“Breathe in, Breathe out.” I’m in my car shaking and sweating profusely because my gut is in shambles. It’s pilot season and it’s literally down to me and two others for a huge series regular role.
The part is perfect but this doesn’t mean anything in Hollywood. “Almost” happens all the time.
My agent calls to say I have a pre-read audition the next morning at 10:30 a.m. I receive several pages of material but I have no idea when am I going to have time to prepare. I’m exhausted by the time I get home and fall asleep looking at the side margins of the script. But I head out to meet the casting director the next morning thinking, “What have I got to lose?”
I should know better. Growing up, I was always the kid who came second. But to my utter shock, casting calls me back to read for the producers. So here I am again, in my car driving back to the office for a second audition. Now it’s getting exciting because the reading goes well and my agent informs me I am testing for the part.
I begin to hope. I sign contracts (worth unimaginable amount of money) stating what I’d make over the next 6 years if this show is picked up to air. It is down to me and two other girls for the part. HOLEEEEE MOLEEEE.
I’m just dreaming of the way my life would change. My dreams would be validated and that would give me a sense of confidence. Everything would just be better because I’d be acting everyday AND be able to afford to shop at Whole Foods!
As I’m driving to the casting call, traffic has slowed to a crawl. I fantasize this might be my time. I can see a girl across the street sitting on a park bench eating a double decker ice cream cone. Her smile tickles my taste buds as I imagine what it’s like to enjoy that cold, satisfying sweetness. Suddenly her dog leans in and knocks the soft mountain from its top and it splats onto her lap. A car behind me honks and I go back to memorizing my lines.
I arrive to the office building and take one last look at myself in the rearview mirror, daring to say out loud, “OK, you got this.” A few minutes after walking into the office, I hear them call “Sonal Shah.” There are twenty people wearing suits. I have three minutes to show them what I can do.
I picture the ice cream on my cone. There’s a part of me feeling the pressure for all the other Indian girls around the world who also want to realize their acting dreams. I do the scene once and it’s out of my hands. “Thank you,” they say and I leave the room. That’s it and you wait for minutes, hours, and then days.
My heart sinks as the silence increases.
When my agent calls and I bid all of my negative thoughts adieu, I learn none of us got the part. “You’ll get the next one,” my agent kindly says. I start to sink into depression thinking that my whole career is over.
HALT. SCREECH. HOLD. UP.
Do you see what is happening here?? It’s like someone blended that ice cream scoop with my confidence! I feel like the girl on the park bench and I want to blame the dog for jumping on me. But then I realize maybe I’m lactose intolerant? That part might not be right for me So when my friends call to invite me to things, I say yes instead of moping around.
After spending time with friends and nurturing my spirit instead of yelling at it, I remind myself that life is not a competition. The best place is where I am, right now. I have family and friends who love me as well as the opportunity to continue to shape my craft.
My place isn’t hired or fired. Just because I didn’t get this role doesn’t mean that I’m a bad actor. They just didn’t want me for this role. That’s it.
Sure, being a series regular would have been amazing but the journey I’m on is too because it’s MY journey. We are all on different paths and that is what makes everyone so unique and magical! I have no idea what is going to happen in the future, but I can either embrace the unknown or live with disappointment and regret.
This pushed me in improv comedy and I jump at the chance to take a class. Seemingly out of nowhere, a few calls come in about doing some stand up shows as well as a role in a short film. Serendipitous moments start popping up everywhere! All of a sudden, I’m creatively charged and inspired by life again. Isn’t that why I came out to LA in the first place?
Own who you are. Love your sunny side – that part that allows you to dream without conditions. If we all focus on doing what we love, we will be happier, and others will be attracted to that energy too. Life is not a place in line. You are first every time my friend!
Some Sunny Sweetness & Book Recommendation To Keep You Inspired:
Sometimes after a big audition, I treat myself to something sweet. Usually, it’s vegan ice cream, but I also like to make carrot halwa at home.
It’s my mom’s recipe – tasty even though it is vegetable based, and super easy to make. I savor it like a warm hug!