Being tiny has been difficult for me in a business that regarded physicality as the most important part of your life.
American Actress, Estelle Getty, was born on this day in 1923 (died 2008)
Estelle Getty was perhaps best known for her portrayal of the feisty Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls. While she played the mother of Dorothy (Bea Arthur), Getty was roughly the same age as the other actresses on the show (Rue McClanahan being a few years younger).
Although I have twice played a character named “Tiny” I’m not a tiny actor (or actress for that matter).
Still, to casting directors, size does matter.
Get your mind out of the gutter. I said casting directors, not casting couches.
It’s true though. I acted in college and was not cast in at least one part because I was not exactly thin. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was much thinner than now and not really that overweight. But when I saw that the costume for Oberon was (only) tights and a vest I was more than happy to take on the role of Peter Quince.
And so, fast forward thirty years later when I again took up acting as a serious endeavor.
While any role I take on may be larger than life, so to speak, I’m not the leading man type.
Yes, I had the lead in I Ought to Be in Pictures earlier this year. But roles like that are rare.
Instead these days I look for shows that require large, old(er), white men.
True story: In 2014-2015 I was cast as a judge three times and offered the role of the judge in another show, which I couldn’t do because…I was already playing a judge.
I did not go to law school.
My most recent, and perhaps favorite, role as a judge was as Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd last fall. I have accepted the fact that I’ve aged out of the possibility of playing Sweeney and likely never had the vocal range anyway. Regardless, I am delighted to be able to list the show Sweeney Todd among my theatrical credits.
My acting moment of triumph came in that performance when, after I uttered a particularly skeezy line to my ward Johanna, a woman sitting behind my wife said “That’s disgusting!”
Yes! High fives all around.
It’s all about playing the part. Sometimes, though those times are rare, it’s about playing a large, old(er), white man.
And sometimes it’s about playing a particularly creepy character, or saying words on stage that you wouldn’t normally use in conversation.
It’s about acting. It’s about telling the story.
While the pretty and “normal-sized” people may get the leads, the larger and smaller actors help tell the whole story by making the picture complete.
I mean, try to imagine The Golden Girls without Sophia. It wouldn’t have been the same.
And hey, Judge Turpin set the whole Sweeney Todd scenario in motion…I kept telling people the whole show was my fault, so to speak. Look it up if you don’t know the story.
These days, I’m okay being a character actor. I am totally comfortable with the fact that no amount of Botox or spandex is going to get me into those lead roles.
I have a couple of dream roles left to play, and yes I “fit” the part. Whether those shows will come along, and whether I will actually be cast in the roles is a different story.
I hope they will.
But until then there are other shows to audition for. And, if I have to play another judge, well then…
I’ll see you in court.