After I moved to L.A. many years ago, I was looking for a job when I saw an interesting ad in the Drama-Logue, a now-defunct trade paper for actors which contained casting notices.
A production company was looking for petite actors (under 5’5″) to don costumes and play lemurs in a movie. I had no idea what a lemur was but the pay caught my eye: $250 a day for two months. That’s 5 grand a month! Ten thousand total! Plus, the movie would be shot in some exotic jungle location so I’d get to travel and a per diem and put up in a hotel. It’d be like taking an all-expenses vacation while getting paid!
I showed the ad to my roommate Susan (who also fit the height requirement) and she wanted to audition, too. The open call was in a week and we had to show up and “behave like lemurs.” Since neither of us knew what that entailed, we headed to the L.A. Zoo for research.
After getting lost and wandering through the reptile and arachnid areas, we finally found our lemurs. There was a pair sitting on a tree branch looking out at all the people looking in. They had haunting eyes–indignant yet sad.
“Come on, do something,” Susan said.
They didn’t move.
“How are we going to know what they do if they just sit there?” I wondered.
One lemur scratched the other then they huddled together, as though to console each other.
After watching the lemurs do nothing for about 20 minutes, Sus and I called it a day. The audition would be easy; lemurs didn’t do anything.
Day of the call, Sus and I went to the office. When they called my name, I asked if Sus and I could audition together since lemurs are more interesting in pairs (see how I slipped in my zoo research there?). Once in the room, we squatted on the floor and squat-walked around a little but mostly just sat there staring at the producers.
“Do something,” the older male producer said in a British accent. Funny–that’s what Susan had said to the lemurs.
“Um, this is what they do, lots of sitting and lots of staring,” I said.
The female producer spoke up. “Well, we need to see more. Can you roll around or something?”
I thought, What am I, a monkey now? But then I remembered the 5 grand a month.
I did a forward roll, the kind you did in kindergarten tumbling sessions. I didn’t want to randomly roll around on the ground because I had gotten the impression lemurs weren’t that freewheeling and easygoing, at least not the ones at the zoo. I mimed scratching myself a little then did another dainty roll. Sus was doing pretty much the same. The producers eventually thanked us and we left, our legs aching from squatting.
A week passed and neither of us got a call. I was so bummed I wasn’t selected to be a lemur. After seeing them at the zoo, I had felt I could portray them with some authenticity and dignity–well, as much as could be mustered while wearing a furry suit. Now, I wouldn’t get the chance.
Much later I found out the movie never got made so who knows, I could’ve been a contender for Lemur #1. But by that point, I had resigned myself to playing only humans. Which I can do quite convincingly, even without a forward roll.