Self Portrait in Speedo

“Send photo of yourself in a Speedo.”

Good lord. Has it come to this? Online casting happens faster and faster, and is more and more reliant on emailed photos every day. Even for background work. Especially for background work.

Send a picture of yourself dressed as a car mechanic. We need to see you in your best homeless attire. Email a snapshot in bondage gear. Yes, that’s right. Bondage gear.

I’ve posed in all of those, and many more. Cowboy, bike messenger, priest, 1970s guy, 1870s guy. Sometimes I get the job. Most times I do not. The picture I took in the mirror while dressed as a car mechanic brought me a nice paycheck. A commercial. Although, looking at the photo now, I can see that I had the brim of my cap pulled down low enough to conceal my eyes in shadow. Maybe I didn’t want the casting director to see that I was wondering why she didn’t have enough imagination to envision me in the costume without photo proof? Or maybe she might see that I was thinking the budget couldn’t possibly be so small that they had to cast background based on who could provide coveralls? Then again, I am curious how I managed to be hired without putting fake grease under my fingernails.

The bondage photo also worked. In fact, I went so overboard that the professional Hollywood costume designer on set asked me to tone it down by removing most of the accessories. Re-purposed holdovers from my teenage Billy Idol phase. Spiked cuffs. Hand cuffs. Studded belt. I did have fun putting that together, but made sure my eyes were all the way covered. With a blindfold. The professional Hollywood costume designer had me remove that, too. Which goes to show that submitting a photo for a job is really only submitting a photo for the casting director, whose vision might not match that of the director, nor the costume designer on the show.

So you have to guess correctly. Should you play to what the casting director might want, or what you think you will be wearing on the actual job? Should you try to stand out from the hundreds of other actors embarrassing themselves by emailing dress-up iphone snapshots of what they wore for Halloween in 1989, or should you try to fit in?

Usually, you guess wrong. Or the costume isn’t convincing enough. Or the photo looks like you took it yourself in the mirror, which you did. Or maybe asked your roommate to help. That’s how I got the great shot of me as a homeless guy. Fully staged. Props. Set pieces. I created a character to go along with the look. I was so sure they would call me in for that.

They didn’t.

Now this. A Speedo. Was I really willing to pose shirtless, and pantless, for that matter? To email it off, to be seen by lord knows who? In order to get a single day job as an extra? Normally, when you register with a background casting service, they take photos of you. If you are under thirty, they ask if you are willing to work shirtless. If so, they ask if they can take a shirtless photo of you, to keep on file. Then they might call you in for beach scenes. Or pool scenes.

If you are over thirty, they do not ask you that question. So I was saved the awkward task of explaining that I am not comfortable working shirtless, and am certainly not comfortable posing shirtless. For this particular job, they were looking specifically for people in their thirties. I realize that in this day and age of e-dating, most guys think nothing of posting pictures of themselves half dressed. Most guys think nothing of doing many things I would not do.

What if I should ever decide to run for office? Haven’t we seen enough scandals built around politicians unwisely sending text messages containing suggestive photos? Wasn’t there a scandal around a male gymnast this past Olympics? The young stud had posed in the mirror in his underwear, and texted the images to girls he was trying to date. Some of those girls posted them online and they made their way to some gossipmonger’s blogsite. Presto. Scandal.

If I were to submit cheesy iphone pictures of myself in a Speedo (if I had a Speedo,) how would I ever explain them, should they resurface one day after I became successful?

“Oh, that was research for a role I was planning to play.”

“Hey, I was struggling and needed the money.”

“That isn’t me, it’s some impersonator trying to get more hits on his youtube channel.”

I can think of two times when I did appear on camera bare chested. One, we were tricked. The other, I was ambushed.

The trick was a background job on a beach. We were told that only some people would be in bathing suits. There was a wide range of body types among that group of extras. It seemed likely they would only choose the gym bodies to strip down to their shorts. Once the cameras rolled, however, the director yelled, “Everyone take off your shirts!”

I felt bad for the overweight guys, who were clearly not okay with that. The bigger problem for all of us had nothing to do with modesty, though. It was the temperature. Practically freezing on that windy beach. Not one of the better jobs I’ve worked.

The ambush was a co-star role on a tv series. One of those cop shows. When the script arrived, I was dismayed by a line of stage directions which had my character appearing naked. I called my agent immediately, and was reassured that I was not hired to do a nude scene. Once on set, the director pulled me aside and asked if I would agree to wear a nude colored thong.

We were in the middle of filming a scene, and I could tell that this is how things were done routinely in Hollywood. The director was chosen to be the one to ask me. What actor would say no when pressured on the spot? I did. I said no. After some discussion, I agreed to take off my shirt and pants, but that was all. I had purposely worn bright white briefs, knowing they would have to shoot around those, and would have to film me in shadow.

The issue is not just one of principles. If I had a gym body, perhaps I wouldn’t be so averse to showing a bit of skin. As it happens, I’ve always been thin, and have never liked wearing form fitting clothing, much less no clothing. As an actor, I am grateful for that extra ten pounds they say the camera adds. It’s true. It does. My shoulders also help considerably. They are deceptively broad, and help create the illusion that I am somewhat more muscular than I am.

Since reaching an age when most guys are fighting beer bellies and love handles, I can start to appreciate the body type I’ve been given. What was once a curse has become a blessing. A thirty-one inch waist is now a very good thing.

What if I found a photo of myself on the beach, or by a pool? I suppose I could use that. No luck, though. I could find no such photo. Not surprising, since I am usually at the beach for walks at sunset, not for parties on the sand, and prefer to swim in a pool at night. I did come across some facebook photos of a pal who is almost exactly my height and weight. Except for eye color, our descriptions match. He had posted an entire album from a day he spent at the beach. One image in particular I loved. It would make a good painting. He was standing in the water as a wave was washing onto the shore. He looked carefree. Unselfconscious. Completely at ease. Other than that, it could have been me.

As tempted as I was to use that one, I decided instead to stand in the shower in a pair of briefs that sort of look like Speedos, and take an iphone snapshot. Exactly the sort of image I didn’t want to send out into the internet. The kind that can come back to haunt me later. When it does, what will I say?

“Eh. That was for a job I didn’t get.”

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About anunperfectactor

Actor performer storyteller.
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