Why I’ll never work at DirecTV
by Will Deutsch
When asked by a stranger who it is that I look like,
I usually respond by saying Denzel Washington.
If I’m feeling really saucy I say ‘Denzel Washington …
it’s in the jaw structure’.
This is at best met with an uproarious fit of laughter
or at the very least a knowing smirk.
See the joke here is that I am neither handsome,
symmetrical or black.
After this first exchange, people inevitably insist
that I answer the question seriously.
Now this is a tricky thing.
The real answer here is Tobey Maguire but I would never say that.
Because when I say Tobey Maguire people expect Spiderman.
And while I have honest eyes and a crooked smile,
when you compare the two of us side by side, I look like a slightly balder,
more dogged, less ruddy version of him.
One might say I look like Tobey Maguire’s ne’er-do-well brother
who just got out of rehab.
And given the choice it seems unfitting to me to walk the world
as a less attractive version of somebody else.
Which is why when I am pressed to answer this question I pick another,
nondescript, white, brunette male … Steven Buscemi.
A character actor who has built a career on his unfortunate,
bug-eyed, snaggle toothed appearance.
The comparison is apt but it is clear who got the short end of the ugly stick.
Usually the response is something to the effect of ‘Steve Buscemi!?!?!
‘Goodness no! You’re so much more handsome!’
However, the truth is is that on the off chance I look familiar
it’s because they recognize me from television and they don’t know it.
I’m the guy at the bookstore,
the surgeon who asks somebody to pass them a scalpel …
no more than a line or three.
I’ve been in a handful of national commercials, the spokesperson for an international restaurant chain and had speaking roles in 10 major network shows.
A day player.
And though I get screeners from the guild, take the occasional class and have an exorbitantly expensive, very close up picture of my face looking terribly serious while I lean against a chain link fence I make it a habit never to tell people in casual conversation that I’m an actor.
In a word, fear.
The insecurity of being pigeon-holed as some sort of pathetic, unskilled, uncreative, vapid, down and out man child who hasn’t yet given up his high school theatre glory days or the unfounded dreams of fame that went along with them.
So during these conversations, I pitch myself as an illustrator.
Which is not false.
My tax information reflects this.
I get jobs from individuals and companies that pay me to draw things.
I have a website that showcases a portfolio of my work,
a curriculum vitae that explains what shows I’ve taken part in
and I’m currently part of a two year artist residency.
My CPA knows more about me than some of my friends.
When it comes time to list my occupation
I proudly check the box marked ‘creative/other’.
But the fact of the matter is this: Were it not for my dirty little secret of acting,
I would never have become an illustrator.
Most likely I would have gone into something that involves wearing pants much more often.
My formative decision came in the summer of 2003
when I had officially resigned myself to dropping out of art school.
I was a sophomore at the time and it had become glaringly apparent that I did not fit in.
I was not an artist.
How could I be?
For starters, I was way too loud.
I loved talking to people, charming them,
telling horrible jokes and laughing at even worse ones.
I loved popular culture, I found Friends to be a dramatically taught,
well-written sitcom about young people finding themselves in the big city …
these people thought that a single eight hour shot of the Empire State building was enthralling.
I didn’t experiment with drugs.
I didn’t experiment with sexuality.
I didn’t even listen to experimental music.
This is not to say that there wasn’t a social circle,
but rather that I was a square peg desperately trying to squeeze inside of it.
Moreover, I saw a future for myself that involved a career and a family.
But from what I could tell, being an artist meant a life of financial uncertainty,
mental volatility and getting a dog or two to make up for the deficit of a home life.
It was a life of quiet solitude dedicated to your practice.
And I was not cut out for it.
I was a failed bohemian.
So I picked up a second a major.
Basically it’s the study of feelings.
Different from an art degree but equally useless.
I might as well have majored in Snapple facts.
Along with that I made a resume that described in detail the responsibilities
I had at the previous three summer jobs I’d held folding jeans at the Gap,
working as a busboy at a Hawaiian themed burger joint
and dressing up as the mascot of a local water park in my home town.
I took it to a career fair and wandered aimlessly looking for a summer internship.
A week later, I drove down in my only suit to the corporate offices of DirecTV
to apply for a mentorship program in their public relations department.
I figured that with my combined love of television and the general public I was a shoe in.
Apparently having written a book of poetry does not qualify you to write and edit directives given to telemarketers in order to sell satellite programming packages.
To make matters worse, my girlfriend at the time decided that week
that any redeeming quality I had held in the previous year and a half had expired.
My services would no longer be necessary.
So once again, I had failed.
I was creatively, professionally and emotionally homeless.
A vagrant on the side of the highway of life.
I called the only person who I felt could relate to me at that very moment.
The interesting thing about the lineup of people that your significant other dates
before and after you is how similar to you they are.
The funny thing is, I hated this guy when I was dating his ex.
I couldn’t stand how much he was like me.
Like me, but somehow better I perceived.
He was an accomplished actor.
But now in the cold light of my newly single state I saw that he was the only one
who could do more than sympathize with me.
He could empathize.
And he did.
After all, he’d been in my exact position.
So he suggested that for somebody with our particular skill set I try my hand at acting.
Not because it would be a fulfilling outlet for expressing long pent up emotions,
but because acting classes were filled with cute girls.
Lots of them.
I signed up.
Maybe if I was lucky I’d get a number, or better yet some sort of romantic scene
that required kissing again and again during rehearsal.
So I put on some cologne,
had a picture taken with a digital camera that somewhat resembled a head shot,
prepared a monologue about an abused teen Kyle who was confronting his father
and headed to the CBS lot for my first day of ‘Acting For Television’.
In a class of 15, there were four men, two of which were gay.
I liked my odds.
Each week we were paired up and asked to choose a scene.
When I was partnered with an attractive female I’d choose something from Before Sunrise, a romantic film that follows a day in the life of two strangers on a train who begin to fall in love.
I felt the sensitive thoughtfulness of the male lead both suited my sensibilities
and allowed me to flirt more freely through another character.
Despite my best efforts, my attempts at having a fling with one of my scene partners resulted mostly in incredibly long, late night conversations about acting.
About what inspired them to move from some place
I’d never heard of to a city they’d never been to.
About the interesting book they were reading.
And the interesting one they planned to write.
Their dreams of acting.
That summer I didn’t kiss anybody.
I did however go to my first standup comedy show.
My first improv show.
I saw live theatre and went to parties and and met a host of creative people
who were creating things that they cared about passionately.
And they talked loudly.
And they told horrible jokes.
And though some of them did experiment with drugs, sex and music …
they loved the show Friends.
For the first time in my life I felt that I was
intimately connected to a much larger dialogue.
When fall came and school was back in session, I did two things.
I got an agent and I picked up interpersonal communications
as a second major so I could stay in art school.
That way I could focus on three equally useless things.
Well … useless were it not for the fact that I use them every day.
So now I get to make stuff.
I don’t have to wear pants that often.
And on occasion I get noticed when I’m out … it’s the jaw structure.