Thursday, January 26, 2017

HOLAwave: Booking a Guest Star or Co-Star Role

HOLAwave represents a series of guest blogs by industry insiders giving informative and educational tidbits for the Latino performer. They can range from acting and auditioning advice, tech tips, legal advice, marketing, producing tips, and so on. Get caught up in the wave– the HOLAwave.]

Booking a Guest Star or Co-Star Role

Throughout my on-camera career, I’m often asked, “What’s the difference between a co-star and a guest star?” In a nutshell, and aside from the contract difference, a co-star helps keep the story moving along (e.g. the person who discovers the body in the "Law & Order" teaser).  A guest star, for the most part, is an integral part of the storyline, which may range from one episode to multiple episodes (keeping with the "Law & Order" example, the suspect, the defense attorney, etc.). Okay, so now you know the difference between the two. 

So… y
ou’re at a survival job and your phone rings; it’s your agent.  You booked a guest star/co-star role on a major show!  Now what?

Research, Research, Research!

With actor Harris Yulin on set.
Know who is involved in the project– director, executive producer(s), writers and producers.  Make yourself familiar with their work if you’re not already, this is how you’ll find the “tone” of the show. You’ll find out that more often than not these production teams (director, executive producer., writers, producers) work together on several projects and you can see their “style”. This should inform your decision as to how to play the scene.

Read the entire script, not just the scenes you’re in.
Know the whole story and the story that you’ll be telling. Hopefully, you’ve started all this work when you first got the audition, because the turnaround from audition to shooting is often a matter of days.  Therefore, much of the actor’s work must be done before you actually begin production.  You should have a repertoire of archetypal characters, which you pick from, and adjust and refine for a particular project.  

Okay…you’re on set! This can sometimes be little weird (it is for me, at least). Everyone here has been working together for quite some time; they know each other. It can sometimes feel like you’re an outsider. But, remember, you are there to do one thing: tell the story. Trust the work you’ve already done. Don’t “ACT,” and for the co-star, do not try to impact the scene. Co-star roles are used as a device to move the story along. You are still an important part of the production (just as vital as anyone else on the set). Never forget that.

Joseph Meléndez began his career on the stage performing on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and stages around the world before transitioning to on-camera work. He’s been seen on major television networks, from his recurring role on Fox’s "Prison Break", to guest star roles on CBS’s "Person of Interest", "Elementary" and "Blue Bloods"; NBC’s "The Blacklist", ABC’s "Pan Am", and Netflix’s "Orange is the New Black". His films include the blockbuster hit Fast FiveThe Brave One, the award-winning independent films Runoff and Akron, and The Dark RiteHe has been teaching Meisner and On-Camera technique classes in New York and Los Angeles since 2010 and opened the Joseph Melendez Acting Studio in New York City. He is currently filming a recurring role in the upcoming Netflix series "Ozark". For more information, click here.

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