It wasn't because there was nudity involved or something morally or personally objectionable. It was because of the kind of role I was being offered, a role I've played dozens of times.
The backstory. The film was a short and I initially read for the lead, a serial killer. I've played villains and killers before, but this particular serial killer had a certain maniacal quality that I thought would be endlessly fun to play. The director and producers liked my audition and asked me to come back for callbacks to read with some other actors.
At the callback (a read with another guy and a girl), the director had me and the other actor switch roles halfway through. The role I switched to was that of the good guy cop - a small supporting role with one scene. Two days later I got the call saying they liked me as the killer but that the physical size difference between myself and the other actor dictated that I be the good guy cop. It made sense. The scene wouldn't work right if the killer was the more physically imposing of the two.
I've done the good guy/good friend/good cop role dozens of times (most recently a supporting role in a star-studded feature film, It's Not You, It's Me, scheduled for an early 2013 release). Let me be clear...I like doing that kind of role and I certainly don't mind being typecast this way. But my whole purpose in auditioning for this serial killer short was to seize the opportunity to portray a completely different kind of character, one I'm less likely to get called in for.
When I got the call offering me the good guy role, the words of acceptance made it all the way to the back of my throat before I caught them (it's a reflex I think every actor has - to accept any role you are offered because landing roles is so difficult). But something made me hesitate. I had this immediate feeling that I needed to make a statement, not to them but to myself, to take a stand and say I'm not going to accept a role just because it's offered - I am going to accept it because it challenges me, excites me, and helps me grow as an actor. This role just didn't fit that description.
Again, I have nothing against good guy roles. I do them all the time and enjoy them. But this was a two-page scene in a short film with little room for character development (the story centers on the killer and the girl) and wouldn't require me to reach in any way as an actor. Of course I could reach and try to make it "interesting," but that would be a disservice to the story and would be distracting. Moreover, accepting this role would have tied me up for several days, preventing me from pursuing other work.
So in the end, I respectfully declined. I am sure the guy they cast as the killer will do a great job and I'm equally sure they can easily find someone else to be the good guy. This just wasn't right for me right now.
As if on cue, I got an email yesterday from another director offering me the lead role in a short film based solely on my first audition (he said callbacks wouldn't be necessary because I nailed it). The production dates overlap those from the film I turned down.
Sometimes serendipity smiles and says, "I see you."
What sorts of roles have you turned down and why? Do you regret turning it down? Do you feel like you have to accept every role offered?
(photos by Tara Welch and Michael Sanville)
-- Gabriel Voss