Recently, there has been a growing trend of lead women of color producing for and starring in network television shows. Shonda Rhimes is in demand for primetime shows, Viola Davis is the star of a growing popular network series, and Kerry Washington maintains her throne on Thursday nights. As an aspiring actress of color, it has been pretty inspiring to see more women that look like me on television. I recently was called for an audition for a Netflix series, House of Cards. In the D.C. Metro area, most actors try and get their shine by auditioning for a role on this show. I promised myself to try out this year if the opportunity presented itself. Thankfully, it did. When I got the call, I didn’t really think I would get it because 1) I had no experience acting on camera, only in theatre and 2) no one on the show in the past looked like me, a black female with very kinky colored hair. Even with my low expectations, I went for it anyway.
The day of the audition started out pretty rough. After a really bad job interview, I had a mini breakdown with tears and all. I quickly rushed through a twist out on my freshly washed hair. face palm My hair NEVER looks great on wash day – it looks so much better dirty. Can anyone else relate to this hair dilemma?
Since this was my first time auditioning on camera, I wasn’t sure how the casting directors would receive my hair. House of Cards is a pretty conservative show and to ensure I covered my bases, I brought along a straight human hair wig. It’s sad to say, but I wasn’t really confident going into my audition with my natural hair. I prepared myself for hair rejection. With all the emotional distress and frustration of hair styling, I arrived at the audition site not at my best. And I was late! Could it get any worse?!
My competition was everything I was not – it was everything I currently see dominate the television screens. Comeptition#1 – A Caucasian woman who appeared to be seasoned in the game and knew everyone in the casting office. Competition #2 – A Black or Bi-racial woman with huge 3B/3C hair.. Immediately I thought to myself, “Well, there goes that. These women are clearly the norm for television. I’m so ready to go.” Since I arrived late – they were running behind so it was excusable – the time I needed to review my lines were cut short. Luckily, I got it together before they called me in. After waiting and looking at the “Wall of Fame” imagining my headshot on that same wall, my name was called.
I entered the room hoping that the tears from my earlier breakdown were dry. I had to remind myself, “This is your one shot. Your one shot at this audition. Make it count for something.” Before starting my audition, I made them aware that I brought a wig just in case they needed to see a different look. The three casting agents looked at me, then at my wig, then at my hair again and said, “No, your current look is fine. It’s actually better. We’ve never had this look on the show. We love your hair the way it is.” I was…shocked. Say what, now?! You want me to look like myself? Why is that so hard for me to believe? Have I been rejected so much in other parts of society that to hear someone in the casting chairs ask me to keep my kinks and coils is mind blowing?! I proceeded with the audition and although I thought I could have done just a tad bit better, I left feeling okay. I left with a little more joy knowing that I can show up to an audition as myself. Depending on the characters, I would have to change my look (my costume) to fit the description of the character. But I think I can confidently walk into my next audition without the urge to carry a wig as a crutch in case of rejection.
I’m sure my audition story is an anomaly compared to others more seasoned in this acting game. I say that because, to be honest, the cast listings for African Americans are very slim. The fact that the cast listings are slim can make us feel like we need to do “extra” just to get that part. But can you blame us? The next argument would be for us (African-Americans) to create more opportunities for actors of color. Even opportunities from our own community can sometimes be very intimidating when attending audition calls with kinks and coils. I am pretty optimistic that that stigma will change. This experience has given me more hope.
Thankfully, I did get the part. I can’t give details yet, but you will see a kinky hair girl on House of Cards in 2015. Don’t expect no long monologue, chile. Just one scene. But that one scene means the world to me. Hopefully, one scene of kinks and coils can turn into a principal role in other major projects for women with hair like mine. Oh and yes, my headshot did make it to the “Wall of Fame” in the casting office. If you’re interested in seeing the vlog from this audition, you can check the video out here.