Jan Choi did her best. She sings, dances, recites in varying languages, multiple tones, and diverse styles, but to no avail. Even before the audition is over, she can sense the judges’ unconvinced facial expressions and unexpressed disapproval.
“Jan, you are very talented indeed.” The casting director says after he and his colleagues have exchanged glances.
Jan’s heart sinks at this ominous praise, which is surely going to be followed by rejection.
“I haven’t showed you my karate, taekwondo, and kickboxing skills.” Jan says, getting ready for a back flip.
“Unfortunately that won’t be necessary. At this point we don’t have a role…”
“It is said your first season has been very popular in Asian countries and you are going to cast one or two Asians in your second season. I can do anything. I took Japanese, Korean, Thai, Cantonese, Malay courses in college…” Jan is getting desperate.
“I am afraid that we have no need for language expertise…”
“I know. This is New York City. You can just grab anybody off the street if you need any language assistance. Anybody. And for minimum wage too. You know I grew up here and started to work in my parents’ bakery at age seven. I worked three jobs to put myself through college. By the way, do you like the cake? My parents baked them fresh every morning.” Jan says.
Two judges are munching their slice of cake Jan brought them, which has the expected effect of making them soften their tones when speaking with Jan. However their decision is final and unchanged–Jan is unfit for the role.
“Don’t you need a temp? I can be a temp, playing a woman who brought you food if you have a scene in an Asian restaurant. Or a love interest, who is surely going to get dumped five minutes later. Or somebody who’s too eager, who laughs at the wrong moment to distort the conversation flow, whose submissiveness makes the audience cringe with disgust. I have trained myself in all these stereotypical Asian roles. Or even a corpse–I can make myself really pale and rigid, you know, like a real corpse. Also I heard that if any show is going to compete for the annual Emmy Award, certain quotas of diversity have to be met. I can play that filler role for you. I can play a role as unobtrusive and as insignificant as possible, just for the Emmy eligibility. I can even write my own script. Here it is. These are two scripts I wrote…”
The casting director interrupts Jan, “You are ranting and we are running out of time. At this point, we don’t have any temporary roles. If we do have such needs…”
“Don’t you need an intern, an assistant, a cleaning lady, a driver? I am willing to work for anything and you can pay me one dollar below the minimum wage. Or two dollars below…” Jan is getting a little beside herself.
“Jan, come back six months from now and…”
“But you will need Asians, don’t you? It sells well in Asia, isn’t it? The viewership is jumping very high there.” Jan won’t give up.
“That’s the thing. Originally we thought we need Asians.” The casting director says, “but then we did an audience sampling and polling there. Our discovery surprised us. Asians want to see blondes in American shows. They don’t want to see Asians in American shows. If they want to see Asians, they would watch their own shows. Jan, it is not our fault that we don’t have much need for an Asian character right now.”
“You just don’t want to hire me, do you? I see. And you have all these excuses. You are not good at casting. You know what you are good at. I’ll tell you what you are good at. You are good at finding faults in people. You can even discover other people’s faults that can serve your prejudice so well. It even gives you a tinge of self sacrifice as if you hold your bias for the good of the industry, the marketing, the popularity of the show.” Jan starts to rant again and her harangue continues when two casting assistants come over and force her out of the door.
The next minute, Jan is out on the street and the traffic of New York is as noisy as usual.
“I love your performance.” A voice from behind says. Jan turns around. He’s one of the people in the audition room, probably one of the casting assistants, who is smiling at her.
“I am John David and this is my card.” He says, “I think I have a job for you.”
“Really? You have? I know somebody is going to recognize my talent. I am glad…” Jan smiles happily.
“I am doing recruiting not only for the TV show, but also for debt collection companies which need somebody to go yell at those people who are behind on their payments. You will be perfect for the job. You can do your tirade all day long.”
“What are you taking me for? I can’t believe you say such things to me. I am an actress and a playwright. You have no respect for me. It’s all because of people like you that the world is going to hell right now.” Jan starts shouting and even the New York traffic is no match for her loud blustering.
“Wonderful. That’s the spirit. Keep it up and you can become the in-house training manager for the collection company in six months. Call me.” John says and disappears back into the building.