When I moved to Los Angeles from Northern California, the beach was always the draw. I’ve been a Westsider for the majority of the time I’ve lived here—I attended Loyola Marymount, which is out by LAX. As soon as I got into college, one of my goals was to start working as an actor before I graduated. I remember ripping one of those things off a telephone pole that said Extras Needed. I went with a guy friend of mine from school, but they didn’t need him. They only needed girls because the movie was about girls in jail who got pulled into prostitution.
I didn’t realize any of this. I was there in a brand-new outfit, trying to look nice and get the part. They took off all the labels of my clothes and used a Sharpie to ruin my new shoes.
I was in this deserted part of what I think was L.A. County jail. It was freezing. There wasn’t any food. It wasn’t a union gig. But I made one friend there. We’re talking and laughing, and then they make an announcement. This man stands at the front and says, “If anybody would like to take their shirt off, you get 50 extra dollars—and your name in the credits.” I turned to my new friend to say “that’s so crazy,” but she was gone. The next thing I knew, she was walking down the hall in a robe with all the actors who had speaking roles. I remember thinking, “Wow, everything you hear about Hollywood is true.” I spent 15 hours there, in a short nightshirt, missing my classes. I took the 35 dollars I made that day and never went back.
I was in a bunch of plays in college, but there was one girl who was going on real auditions, and she said I could go with her. I told my mom, who was always reading articles about how actors made it. She told me she’d read that Michael J. Fox used to crash auditions all the time. I wasn’t much of a renegade—I didn’t even know if that story was true—but I decided to go with this girl to her commercial audition and “Michael J. Fox” it. I heard somebody say the name of the casting agent was Johnny. I put my name on the audition list and left the “agent” part blank. When they called my name, the casting guy said, “There’s no agent here.” I said, “Oh, Johnny, you know me. I’m in between.” I pretended that I knew this person! I had never been on an audition before, so I didn’t know how to hit my mark. I didn’t know how to hold a can of soda without covering the brand name. I didn’t know how to do any of it. I was terrible. That’s when I realized I was never going to make it like that. I had to go through the proper channels. I just couldn’t lie.