-playing an orphan
-playing a child who's abused by her parents
-playing a child who's father is an alcoholic
-playing a child who ran away from home
-playing a child who sees a homeless man get beat to death, then gets hit by a car as she's crossing the street, then lands in some version of Hell where an evil man is chasing her all the time with a doll
There was that one time I auditioned to be a child who sings happily and drinks soda pop. But I didn't get that role.
The kinds of roles I got were morbid.
"We're doing this commercial and we need a child to star in it."
"Well, what is this commercial about?"
"It's about a preschooler who's mom is a cokehead and so she runs away from home and ends up becoming the youngest drug dealer in history and doesn't learn what a "crayon" is until she's 14 years old, but by then she's a stripper in the Bronx."
"We have the perfect child!"
Yep. I was that perfect child. The beat-up, worn down, "we all know what path she'll take later on in life" kiddie. They'd rip up my jeans, dirty up my face, and say, "Now, think of the saddest thing you can think of and look at the camera." I can't even remember what it was I thought of, probably the fact that those scoundrels tore up yet another pair of my favorite jeans, but whatever it was worked. I'd make trips to Kinko's (with my mom, that is. I'm 4, remember? This isn't Baby's Day Out.) and we'd print of copies and copies and hey, some more copies of my headshots. Then the man printing them would always look at them, and ask:
"Are you on TV, little girl?"
"What kinds of things do you do on TV?"
"One time I got beat up by my daddy cause he was drunk and I had to look sad in ripped jeans."
A bystander just now tuning in to our conversation would have a very demented image of our family. Me, telling this stranger holding copies of me with an afro, that my dad is a drunk who beats me up and "rips my jeans" whatever that could be made into, and my mom standing with her hand on my back smiling wide and proudly. They would think we were one fucked up family.
"Oh, really?! That's neat!"
Or maybe the bystander would focus more on how fucked up the guy with the copies must be.
"She's a very good little actress. She can make a very good sad face."
"Is that true, little one? Wanna show me your sad face?"
This is the part where I'd shake my head, look up at my mom and grab her leg to hide behind if necessary, you know like all shy little kids do, and the man would laugh and take it back and then out of nowhere...
Sad face. The saddest sad face you'd ever see in your sad life.
"Oh! That IS very sad."
But they'd say it in a more "disturbed" way than an "amused" way. Instead of a "she is really talented" way, more of a "where exactly is this line drawn separating commercials and reality, hmmm?" way.
After a few years, I quit. I was overworked, underpaid, out of jeans, and I just wanted to watch Lambchop, god damn it! Besides, if I had kept it up, I would have been in those "ABOVE THE INFLUENCE" commercials where they make it seem like if you smoke weed you'll grow 40 years older sitting in this one armchair and then you'll be asked to take out the trash by your mom who's totally cool with you being the same age as her husband after being in a marijuana cocoon the past couple of decades, and those commercials just aren't even sad. They're hilarious.