Is it easy to think back on how challenging a journey was once one has reached their destination? The difficulties overcome? To accept them? Share them with the world? Would these stories affect us the same way coming from still struggling artists like myself? So often, we are compelled to share our thrills and successes. But sometimes it appears as if those moments of success float in a sea of disappointment and frustration – at least they do for me. I’ve had truly fortunate opportunities as an actor, but there have been major heartbreaks. Some I revisit from time to time.
This time of the year, I revisit one of my first heartbreaks. Flashback 1989. I know, let it go, right? It’s not that easy. This movie is on television multiple times throughout the holiday season, and I quite enjoy watching it. Every time I do, I’m brought back to that time and place.
One day in the first year of my career as a young actor, I got a call from my agent, Ginny Long at Jefferson and Associates. Audition for Risa Bramon Garcia! As if that weren’t exciting enough, the film was to be a sequel to an early Harold Ramis film I grew up loving. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation! I was to audition to play Russ Griswold! I’d had some pretty big auditions up to that point, but this was VACATION! Chevy Chase! The Griswolds were coming back and the opportunity to read to be Russ was MINE!! It was, officially, a dream come true.
I was 100% emotionally invested. I read the script and worked so hard on the sides. I was this character completely. I visualized it over and over. As far as I was concerned, Russ Griswold was MINE! Risa just had to meet me and see my read. That simple task was – of course - easier said than done. The audition was located about an hour and a half away. My appointment at 6:30 pm. Major traffic slowing me down, and if that weren’t enough, while driving there, the tire blew and I had no spare. It felt like the rug of euphoria I was standing on had been ripped out from underneath me.
What to do? No cell phones to call or text my agent. This was 1989. No taxi cab could get me there because I had no cash, nor an ATM card. Not to mention, the car could not just be left at the side of the road. In a matter of just a couple minutes, my stomach began to ache. Pain from the realization that as badly as I wanted that audition, the reality was that my car was tireless on the side of the road, and it had to be dealt with. In that moment, there went that opportunity of a lifetime. Had to “no show.” “No show” to an audition? Very bad. Luckily, my agent was very understanding. Disappointed, but understanding. Perhaps she could manage to get me back in another day? I would beg and plead, but the fact remained: this one was just not meant to be. Johnny Galecki, a fantastic actor, would earn the part of Russ Griswold (I like to think, “by default,” considering I forfeited it by no-show). Thanks to me, and a blown tire, we all have Johnny Galecki.
Truth be told, it’s likely Mr. Galecki would have been cast regardless if I got to that audition or not. But my sense of humor is wicked. All kidding aside, I was crushed for weeks. Felt like quitting. Moral? Many. Check my tires on a regular basis. Don’t get my hopes up. Maintain a sense of humor. But most importantly, what did I learn from this experience? This is show business. It wasn’t going to get any easier. And as this was very early on in my journey, there would be many more lessons like this one to be learned. Knowing there was more heartbreak and disappointment yet to come, I pushed on knowing that my love of acting would help carry me through.