Wanna Be Cast in a Soap?
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modeling in daytime soapsA steady gig in the soap opera arena is widely sought after by many struggling actors looking for stardom on the big screen. Known as one of the toughest training grounds for any actor, any one of five roles - Extra, Under five, Day player, Recurring Day player and of course the coveted contract role - on one of today's daytime dramas is an excellent way to jumpstart your acting career. Coincidentally, many of today's well known actors launched their careers with Daytime Soaps and agree their experience proved to be crucial in setting the foundation for their careers. These actors include "America's sweetheart" Meg Ryan, Oscar award winning actress Marisa Tomei, Oscar nominated actress Julianne Moore, a famous "Friend" Courtney Cox-Arquette and Latin heartthrob Ricky Martin to name a few.

Heading directly to the source to uncover the many myths about obtaining this type of work in the acting field, casting directors from three popular New York City produced "Soaps" share their expertise during this exclusive interview. Those interviewed include Kate Martineau, Casting Director with As the World Turns,
cristina dehartThere are 5 different opportunities available when seeking work with a soap opera

1 First, there are Extra/ Background Roles. When asked if this type of work is difficult to be cast for they all earnestly responded, "not at all!" "We are constantly searching for "new faces" for extra roles - we cast 85 for today and 72 for tomorrow", Ms. Baker Fisher stated. What about the belief that once you accept an "extra/ background role" you will never be considered for larger roles and are "pigeon holed" for extra/ background work with that show for life?? " A complete and utter myth. Start by doing background work and you will be considered for larger roles as they arise", stated all three casting directors in agreement.

2 Another opportunity is an "Under-Five" Role which simply means under five lines. For example the nurse that declares, "You are wanted in the emergency room, Doctor", etc. These roles are nice as they can add those much needed lines when building a resume.

3 Then there is the Day Player Role. This role is larger and is usually for a few scenes within a days shooting. Amelia Marshall who currently plays Liz on Passions snagged a day-player role in the beginning of her career that turned into a seven-year run on Guiding Light where she played Gilly. It is not unusual for smaller roles to turn into something bigger and possibly even a career in soaps.

4 A Recurring Day Player appears in a role that returns continually from time to time, although they may not appear everyday.

5 Last, but far from least, there is the Holy Grail of Soap Opera acting - the Contract Role. The actor in a contract role is a member of the cast and their character has a regular storyline in the show.
the second longest American Soap Opera. Sheryl Baker Fisher, Casting Director with One Life to Live and Darlene Failla, Casting Director with Guiding Light, the longest running show in broadcast history.

When asked what gets the struggling represented (or even unrepresented) actor noticed for work on their individual shows, all enthusiastically replied, "submit, submit, submit!" While Ms. Martineau suggested submitting separately to all casting directors listed for As the World Turns, Ms Baker-Fisher and Ms. Failla stated that one submission for their show is appropriate as they cast from a main file and are constantly sharing submissions and consider talent across the board for various roles.

When asked about the best way to submit and get noticed, they continued, "a headshot, resume and short/ simple cover letter including your latest gigs. No life stories please!". Your headshot should be an acting headshot. They agree that there is no such thing as the "soap headshot" and would prefer that your photo not reflect a certain character - for example, a doctor, nurse or policeman. "We are casting directors. We have imagination", Ms. Baker-Fisher stated. "Please do not send candy, water, cakes, pizza, etc. Those things do not work!", declared Ms. Failla. Most Soaps do not offer open calls and you are strongly asked not to call, fax or show up! You are encouraged to update with post cards every once in a while. Let them know of any performances you are currently in or other acting jobs you have booked to pique their interest.

When "called in" by one of the soaps from a submission there is usually a general audition where they are gauging your talent. You will then be kept in mind when an opening arises. You may also be asked to further your training. If this happens, do not be discouraged. It is a part of "the craft". For contract roles you will be asked to perform for a "Screen Test" which is actually a mock performance of the show "on-camera" and is usually shot when you are being seriously considered for a contract role.
While the taping schedule for each show varies they all remain vigorous, to say the least. Starting between 7:30 a.m. and running sometimes till late in the evening. Every fast paced day includes a quick "dry blocking session" (that determines your positioning "on-set" during the scene) followed by hurried taping, relying many times only on the initial take. As many as 30 pages of dialogue are required to be memorized for roles. You should receive the script a week in advance but less would not be unheard of. Then there are also "re-writes" and "script changes" to be learned the day of shooting.

When initially cast for any roles on a soap opera you have 30 consecutive days to work before you are required to join the union AFTRA - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Keep in mind for example, if you are cast as an "extra" today and do not work on another soap for the next 4 years that you are still in "must join" status before you can complete any further jobs. The initiation fee is $1,300 followed by minimal yearly dues. Joining AFTRA has a number of benefits including heath care coverage, retirement plans, special scholarships and a credit union to name a few.

Basically if you want to be in Soaps - submit, submit, submit! You will need to be determined in your goal and consider every opportunity. When asked directly what characteristics these casting directors are looking for they stated, "Natural, compelling and most important - someone the audience will be drawn to tune into!"

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