Last year’s winner, just had his GH contract renewed and Eric Schotz feels great about it. “He’s working. He’s a working actor.” Outside of his mother, who loves it all, Schotz is thrilled with the reception of SOAPnet’s hit show, “We became a very diverse show. We’re not a lily-white group of people. It’s a really ethnic cast, which I think is great ‘cuz it’s the real world. There’s too little of it on soaps. That is what’s so different. We didn’t cast it to be that. You get discovered on the show. That’s what it’s all about.”
Of all the star-struck men and women waiting hours for a few moments to prove they’ve got the right stuff, one gorgeous hunk really stood out.
Talk about an audition! Sean-Michael Longstreth, with his soft southern Ohio drawl, took an actress in his arms and planted a great big wet on her. It was quite a moment, especially for the young woman, “I had no idea who she was. Kissing is one of my strong points. So, I figured I’d just go for it.” The casting director told him the boat was sinking and that the two of them had just fallen in love. “A lot of acting is doing what they say and going for whatever needs to be done. It just went so fast. And the next thing we knew we were kissing. I just did it on my own. The only thing short of having sex right before you die, I think, is kissing the person you love.” And that clinched it for him. Sean-Michael’s been in New York for five years, and even spent time as a bartender on AMC a couple of times. He’s familiar with the territory, “I’m ready. I think the world needs to see me.”
Oh and one more thing. Of all the hopefuls we talked with, two were invited to audition again on Sunday. Can you guess who? Don't worry. We're gonna tell you. Nicole Ashley Baker and Ilana Seagull got the second round of call backs. Will either of them make it all the way through to season two of I Wanna Be A Soap Star? Stay tuned!
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