I was already wearing tight red short shorts when the producer summoned me over and asked me politely, but sternly, to get inside a chicken suit. The stunt woman was too short and I, being the large man that I am, was a more suitable and, perhaps, a more comical candidate for the role. I smiled and begrudgingly enrobed. It took two people to get the hard foam suit on me and another to clumsily stretch the sticky, slightly moist, plastic chicken mask over my head. However, I was relieved that I was completely covered.
For the next few hours, I had the sweaty chicken head peeled on and off my face between takes. The unwieldy costume battered the extras, and my pride a little, as I was made to run into tables, fall onto the concrete floor and engage in other ridiculous tomfoolery.
Hopefully, I won’t be recognised for my chicken mascot and, hopefully, I might be paid a bit more for my efforts, although I feel it’s unlikely. The moral of the story is dubious at best, some possibilities: if you’re selling out, you may as well go the whole hog and get into a sweaty chicken suit and act like an idiot? If you’re an actor, you have no power and should submit to the will of directors, producers and ad reps even if it is demeaning? Or maybe stop being such a diva and just embrace your inner chicken? Well, it was actually quite fun.
Shooting this ad was an early morning affair. 4 a.m. every morning, to be precise. There was a lot of lounging, a lot of moaning about the early morning breeze in short shorts, and a lot of passive aggression felt towards the make-up lady, who, every time I opened my eyes, would poke me, seemingly on purpose, with a myriad of brushes, powders and sponges, always in the most sensitive parts of my eyes, but there is a silver lining: Money!
Getting an advert is great! It’s winning the lottery. You buy your ticket every time you arrive at a casting and, surrounded by talented actors, do some of the most banal, demeaning, over the top ‘acting’ possible and, with so much out of your control, walk out having no idea whether you did well or whether you are a terrible actor. So when this strange gamble pays off, it is fantastic. The air feels fresher and you have a little bounce in your step—things are just better after that moment. A few thousand dollars or, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars allows you a lot of freedom, which means a lot to an actor.
I was sitting down with a friend who’s lived for the last five years, albeit a rather miserly five years, off the back of five or so ads. He hasn’t worked a normal job in his time since leaving drama school and the money allows him the freedom to write, play music and work on moving his career forward.
So it can be demoralising: short shorts and mascot suits, fiddling with your underwear to make sure nothing pops out unexpectedly, promoting products that you despise or, at best, only enjoy at the messy end of a night out, but hey, who said this was a glamorous career?
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